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Plan It! Domain Names

Registering a Domain

If you want to find out whether the domain you want is available, don't just type your preferred name into a web browser. Even if no website appears, the domain name may already be taken.

How to Check Availability

Streamline: Choose one place for domain registration and web hosting

It makes sense to research domain names at the same company you want to use as your registrar and host. Network Solutions is one of the first companies on the Internet to sell domain names and it now offers hosting. GoDaddy and 1&1 might have cheaper plans and may be just as reliable. Consult this page for other reputable hosts, especially if you are thinking about using Wordpress (or other CMS) for a blog-style site:


To find out if a domain name is available, visit a domain registration company such as Network Solutions, GoDaddy, 1&1 Internet or Dotster. Nearly every domain registration site lets you check on a domain name's availability free of charge. If you find the name you want, you can register it for a period of one to 10 years. To find the registrar that fits your needs, check out ICANN's list of accredited domain registry companies or consult RegSelect, which lists and compares the prices and features of various companies.

On most sites, the process to check whether a domain name is available are straight-forward. Here's how to do it at Network Solutions:

  1. In your web browser, go to Network Solutions. Look for the green box labeled "Domain Names."
  2. In the field labeled "Enter up to 10 desired domain names," type in the name you're looking for.
  3. Choose an extension (also known as a top level domain) to follow your domain name. The TLDs .com, .org and .net are the most popular choices, while other extensions such as .info or .biz are newer and less widely used. You can choose more than one extension if you like.
  4. Click the "Search" button. The site will check to see if the name you want is available.
  5. If your domain name is available, congratulations! You're one step closer to making your website a reality.

Backup Plans

If the name you want isn't available, put on your thinking cap and come up with alternatives. As you do, avoid domain names that are only slightly different from ones already in use. Visitors may end up visiting another website when they mean to come to yours. If is taken, might not be a good alternative, especially if the owner is a competitor.

If you register a site and then find out another site has a similar name but a different subject, you may want to contact that site and offer reciprocal links as a courtesy. Suppose you have a language and culture site called You discover that another site about dishware has registered If your culture site and the dishware site link to each other on your respective front pages, visitors who mistakenly go to will have an easy way to get where they really wanted to go.

If you have your heart set on a domain name that is registered but not attached to an active site, consider contacting the owner and offering to buy it (check a WHOis directory like this one: Expect to pay quite a bit more than the cost of an unregistered domain, which generally runs between $6 and $15 per year, depending on which company you use. Thankfully, the days when a single domain name could sell for $7.5 million, as did in 1999, are over. Consider opening with an offer of $150.

If you see that the name you want is available, register it right away. There's nothing more frustrating than discovering that a domain name that was available yesterday got snapped up this morning.

J-Learning is an initiative of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism. J-LabTM is an incubator for innovative, participatory news experiments and is a center of American University's School of Communication in Washington, D.C.
J-Learning was funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

American University School of Communication

Knight Foundation

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