Information About Obtaining a Domain Name

Domain names have become extremely important in social, economic, and legal realms far removed from their origin, which was simply to identify individual computers on the Internet. Moreover, their role in human affairs continues to change. The US Congress has recently passed a complex and ultimately flawed law describing a new crime of "Cybersquatting" as a first attempt to deal with some of the complex issues surrounding domain names. We can expect that this law will be amended, and other laws passed, as the legal status of domain names clarifies. Domain names are visible across international borders, and many observers think that international agreements concerning domain names are inevitable. The Internet has become a very hot topic in international diplomatic circles, and the politics are intense and complex.

Domain names also have a moderately complicated technical function, and the process of registering a domain, therefore, can be rather intimidating for someone new to the Internet.

Registration of a domain reserves the domain name for your exclusive use, and tells the world where the domain name servers for your domain are. The name servers for your domain in turn tell the world how to find the various services associated with your domain. For example, if you had registered the domain "" [1], and you were using Songbird's virtual domain service, the Registry would advertise to the entire Internet that the name servers for "" were located at Songbird. The name servers at Songbird would in turn advertise to the Internet exactly where to find the web server associated with "" (perhaps at ""), how to find email service for "", and so on. You pay fees to the Registrar for its services (the "registration fees"), and you pay separate fees to Songbird for the services it provides (the virtual domain hosting fees).

We at Songbird can help you register a domain, which will simplify the process substantially, but it is important to realize that you are registering your domain name. You will be the legal entity that ultimately controls it; you will ultimately be responsible for it; and you will be the entity entering a contractual relationship with the registrar.

Songbird's standard setup fee for a virtual domain covers this help with registration. However, to repeat: the registration fee, which must be paid directly to the registrar, is not included as part of Songbird's fees, and you will need to give us a credit card number that will be used in paying the registrar. We will also need certain standard items of information, detailed in our Domain Name Information Form. Note that registration fees vary with registrar; the registrar we use [] consistently has among the lowest prices and best service available -- currently they charge about $12/year. [ is an internationl company headquartered in Germany, and actually charges 12 Euros, so minor currency fluctuations may affect your final charges. However, their rates are always substantially lower than the old monopoly registrar, Network Solutions, Inc, and most other registrars currently in business.]

If you wish to do the registration yourself for a domain to be served from Songbird, you will need to contact us for information concerning name server addresses and "contact handles" for the technical contact. Visit's web site -- they are in our experience the best and cheapest registrar available. Domain Bank is a good company, though we have had problems interfacing with their registration software with certain browser combinations, and their prices are quite high. is the second-largest domain registry, but their prices are very high, as well. These companies offer extra services, but it is important to note that the basic product being "purchased" (a domain name registration) is precisely the same in all cases -- unless you make use of their extended services, effectively the only interaction you have with a registrar after registration is sending in renewal payments.

We cannot recommend WorldNic, Network Solutions (NSI), or Top Domain Registry, because of reported or directly experienced serious difficulties with their service.

Picking a Domain Name:
Finding a good domain name can be tough. Last reports were that approximately 19 million names in .com, .net, and .org had been registered.[3] A very good dictionary may have 250,000 words, so most regular dictionary words have already been registered. Your best bet is to find a clever meaningful concatenation of two words, or a clever acronym, or something like that. Domain names can 63 characters long, must be composed only of lower case letters, numbers, and the "-" character (a dash). A dash cannot be either the first or the last character in the domain name. Examples of legal names are "", "", "", "", "", and so on. [2]

After you have some names in mind you can check them for availability with whois. Bear in mind that the information returned by whois may not be accurate, and that even if it indicates that the name is available, it may be registered by someone else at any time.

Finally, it is important to note that the legal status of domain names as property is confusing, at best. In particular, the above mentioned "Cybersquatting" bill refers to the practice of registering a domain name that is very similar to a registered trademark, and trying to "sell" it to the trademark owner for a large sum. There have been cases of domains being sold for large sums of money -- the domain name "" was sold for an amount in the millions, and sums like that can fuel lots of legal action.

So, when you register a domain name (whether you do it through Songbird or not) you will be entering into a legal contract with the registrar, which, among other things, requires you to participate in international alternative dispute resolution processes, similar to binding arbitration, if a conflict arises. For normal uses, this will never be a problem. But you should know that such things happen all the time. See the ICANN website for further information. In particular, look at for examples of the dispute resolution process in action.

[1] The name "" is actually reserved, and cannot be registered.
[2] We only give examples of .com, .net, and .org domains, because they are the most popular open domains. We can register in other top level domains, if necessary. Contact us for details.
[3] The number has grown from 11 million to 19 million since the previous update of this page. By the time you read this it will likely be more.

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