Dec 192008
 

In the wild and wooly days of the early internet people would occasionally find their domain names in the “hands” of another owner. The process is called hijacking and is as illegal as any other form of theft. The problem is that it was (and is) very hard to prove.

These days registrars take a few more precautions and have greatly updated security. If your domain lands in someone else’s hands today it’s likely because the domain expired and you just lost the rights to it. Make sure you keep your registration up to date and that won’t be a problem.

Still, hijacking is, in theory, possible and the following article goes into the problem and the solution in more detail.

The following article is by Subhash Kumar

Domain hijacking is the process by which internet domains are basically stolen. Many people confuse domain hijacking with the “reuse” of an expired domain. One is a legal process and one is not. Domain hijacking is theft, reuse of an expired domain is “opportunity usage”.

Domain theft is an aggressive form of that usually involves an illegal act. In most cases, identity theft is used to trick the domain registrar into allowing the hijacker to change the registration information to steal control of an unexpired domain from the legitimate owner.

In domain hijacking, or domain slamming, for some reason, you can’t get into your own domain, you’re not receiving email from that domain, and you discover that it’s now registered to someone else. Needless to say, to a small online business this can be devastating.

It could happen for a number of reasons. Maybe you have a particularly valuable domain name that someone wants to sell. In fact, .com domains are supposedly more likely to be stolen than any others. It’s also possible, though unlikely, that whoever stole your domain did it as an attack on your business or you personally.

This is also done by sending a forged fax to the domain registrar, impersonating you (the registrant.) Other attacks are more subtle: the email that tells you your domain name is about to expire, and that you need to renew. Are you sure that email is actually from your registrar? That last form of attack is called domain slamming, after a similar and now illegal practice formerly engaged in by certain phone companies, which switched user’s long distance phone companies without their knowledge or consent.

Domains can also be hijacked when registrars don’t follow all the procedures. The gaining registrar (to whom the domain is transferred) is supposed to get the approval of the domain name registrant or administrative contact before going forward with the transfer.

Likewise, the losing registrar (from whom the domain is being transferred) is supposed to notify the registrant of the transfer during the five-day grace period before the transfer is completed. Either way, that’s YOU if it’s your business. You can deny approval of the transfer, but only if you know about it.

Protection from Domain Hijacking

All it takes is one easy step to protect yourself from potentially losing your domain name in this manner. You can place a ‘lock ‘ on your domain name. Your domain name registrar should allow you to lock your domain name either by phone, fax, email, or online domain manager using your login and password . Your domain registrar will let you know which method they require. Once a lock is placed on your domain name, a transfer of registrar cannot be completed unless the lock is removed by you.

To check if your domain is locked or not, visit www.NetSol.com, click on the ‘Who-Is’ section of the site, then enter your domain name. Scroll down below the registration information and look for the section that says, ‘Lock Status’. If this says, ‘REGISTRAR-LOCK ‘ then your name is protected. If this says, ‘ACTIVE’ then your domain name is not locked and your domain name is not protected.

Most, if not all, registrars provide domain locking functionality. They may or may not charge for it and they may or may not activate it by default. Make sure that you verify for yourself that all your domains are locked.

End of Mr. Kumar’s article.

Losing your domain to a hijacker is, at best, annoying. At worst it can kill your business, or at least one of the sites connected to that biz.

A far more likely problem than theft is if you let your domain expire. You might face similar problems as it the name were hijacked, but at least it’s not an theft issue. Heck, even Microsoft has been known to forget to renew their various domains (check this out.)

So keep your domain contact info current, keep it locked (at least until you sell it,) and make sure the email address you have with your registrar is current. If they can’t contact you when your renewal is due, well, someone else will have your name.

Dec 172008
 

Ok, you’ve bought your domain name and you’ve bought your hosting and now you have to connect the two into a happy union. How you do this depends on exactly what you want to do.

  1. If you bought your domain name at a 3rd party registrar, meaning you didn’t buy it from the hosting company, and you want to point that name to the host. Or…
  2. You actually want to transfer the domain from whichever registrar you happen to have to your hosting service. The hosting service then becomes the new registrar of the domain.

Pointing the Way

I’m going to assume that you want to connect your domain and your web host, but you want to keep your and your host separate. Which I think is a good idea since you get a lot more control over your domain doing it this way.

I’ll cover the other option later.

All web hosts have something called a nameserver. This is the magic that connects your domain to the computer that you’re renting space on. The tech’s will guffaw at this definition of mine, but it works for this discussion.

What you want to do is grab the nameserver domains from your host and enter them into your domain name administration panel. The nameservers probably came in the email that you received when you signed up for your new hosting service. They look something like this:

  • ns1.YourHostingService.com and
  • ns2.YourHostingService.com.

