What is a Domain?
The Internet is a large place. In order to organize it and move traffic around every machine is assigned a number called an I.P (Internet Protocol) Address. This number isn't easy to remember so to make it simpler a host name can be associated with that number. But now you need to organize host names on the internet, Domain names are used to organize it. Domain names also make it easy to remember and retrieve information. With a domain you can establish a world wide 'place' on the internet for goods, services, and information. Common uses for a domain name are for setting up a website like www.yourdomainname.com or email services like info@yourdomainname.com.

What's In A Name?
Your World Wide Web address can mean the difference between people finding you and not finding you... between recognition and non-recognition... between your customers remembering you and not remembering you... between an aura of sophistication and stability or a second-rate status... between success and failure! It is that important. Thus, the so-called "Domain Names Gold Rush" where businesses, organizations and even individuals are scrambling to secure Internet addresses that they hope to ride to profitability. Just five years ago, tens of thousands of domain names using common words were available for a song. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these are long gone. Occasionally one of these original gold nuggets will resurface as available... and there are still other nuggets to be found by staying alert to the opportunities. To List your Domain Name(s) or Website.

If the names are so valuable, why are they being abandoned?
There are actually several reasons for this: No matter how well-chosen a domain name might be, the business for which it was registered might fail. When this happens, sometimes the domain name is sold as part of the failed company's assets, and sometimes it is simply overlooked in the liquidation process. Many fine domain names were registered by domain speculators who hoped to make a quick financial "killing" reselling their domain names. They often expected customers to "beat a path" to their virtual doors and offer to buy their domain names. They failed to market their investments. They gave up...
Many owners were greedy. If you look at the rather outlandish prices asked for some very mediocre domain names, it becomes very easy to understand why they didn't sell. Look at the asking prices versus the bids on any of the domain auction sites. Even most of the excellent names bear exorbitant asking prices. Again, domain speculators often "give up" rather than consider charging more reasonable prices. The implication, incidentally, is that we can expect more high-quality names to expire (and therefore appear on our lists) as this already existing trend becomes more apparent.
The quality of expired domains is likely to increase with time.

Buying Domain Names 
Introduction to Buying Domain Names 
So you've read the introduction to domain names, or are familiar enough with the subject to know you'd like to buy one... now what?
There are many different ways to research domain names and to find inspiration for new domain names to register. The way you research domain names will be colored to a large extent by the intended use for the domain name i.e. is it being registered for a new or existing site, for investment purposes or to "protect" an established brand or trademark.
It's time to inject a long-overdue dose of realism here: if you're researching domain names with the intent of making a quick profit (the "get rich quick" motive) then you are frankly coming very, very late to the domain name party. While there are hundreds of thousands of domain names listed for sale at exciting prices, from thousands to millions of dollars, exceedingly few sales are taking place - and those names that are selling are almost always doing so for a fraction of the asking price.

So don't let the asking prices for domain names color your judgment on the true value of domain names -- for investment purposes, 99% of domain names registered to date are worthless. This theme is covered in more depth in a recent feature story on this site.

To succeed in making decent money from domain names, you are generally going to have to be very quick, very imaginative or both. Many top domain name players have set up automatic programs (called "scripts") to grab expiring names off hold as soon as they become available. You can't hope to compete with a computer program that doesn't need to eat or sleep, and that works in a fraction of a second!
You can read more about buying names for resale in the Domain Investor's Guide

You're looking for a domain name for a new website...
You'll need: a few blank sheets of paper, a thesaurus (or browser opened to Thesaurus.com) and some patience...
Start by noting down what the site will be about, in a paragraph or two. Then boil down this description into a maximum of 2 sentences. Don't worry about covering all the details - just make sure you're addressing the essentials of what the site will be about.

Now take your short description, and underline all the "key" words that describe your site. Let's take a specific (fictional) example:-

"Our website will be the leading source of information on weaving and knitting, providing knitting patterns and design ideas, an introduction to weaving, a guide to selecting and caring for looms, and a store for people to buy wool, yarn and books."

Now try to come up with a domain name that either addresses the one fundamental concept of the site, or that marries two or more key concepts in a single name.
In our example: weavingandknitting.com, knittingandweaving.com, knittingpatterns.com, knittingworld.com, weavingworld.com etc.
Once you've drawn up a short-list of domain names to "test" for availability, it's time to fire up your favorite domain name search engine (you can also use the one at the foot of this page!)
In the above example, "weavingandknitting.com" and "knittingandweaving.com" were both available as of December 2000. 
But we can do better than that! "knitandweave.com" and "weaveandknit.com" are both available, and while neither has the instant impact of an "amazon.com" or "internet.com", both will be acceptable to our target audience - in fact, at the low prices today's domain registrars are charging, it would be worthwhile picking up both names!
If you're having difficulty coming up with useful domain name combinations from your keywords, try a single keyword and add prefixes or suffixes. Not all prefixes and suffixes are appropriate in all situations - use your judgment when deciding which to add.
Common Prefixes Common Suffixes e, e-, my, i, i-, the, online, net, web, internet, hot, cool, our, your world, links, site, web, net, resource, business, company, corp, inc, shop, store, mall, search, directory, guide. If you still can't find any names you like, try brainstorming using some of the domain name research tools listed in the Resources section of this site!

