Millions of people all over the world browse the internet every day. They browse it by typing in something called a domain name into the address bar of the web browser. The browser and technology behind it then get you to the website you wanted. But how exactly do domain names work and what are they anyway?
What are domain names?
The simplest way to put it is: if your website is a house, a domain name is your address. A domain name is the address people type into the browser URL bar to get to your website. For example, for www.gulfbusiness.com, the domain name is gulfbusiness.com.
Although they might look identical, a domain name and a URL are two different things. The domain name is the actual name of the website, for instance www.gulfbusiness.com, whereas a URL is the entire path of a website that leads you to a particular page like https://www.gulfbusiness.com/economy/.
Basically, the URL is the complete internet address used to locate a specific page and it includes the domain name.
The two most common types of domains are top-level domains (TLDs) and country code top-level domains (ccTLDs). TLDs are well-known domain name extensions, like .com, .net, and .edu. Meanwhile ccTLDs are country-specific domain name extensions, such as .uk or .fr.
Every domain name has a suffix that indicates which TLD it belongs to.
Choosing your domain name
When registering your domain name, it is important to choose a name that is unique, short, memorable, easy to remember and relates to your business with the matching keywords.
This, however, is challenging today since most of the “good” names are taken. Every supercar business wants to name their website supercars.com but by nature, domain names are unique and only one party can hold a name at a time.
This is where creativity and innovation comes into place.
At the launch of the internet, only a few domain extensions existed such as .com and .net. And then came country level domains like .ae.
But the geographical connect can also be made extending the domain name by adding a keyword such as supercarsabudhabi.com.
In line with the trend of geographical names coming to this space, UAE capital Abu Dhabi has also recently introduced .abudhabi as a top level domain name to drive the emirate’s global promotion, boost online business and bring more attention to the country.
Registering your domain name in the UAE
In the UAE, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) is the regulatory body and registry operator for the .ae country code and .Emarat (Arabic) domain name.
You can register a domain ending with .ae or .Emarat (Arabic) from 22 accredited registrars as well as the two telecom operators, Etisalat and du.
Regarding the other top-level domains such as .com, you can choose from global and local registrar companies. Each top-level domain and country code top-level domain is delegated to a registry, which is responsible for operating and setting all policies.
Multiple factors influence domain pricing. When you buy a domain name, the seller, usually a web hosting company, is known as the registrar. The registrar gets your domain name from the main registry (in the UAE, it’s the TRA).
Of those two links in the supply chain, it’s the registrar who has more incentive to keep prices reasonable. They’ll typically charge a small amount more than they paid the registry for your domain name. That’s done to help offset operating costs. Market competition motivates registrars to keep prices low because that helps attract and retain more customers.
However, registries have less incentive to moderate the cost of domains since they have what some might consider a monopoly on domains. For each of the popular domain extensions, like .com, .net, and .org, there can be only one registry.
Hence the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a nonprofit organisation, serves as an international watchdog and helps keep domain costs in check by limiting how much registries are allowed to charge. All registries have to enter into a contract with ICANN before they can do business.
What’s the cost?
Registering a domain name generally costs between $12 and $85 per year. Price differences depend on which registrar you use, and what kind of domain you want to register.
A huge after-market exists for good names and so called “domainers” also invest in domain names to sell them for a profit at a later date.
These domainers usually create a landing page on their website that says that the domain name is for sale, with contact details for a potential sale.
Ramzi Al Mubarak is a Risk and Valuation specialist and consultant