Every website is located at a unique address, comprising four numbers between 0 and 255. This Internet Protocol address can be hard to remember, so a parallel address system known as a uniform resource locator (or URL) has been developed. This relays a hypertext transfer protocol across the World Wide Web, to an address typically featuring the company name and a top level domain suffix identifying its country or industry. For example, our URL is http://www.westhost.com.
Many years ago, WestHost had to buy a domain name from someone else so we could launch the website you’re currently viewing. Having acquired it, we were free to upload as much marketing information and guidance as we wanted. As an authorized seller of domain names, we can now market available domain names ourselves. Our homepage contains a search field where people can enter a web address they’d like to acquire. We check whether it’s available, as well as suggest alternative top level domains (also known as TLDs). For instance, buybig.com is already in use, but buybig.site and buybig.online can both be registered for just $1.49 a year.
As the body responsible for domain name governance and the release of new top level domains, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – or ICANN – has made over 1,500 TLDs available to date. However, many of these domain suffixes are quite obscure. Some have the potential to cause confusion, such as registering a .co domain when the .com has already been acquired by a different company. Audiences might misread .co as .com and end up on the unrelated site, which is of little benefit to anyone.
Knowing how to buy a domain name from someone makes the process of purchasing more than one domain relatively easy. Some businesses do this to avoid the issues outlined in the previous paragraph. Having several TLDs of the same web address means incorrect addresses can funnel traffic to the intended location, preventing visitors from getting lost in cyberspace. Automatic redirects can drive people straight to the chosen homepage, though alternate addresses can incorporate some search engine-friendly content with a prominent link to the main site.
When you’re looking to buy a domain name from someone, it’s worth bearing in mind that millions of websites have been registered and then parked. They’re under someone’s ownership, but not necessarily in use. These domains might be for sale, or they could be lying dormant waiting for a future purpose. Homepages sometimes outline how the domain can be purchased, although this should be approached with a degree of caution unless the seller is a reputable trader. A quick search will confirm their authenticity.
Once a domain name has been bought and paid for, it’s necessary to register a few basic details on a global database of website owners. ICANN created a platform called WHOIS, which can be used to identify the owner of each domain name. This is important for administrative purposes, to ensure the correct individual can be contacted if need be. From the perspective of a purchaser, there’s often nothing more to worry about than confirming the personal details listed in an acknowledgement email are correct. If this process isn’t completed, the domain will be suspended. Getting it back online only takes a couple of days, but any downtime will be damaging for an already established website. It’s less important if a site hasn’t actually been built or launched yet.
It’s also important to understand that simply knowing how to buy a domain name from someone doesn’t mean you’re acquiring lifetime ownership. Domains are effectively leased for anywhere between a year and a decade. With first refusal over renewal, it’s easy to keep a domain live indefinitely. However, domains may become unnecessary for numerous reasons, such as retirement or rebranding, a failed business or the natural conclusion of a particular campaign. Although the 1996 website for Presidential candidate Bob Dole is still live, few other portals from that decade remain online. The internet is a fast-moving place, and the average site is live for less than three years. For many businesses and entrepreneurs, the process of buying domain names will recur many times over.