Establishing a "home" on the Internet is not as daunting a task as it may seem. For the uninitiated, registering a domain name may seem like a complex, technical and time-consuming chore. In reality, it is fairly straightforward and will most likely take you only a few minutes---with the help of a good road map. Let's break this process down into the essential components.
The Internet is a virtual world, but it has many similarities to the physical world we live in. Information, such as the article you are reading right now, needs to reside somewhere---and there needs to be a system in place to map all those "somewheres" so they can quickly and easily be found. For this reason, ICAAN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) was founded in 1988. It coordinates the unique addresses that computers use to find each other (and subsequently the information they store) on the Internet.
Domain names are the English-language equivalent of a numeric Internet address. Although you could type the address of http://126.96.36.199 into your browser to get to a website, it is much easier to type www.cnn.com. In the same way that the numeric addresses all need to be unique, the domain names assigned to them need to be unique also. Thus, when you create a name, it needs to be not only descriptive of your site, but also not already registered by someone else.
Registrars are companies that handle the "heavy lifting" of collecting the information for a proposed domain name, checking to see if it is already registered, forwarding the information to ICAAN and---if all is in order---initiating the process of populating that name out to the servers on the Internet. At the time of this writing, the largest registrar by a significant margin is GoDaddy.com. Most registrars offer a variety of services (such as website hosting) in addition to domain registration.
As mentioned above, the process of domain registration is fairly straightforward: select a name, pick a registrar, select the domain type (such as .com, .org, .info, etc.) and enter your contact information so the registrar can notify you if need be. The cost will vary between different registrars, but usually falls between $1.99 per year and $15-$20 per year depending on the domain type, .com being the most popular and usually more expensive.
Now the fun starts: waiting and watching until your new domain starts showing up on the Internet. Since the new name and its corresponding numeric address needs to be sent out (populated) to the major Internet servers stationed around the world, this process can take several days to complete. But sooner or later, your newly registered domain will be available by simply typing it into your browser. You now have a "home" on the Internet.
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