If they aren’t in the emails or you can’t find them in your host’s documentation then contact customer service.

Ok, You’ve Got Your Nameservers

Log into your domain administration account and look for a button or link that says something like: edit nameservers, change nameservers, assign nameservers, etc. If your registrar is GoDaddy then you log in and look for the tiny Manage Domains link, on the left side, under the My Products bar.

  • Click that link and you’ll hit the page with a list of your domain name(s.)
  • Click the domain name you want to point to your new host.
  • You’ll hit a page with all kinds of domain details. There’s a line of icons above that. Click the one that says Nameservers.
  • Enter the first nameserver name, for example: ns1.YourHostingService.com, into the first box. Enter the other, eg: ns2.YourHostingService.com, into the second box. I suggest using the ol’ copy and paste method. Fewer typos that way.
  • Hit the OK button (down and to the right.)
  • Give it a minute or three to think about it.
  • You will get the “finished” screen and you’re done.

Other registrars will be similar. Log in, find the place to modify your domains, then hit the link to edit/change nameservers. Plug in the new names, hit ok, and you’re done.

Note: Your domain will not connect to your new site immediately. It will take a few hours to a day or two for your new domain to properly resolve to your site. All registrars are pretty much the same in this. It just has to do with the way the internet works. Give it time, it’ll hook up, and you’re good.

You Want to Transfer Your Domain Name?

Why would you want to do that? If you’re not selling that domain name? The only advantage to having your domain registered with the same place that hosts your site is that you may get the domain for free as part of your hosting package and you won’t have to deal with nameservers.

If you have to fire your host then you may find that a third party registrar was a good idea after all, but here we go with the transfer:

The Process of Transferring

Transferring a name from Registrar A to Registrar B is not the same thing as pointing it to your host. When you transfer the name to another registrar you’re transfering the actual listing of the name from A to B.

You’re doing the same thing if you sell the name, it’s just that you have to coordinate money and registrar with the buyer.

So here’s what you need to do:

Log into the admin panel of the registrar listing your domain and unlock that domain. Domains are locked to prevent transfers. In the past scammers could hijack domains and locking prevents this. So you’re going to need to unlock it.

At the new registrar find the link that says Transfer Domain.

Enter the name of the domain that you wish to transfer and take careful note of any instructions on the page. You must have access to the email address that you used when you first registered the domain.

The transfer isn’t free. You will be paying for at least a year with your new registrar.

The transfer isn’t fast. It will take around 7 days to complete.

Once you’ve requested the transfer and paid your money you will get emails from both the new registrar and the old. Each one will want you to verify the transfer. Read those emails very carefully because they will contain instructions to on how to deny the transfer, as well as to approve it. YOU want to make sure you’re giving them the right instruction.

If you replied yes to the emails you might receive another email, from one or both registrars, acknowledging and verifying that the transfer will take place.

Then you wait a few days and the name will settle nicely into it’s new home.

Buying and Selling Domains

The process of buying and selling doman names is similar. The domain has to be unlocked and both the old and new registrars with send their emails requesting approval.

The buyer will, depending on the negotiations, pay the transfer fees.

Of course, there are a few potential pitfalls here. You might want to look into an escrow service to facilitate the transfer of both the name and the payment. AfterNic.com is one such service.

Do you want to play the buy/sell domain name game? Smart players make some pretty good money doing just this, but there are pitfalls. A good start might be to check out the domain appraisals at GoDaddy.com for any domains that you might have or want to buy. Start by looking for names that are easy to say out loud and that aren’t trademarked. A lack of numbers and hyphens is also good. GoDaddy.com, for example, hits nicely on all but the trademarked part. ūüėČ

Good luck!

Summing Up

Once all the “paperwork” is done the domain name officially transfers to the new registrar and that part is done. If the new registrar is your hosting company then you are probably all done, if it’s not then you still need to set your nameservers.

Then you’re done.

Dec 172008
 

It time to actually buy your domain name. It’s really pretty easy, the hardest thing being to say no to all the addons that you might see.

Here’s how to go through it with GoDaddy, but most registrars will be similar, and frequently a lot simpler (fewer addons.) GoDaddy is the big name in the park, so that’s why I’m using them.

Buying and Registering

Buying and registering a domain name are exactly the same thing. Acutally registering is a better term since you’re not buying it as such. It’s more like you’re leasing it.

What’s this? You don’t have permanent ownership of your new domain name. When you go to a domain name registrar and “buy” your new domain name you’ll notice a part of the form that asks you how many years you want it for, usually it’s for 1 to 10 years.

After that time is up the domain name expires and you have a choice: you can either renew the name (and pay for another 1 to 10 years) or let it go.