If you have a budget for your new domain name, then you need not be restricted to available, unregistered domain names. You may be able to buy the perfect domain name off its current owner. Most sales take place for a few hundred to ten thousand dollars or more, although some have been known to reach $7 figures for extremely desirable domains. If this is an option for you, you should check out the guide to buying a domain name.

You're looking for a domain name for an existing website...
In the case that you're looking to buy a domain name for a website that is already up and running, your options will be more limited than if you're starting from scratch.

First, have you already been operating the site under a clearly-recognizable "name" or "title"? Even if your site is hosted on cheap space at an ISP, or on a free host, you may have given it a short title in large letters (or in a logo). This is the obvious place to start when looking for a domain name.
For instance, if your site is called "The Exotic Cars" then your search is over, as both "exoticcars.com" and "theexoticcars.com" are available.
If your site's name (as given in its title) is very generic, you may well find one (or many) other sites already using it - and the corresponding domain name(s) long since gone. In that case, you have to decide whether you will make a bid to buy the domain name you want from its current owner, look for an alternative extension or use the brainstorming tricks outlined earlier in this article to find a suitable alternative. You can also consult the guide to choosing the right domain name for more help.

You're buying domain names as an investment...
This whole area is such a can of worms right now (see the big warning in the green box at the top of this page) 
that it has its own section in this site. Click here to read all about buying domain names for profit.

Read on for some more pointers on Choosing the right Domain Name...

Market your Domain name:
There are three different ways to market a domain name yourself, depending on the effort you are willing to expend and how quickly you would like to sell the domain name. You can choose to do nothing, set up a basic web page, or create an active site.

Do Nothing
The simplest way to market the domain name requires no extra effort after the domain name is bought. Just do nothing, and wait for a potential buyer to look up your domain name, see that it is already taken, and send you an offer to purchase it from you. As you can no doubt guess, the chances of success from such a passive method are fairly slim, unless you have somehow managed to reserve a truly fantastic name that everyone else missed.

Set up a basic Web page
The next step up is to create a very simple page connected to that domain, with a short message such as "The following domain names are for sale. Please contact us at email@mydomain.com for more details. " followed by a list of the domain names for sale. The benefits of this sales method is that it requires very little time and effort, yet it allows potential buyers to at least visit your site on the web, even if there is nothing there.
You will need to link your web page to your domain name. This is beyond the scope of this introductory document. Please consult with your ISP for more details, or find out the information independently.

Create an active site
If you are prepared to devote a great deal of time and effort to marketing the domain name, there is only one possible line of attack: create a fully-fledged web site, attract visitors to the site and place a notice prominently somewhere on the site to indicate that the domain name is for sale. The decision to create an active site should not be made lightly; in order to attract sizeable numbers of visitors and increase the chances of selling your domain name, the site should provide interesting, useful information.
The benefits of an active site are two-fold. Firstly, a site which attracts many visitors will have a greatly increased chance of catching a buyer's eye in the fickle world of cyberspace. Secondly, if the site is popular enough, it could be put on the market as a going concern: the buyer purchases not only the rights to the domain name, but also the information [and readership] of the site. This is similar to the goodwill factor for shops: purchasing a successful bakery will cost more than purchasing a vacant shop and turning it into a bakery, as the daily flow of customers has been factored into the sales price. Equally, a successful, popular web page is worth more than an empty site.

The top URL is where the PR2 website used to live before it was allocated its own domain name. After it was set up with a domain name, traffic to the site tripled in a short period of time. It was clear that people were remembering the URL and coming back to the site to visit.
We've seen many reasons why domain names can be useful, so this seems like the ideal moment to move on to the next section of this guide: Buying a Domain Name

So when I register a domain name I then own the name?
No, you own the right to use the name for a defined period of time, often 2 years in the first instance. You will have to pay a renewal fee after your initial registration period expires, or face losing control of the domain name. You do not automatically have the right to keep the name forever, although in practice as long as you keep on paying for the name and it does not infringe on somebody's trademark or service mark, it is essentially yours to do what you want with.

Do I have to be a US company or resident to register a domain name?
No, Anyone can register a domain name under any of the .com, .net or .org top domains. You don't have to be a US citizen or resident, and you don't have to be registering on behalf of a company either. Some countries impose additional rules on people trying to register domain names under that country's top level domain, for instance that you are only allowed to register one domain name, or that only registered companies can purchase domain names.
If I had to single out the most common misconception of all, I would have to say it's this: "My domain name will make me RICH!" This is nonsense. Sure, some domain names have sold for very large sums of money, and a few have changed hands for over $1 million, but I estimate over 99% of names offered for sale never find a buyer (you just have to look on eBay or Yahoo! Auctions to see hundreds of examples of unsold names)
This is the reality that most domain name owners refuse to face up to: unless a domain name is truly exceptional or otherwise desirable, it simply will not sell. At the same time, most domain name owners place totally unrealistic prices on their domain names - this encourages the PERCEPTION that all domain names are valuable - but the names are FAILING TO SELL at the prices they are asking! THINK ABOUT THIS!

Do I need a website to own a domain name?
No, you can reserve a domain name even if you don't have a website (this is known as domain parking). Later, if you build a website, you can "move" your domain name to the company that is hosting your website.

When I register a domain name, do I get a website too?
No, you do not usually get a website along with your domain name. Some domain registrars offer web hosting as an optional extra service, but you don't need to host with your registrar even if you do. The beauty of the domain name system is that you can use the name you registered with just about any web hosting company you like!
It's time to look at some of the most common kinds of domain name...