I often get letters asking me how to go about getting a domain. Most of the time I would simply answer the letters by stating, “You pay for it.”
Not a good joke, but you have to love the classics. In this tutorial I’ll do my best to explain how to go about getting your own section of the World Wide Web, and hopefully explain a little bit about how the whole Internet works along the way.
So, what’s a domain? A domain is a larger site on the Net. “Cnn.com” is a domain, as is “yahoo.com.”
My domain happens to be “htmlgoodies.com.” In order to get a domain you need to do a little more than just name your site and hope people show up.
You’ll need to let the entire Internet community know you’re out there. You need to get your own set IP number.
…stay with me, here.
Yeah. “IP” stands for Internet Protocol. This protocol is used for moving files around this Web of computers we call the Internet.
In order for your site to be recognized as a drop-off point for a packet of information, you need to have a set IP address.
But, I Already Have An IP!
Actually, if you use an Internet Service Provider (ISP) you are assigned an IP each time you attach.
This does not apply to AOL or Compuserve users, because you are not attached to the Internet as such, but are only allowed to surf through the use of AOL’s browser.
You see, you do get an IP when you attach to your ISP, but that is a floating number and only is good for the one session and is used mostly to assist in a packet download.
I figured you might be at this point. Let me continue by first explaining how the World Wide Web works.
It will make this all much less confusing. Please note that it does get far more complicated than this, but what is below is the general idea — and a pretty good explanation, if I do say so myself. I’ve read it already.
You’re sitting in your easy chair surfing the Web. You enter the address http://www.htmlgoodies.com, click the enter button, magic happens, and you start receiving files that display on your screen. Pretty cool, huh? I think so.
First let’s look at the Universal Resource Locator (URL): “http://www.htmlgoodies.com.”
- “http” Stands For Hyper Text Transfer Protocol. This is the protocol, or set of instructions, the browser is to use to handle what’s coming up. That’s coming will be hypertext, thus the need for hypertext transfer protocol. That makes sense.
- “://” is some leftover UNIX command that I wish the powers that be had gotten rid of a long time ago, but they didn’t.
Think of “://” as “everything that follows should be handled this way.” Put the two together and you can see that the beginning is saying “The following address is to be handled using hypertext transfer protocol.” Get it?
- “www.htmlgoodies.com” is the actual address. In Internet lingo it’s the URL (Universal Resource Locator).
www.htmlgoodies.com is the URL of my domain. Now, if you have read into anything dealing with computers, you know that computers do not read text — computers read numbers.
Period. If you type the letter “Z,” the computer will display a “Z” to you, but will record it in its own memory as a seven-digit series of ones and zeros.
This is called the ASCII code. Read all about it in my tutorial So, You Want to FTP/Download, Huh?
For now, just take my word that computers do everything with numbers. Text is simply displayed so you, the smart human, can understand what is going on.
So you, the smart human, entered “www.htmlgoodies.com.” The thing is, the computer didn’t look for www.htmlgoodies.com. It looked for a site named 22.214.171.124.
How did you say that so fast? Yes! 126.96.36.199. That’s my set IP address. Any time a computer on the Net looks around it sees other computers as numbers.
It makes the attachment by finding the correct number, not the correct text. The text has been placed there to make it a whole lot easier on you.
It wouldn’t be much fun if someone asked you for your home page address and you had to recite “pi.pi.pi.pi” on down the line. It’s easier to just say you’re at “bob.com.”
Although not much easier. I just can’t get the correct pronunciation of “edu.” (Eh-dyu?)
How Does It Do That?
This is where the magic is, all this stuff you don’t see that goes on behind the curtains.
Somewhere between you and the site you want to find is something called a DNS server. That stands for a Domain Name Server. It has a really, really long list of domain names and the numbers that correspond.
Usually, the ISP that you have your page on has its own DNS server. If not, they are attached to one close by.
The DNS server reads the text you put in, changing that text into the corresponding IP number, then sends the request off and into cyberspace.
If that seems like one more step than is required, it is. But isn’t it worth it to be able to type in words rather than remember some long strain of numbers?