This allows domains to go back into the pool when the owner is done with them which allows us to get a shot at them. Many of them are junk, but there are some pretty good names out there that expire and go up for grabs.

So anyway, if you’ve made up your list of 10 domains (see: how to create your domain name) hop on over to a domain name registrar and check on their availability.

I’ll use www.GoDaddy.com, because it’s pretty popular, but there are a lot of¬†registrars out there. Do a google search for domain name registrar or register domain name and you’ll find them.

Note: the GoDaddy procedure is more complicated than most other registrars. They offer a lot of goodies along with just the name. If you don’t want them then just keep clicking to the next page. Eventually you’ll hit the checkout page.

Is Your Domain Name Available?

Ok, so you’re at Godaddy.com. You’ll see a box at the very top of the page and another in the middle. Each box is labeled Domain Name Search. Just type in one of your prospective domains and hit the “Go” button. Note that you are not limited to .com names. You can pick from a whole list of domain name extensions.

In just a moment GoDaddy will let you know whether or not someone else has taken the name (how dare they!) I’ll use the 43dogs.com name, which I mentioned on the creating domains post. As of this writing the name is available. I can’t guarantee that it’ll still be there when you read this.

GoDaddy will also offer some alternative names. Check them over, you might see something you like. Here are some that came up for 43dogs.com, with GoDaddy’s prices.

  • 43DOGS.INFO for 99 cents,
  • 43DOGS.BIZ Just $14.99*/yr,
  • 43DOGS.US Just $12.99/yr,
  • DogsPets.com $1,900.00 (this is a premium name, hence the price)
  • YOUR43DOGS.COM $9.99*/yr,
  • EASY43DOGS.COM $9.99*/yr,
  • 43DOGSLIVE.COM $9.99*/yr

Generally premium names were bought by someone else, probably not GoDaddy, and are being resold at a premium price. Some people make quite a nice living at that game, others lose their shorts.

Ok, so let’s say you’ve checked your domain and it’s available. Give the page a quick look over and make sure that only the domains you want are checked. It’s easy to sign up for 13 variations of your name, so make sure you’re only getting what you want.

If you’re done then find the button that says something like Proceed to Checkout, or Buy Your Domain Now. For GoDaddy there is a big orange button at the bottom of the checklist which says, Proceed to Checkout.

Do You Want Fries With That Domain Name?

The next page depends on the registrar. GoDaddy will probably offer up a great deal on additional, related, names. If you don’t want them, hit the “No thanks. Continue to checkout…” link that’s under the big green YES! button. Otherwise hit that YES! button and the other names will be added to your order.

Other registrars may or may not have that upsell, but the general process will be similar. Add the name to whatever shopping cart system they have and proceed to the next page.

So I’ll hit “no thanks” on the GoDaddy page and continue. On most registrars you’ll now hit a page which asks for your contact info.

Name and Address Please

Email note: When filling out the forms use an email address that you will still have when the domain name expires. This email is used if the registrar needs to contact you for any reason, such as to tell you that your name needs to be renewed. Don’t use your primary personal email for this, don’t use a free email account (such as HotMail,) do use one that you’re going to keep.

After entering your contact info you’ll hit the continue/next button. In GoDaddy’s case they’ll suggest various services to help protect your new domain name(s.) Others registrars may, or may not, do this.

Double check to make sure that only the services you want, if any, are checked. There are two more buttons right above the big orange continue button.

  • Customize my order.
  • No thanks. I’m ready to checkout.

Pick the first one if you want the extras, pick the second if you don’t. Then hit that continue button.

Would You Like to Supersize Your Order?

With most registrars you’ll have hit the enter your payment info page. GoDaddy will offer you various hosting, email, and ecommerce plans. Skip all of them and go to the bottom of the page and hit the “No thanks. Continue to checkout…” link that’s under the continue button.

Double Checking, Make Sure It’s Right

You’re now at the check your order page. Make sure that everything is cool, that you understand what you’re paying for, and how much you’re paying. Verify that only the correct boxes and buttons are clicked. Make sure the two boxes in step 3 are checked (verifying that you read a couple of really long legal documents.)

Did you read them? I didn’t. Might be a good idea to do so at some point.

Finally you’re at the¬†enter your payment info page.

  • Make sure all the contact info is accurate
  • Make sure the total price is correct
  • Enter your credit card info and double check it. GoDaddy, like the other registrars, uses a secure payment processing system. Your card info is safer being entered here than it is being given to a waitress at a restaurant. Much safer.

Hit the checkout now button. Your card will be processed and you’ll have the rights to your new domain name. Keep all the emails that GoDaddy (or the other registrars) send to you. They’ll contain your receipt, account info, etc. I use a special folder in my email program for those emails.

