Domain names explained — and how to get your own!

There isn’t a day goes by in Australia without a story about how hard it is to get into the real estate market. Online real estate, by contrast, has never been easier or cheaper to obtain. Here’s how to get your own home on the web!

You probably already know that the address you enter into a web browser such as Google Chrome goes something like this:

https://www.mybigidea.com.au [the https://www prefix is usually omitted in modern browsers]

This textual address points to a numeric IP (Internet Protocol) address relating to a particular server location where the information you are hosting is stored.

The .au suffix (technically called an Country Code Top Level Domain) signifies it is an Australian website. Most countries have their own top level domain, for example .nz is the domain for New Zealand.

The .com (or second level domain) signifies the type of website, i.e. commercial. Other common second level domains are .edu (education), .org (not for profit organisation) and .gov (government).

The domain name can be anything you want (within reason) so long as it isn’t already held by someone else. In Australia, you also generally have to show some evidence that the domain you are requesting is connected to a business or organisation you run (e.g. by providing registration details of your company or association).

You need not be limited to Australian domains however. Generic Top Level Domains (i.e. .com, .org, etc domains without a Country Code suffix) constitute the majority of websites. “Open slather” applies to most generic names i.e. the name can be registered by anyone in the world without needing to prove a connection to the name. This means however that most popular names were snapped up a long time ago!

Securing your own name is called “domain registration” and can be processed by a number of commercial providers. A quick search via the provider’s website will let you know if the name you want (or something similar) is available. Shop around for a good registration fee, likely to be $15–30 annually for an Australian .com.au address. I use Domain Names Australia, while other well known registrars include Melbourne IT and Digital Pacific. Many providers have very cheap “sign on” specials including extras such as email, but watch out for the auto-renewal, when you might find yourself paying a significantly higher fee!

A quick search will tell whether the domain you’re after is available

Once your domain is registered it stays yours as long as you pay the annual registration fee renewal. You can also transfer or sell the domain to another party or move the name to another registration provider.

Once you have your domain the next step is to host some content e.g. a professional page or a hobby. The organisation with which you register your domain will usually also offer hosting for your website — but that’s a story for another day.

Are there any other topics you’d like to see covered in a future column? Let me know by emailing alex@yourtechcoach.com.au.

Technology adviser, dog lover, amateur musician and cook.