I knew you would all agree. All of you, except that guy in Topeka, Kansas. He doesn’t agree with anything I say.
Have you ever put in an address and received a message back that the server you requested didn’t have a DNS entry? Well, now you know what that means.
The DNS server can’t find a number that lines up with the text you entered.
Where Do These Numbers Come From?
The InterNIC Registration Service. Yes Virginia, there is an Internet, Inc.
They assign the IP numbers. The cost is $70 for two years. Not a bad price. Plus, you don’t have to tip.
You send them the request, and if the name you want isn’t taken or offensive, you get back a number.
In addition, that number is made known to all the world’s DNS servers. Oh, it’s quite a system.
I actually didn’t fill out the forms myself. The company that set up my Virtual Domain did it for me. Virtual? Easy now. I’m not done explaining the IP numbers yet.
Who Gets What Number?
We have the fine people at the U.S. Department of Defense (the DOD) to thank for this Internet setup.
They came up with the concept somewhere in the late 1950s.
Back then, this system was to simply interlock a few hundred computers so information could be safely passed around even in the event of an attack.
It was never thought that people would be using this marvel to download naked pictures of Terry Hatcher. Heck, she wasn’t even born yet.
The IP numbers are in four sections called “octets.” See that above? If you encounter a site that has its first octet as 126 or lower, it is one of the first sites to ask for the use of an IP address.
It is also very big. The problem is that there can only be 126 of these very big servers.
IBM has one of these types of addresses, as does the National Science Foundation and a few huge commercial servers.
These sites can be found by DNS servers simply by the use of the first three numbers of its IP number.
Any site with this type of IP number is known as a “Class A” server.
Class B servers use the first two octets to be found. These are servers that have an IP number from 127 through 254 in the first position.
What is in the second position depends on what number was assigned to them by the InterNIC. In case you’re wondering, this allows for 64,514 different address.
Class C servers use the first three octets to denote who they are to DNS servers. You can do the math, but the numbers of these servers available is over a million.
I’m a class D server. In fact I’m not a server at all. More to come.
The IP addresses work to do two things: They find a host on the Internet and they choose a certain part once they get to the host. Imagine an IP number of:
It may be a real number, I don’t know. I made it up for demonstration purposes.
It’s obvious that that number is assigned to a big huge server, as its first octet is less than 126.
Notice then that the next three octets are only one number each. That’s because the IP address is being used to find other servers inside of 122.
If 122 is IBM, maybe 188.8.131.52 is IBM’s main business server, and 184.108.40.206 is their employee Web page server.
Many larger universities have 10 or 12 different servers on campus. They all require IP numbers, and each has one.
The university is given a class B IP and 12 different assignment IPs under that.
Once an IP is assigned, any sites under the umbrella of that IP are denoted by the first octets and the numbers that follow. Starting to see how this all works?
How Do I Find An IP Number?
You can easily do that using “ping.” After you are attached to your server, head to a DOS or telnet command prompt and type in “ping” and then the address of the server you want the number for.
Push Enter. A request will be sent and an IP address will be returned.
…just in case you’re wondering
The numbers “0” and “255” (opposite ends of the IP number scale) have special meanings.
Zero stands for an unknown server and “255” stands for all servers.
Sometimes you’ll see a “netmask” of “255.255.255.0.” That is a default.
What it does is tell the computer, “If you can’t find the exact IP address — try this.” The 255s search everywhere.
If nothing is found, the zero returns an unknown command. Poof! DNS entry problem. Still with me?
Getting Your Own Domain
On to the real reason you came here. How do you get your own IP address and start your own domain, www.yournamehere.com? There are two basic ways:
Buy a connection to the Internet, a DNS server, dedicated ISDN lines, modem ports, hire a technician, and set up three or four very expensive Internet servers. $$$$!
- Get a Virtual Domain.
I opted for the latter. The first choice is good if you want to start your own server, sell space on the server, and make a true business of it all. I just wanted to write tutorials and answer e-mail. I have a Virtual Domain.