About That Account…

Account info?

Yes. Once you have your domain you’ll have an account (with GoDaddy or whoever.) This account is where you’ll log in to administer your domain name(s.) This is where you’ll go when you want to point your domain name to your new host. Keep your login info (it will be in one of those emails) in a safe place.

Dec 172008
 

Ok, you’ve decided to build a site of our own and now you have to come up with a name for the thing. You head over to some domain name registrar and realize that a lot of names are taken. loans.com is long gone, as is VeryCool.com, and so on.

Don’t give up though, it just takes a few moments of thought and you will have a great domain name for that killer site of yours.

What is a domain name?

A domain name is simply the primary name of a website.  UnixTools.com is the domain name, of this site, for example. The .com part of the domain name is the extension. Since practically any word or phrase can be a domain and since there are literally dozens of extentions there are billions of possible domain name combinations. Change one letter, add a number, add a hyphen, use .ws instead of .com and you have a different domain name.

Then there are subdomains. This blog is on a subdomain of UnixTools.com: websites.unixtools.com. I’ll write about subdomains in a later post, for now we’ll stick with the primary domains.

Aren’t all the good domains taken?

As you may know pretty much any one word that you can come up with has already been¬†taken by someone else, but this doesn’t mean that all the good names have been taken. Pretty much all the short names are gone, but a longer one may be better anyway, for you.

Actually, not all the short ones are gone. We just grabbed wotkk.com. That’s for the cookbook that my wife is writing, Wrath of the Kitchen King.

There’s also a market in expired domain names. These are the domains that were owned by someone, but for whatever reason their lease ran out and now they’re up for grabs. There are a number of brokers dealing in these expired domains and you can expect to pay a premium over a new domain.

Another option is to make a cash offer to the owner of a domain. He may just be willing to listen.

Just because the perfect name isn’t available doesn’t mean that you can’t come up with one that isn’t good enough.

How to create a domain name:

It really helps if you already have an idea of what your website is going to be about. Are you going to have a site about dogs? Fruit? Fishing? Sports? Writing? Politics? A particular model of Sony TV?

So let’s take dogs and see what we can come up with. Obviously dogs.com is taken as are dogs.net and dogs.org. If we stick a number on it though we might find something interesting. Checking with www.GoDaddy.com , as of this writing, dogs365.com is taken, but dogs365.org and dogs365.net, and a few others,¬†are available. GoDaddy will also make additional suggestions.

.com is the way to go if you can get it, but only because .com is what everyone first thinks of with domain names. If someone is clicking a link to your site then it certainly doesn’t matter if you’re .com or .co.uk. By the way, GoDaddy frequently has .info names at a fraction of the cost of .com names.

Add a suffix or a prefix: mydogs, yourdogs, herdogs, dogsrock, bigblackdogsrule, unixdogs… Hmmm… I’ll bet that last one is available.

Let me check: ¬†Oops, nogo. But it IS for sale (as of this writing) by the owner. The other extensions are available. Actually, so is BigBlackDogsRule.com. Since we really do have two big black dogs that one’s kinda interesting. Hmmm, I just checked (3/19/11) and UnixDogs.com is actually available.

So here’s your homework. Grab a notepad, real or computer, and jot down a few words that fit what your site might be about. Add a suffix and/or a prefix and/or a number. Combine a couple of words, mix them up, play with it a bit, and come up with a list of 10 names that will work for you. For example (feel free to use something other than .com:)

  1. blackdogs.com,
  2. bigblackdogs.com,
  3. dogsrulecatsdrool.com,
  4. dogsneedhugstoo.com, (ok, I’ll use some caps)
  5. My3bigDogs.com,
  6. DogsAroundTheWorld.com
  7. DogsAtWork.com
  8. 43dogs.com
  9. NothingButDogs.com
  10. DogsAreIt.com

Ok, that took a whole minute. Now lets see if any of those names are available (no, I’m not going to buy them.) We have (checking with GoDaddy:) dogsneedhugstoo.com, My3bigDogs.com, DogsAtWork.com (for the low low price of $2,688.00,) and 43dogs.com are all available. Four out of ten isn’t bad these days. Ok, three out of ten if you toss the expensive one.

Why’s that one so much? Someone probably grabbed it with the intent of reselling it at a nice profit. There are people who make a nice living at that game, by the way.

With a little brainstorming you should be able to come up with a good domain name for your site. Heck, you could even do like these newfangled Web 2.0 sites do and get a really weird name, such as Weebly.com. What the heck is a Weebly??? Qassia? Squidoo? At least HubPages makes some sense… How about Del.icio.us?

The point is, find a name you like and go for it.

3/19/11 – tweaked for spelling and such.