I went to a gentleman here in central Pennsylvania and asked if I could possibly have a domain on his big huge expensive server (with a T1 Internet connection! Woohoo!)
He said “Yup.” (Southern guy.) What he did was set aside a section of his server and called it www.htmlgoodies.com.
He then applied for an IP address for that section of the server.
The IP number of the server I am on is 220.127.116.11.
Notice it is a class C server using the first three full octets as the DNS. My IP number again is 18.104.22.168.
Note the numbers are the same except the fourth octet is extended from 1 to 236. When you put in “www.htmlgoodies.com” and push enter, you are actually going to a server called “Sunlink.net” in central Pennsylvania.
Once you get there, you are immediately routed to a certain section of the server denoted as 236, or www.htmlgoodies.com. Get it?
Don’t I Have That Already?
Most people on the Web have an address something like www.server.com/~fredflintstone or www.server.com/bedrock/~barneyrubble.
What you have is a section of the server just like I do, but your section does not have its own IP number.
When someone comes to see your site, they put in “www.server.com” first. That is the address. That carries the IP number.
You are found after the IP address is used to find the server. Your portion of the server is denoted through a tilde (~, pronounced “Till-day”) or through the use of /sub-directory/after/sub-directory.
No IP number is used after the server is found. After the server is found, the stuff written after the server address is then used to send the user to your site.
By the way — a tilde (~) is a computer command that means, “There is only one directory in this entire server titled fredflintstone — find it!”
When you attach to an ISP using PPP or SLIP, you are assigned an IP number.
It can be different every time. That floating number denotes your computer.
You know that when you download something, it comes right into your computer.
The Internet knows how to do that because you have, while you’re attached, an IP number that tells the Internet where to send the information you are downloading.
Your computer is literally part of the Web. But after you log-out, the number is gone.
That number you are given acts underneath the class A, B, or C IP of your server. You are given a floating IP number like you were a subserver of your main server.
That’s because while you’re attached, you are a subserver. You can send and receive files like the main server (sort of).
But that number is not an assigned IP, it’s not recognized outside of your server’s domain.
Thus it is not a true domain. People can’t take information from your computer unless you’re attached.
Because I have my own IP address, I am attached all the time, and you can stop in any time.
To get your own domain, do what I did. Head to your own server head, Webmaster, or technician, and ask if you can purchase space to set aside as a virtual domain.
Your current server may not offer you the ability to do this. If you’re serious, try another, and another.
Sooner or later you’ll find a local server that will set the whole thing up for you.
How Much Does It Cost?
More than what you’re paying now, I can tell you that. I won’t mention what I pay because that is between me and the gentleman who sells to me.
But I can tell you it is more than $200 a month.
You’ll usually pay in two levels, a monthly fee of some sort and then a cost for how often your site is visited.
I pay visitation in number of times the server is contacted for some information, also called a “hit.”
You could also pay by the amount of data transferred. That’s called paying by bandwidth.
Either way, the more traffic you have, the more you will pay.
You’ll need to find a server that will allow a virtual domain and apply for an IP number.
Once you are given the number, it will be associated with your section of the server.
All the DNS servers will be made aware of your number and you’re in business. You are your own domain, www.you.com.
What Do I Call Myself?
That’s up to you. You’ll just need to make sure the name isn’t already in use.
Head to either a DOS prompt or a command prompt after attaching to your server and type “whois” and your proposed name.
If you get an answer that it can’t find the name, try entering the name into your browser.
If you get a DNS entry error, there’s a pretty good chance you’re the first to think of it. Try and get it.
But even if it appears that the name doesn’t exist, you may still be out of luck.
The domain may not be posted, but it still may be owned. There are groups that buy up domains that others may want.
All the names are bought up, “joe.com”, “bob.com”, “jane.com”, plus other common words.
The reason is if you want the domain bad enough, you might buy it from them. Pretty clever and quite forward-thinking, if you ask me.
Well, that’s about all I can type in one sitting, so I’ll wrap it up here. You now know what you need to in order to get your own domain.
It’s cool, but it costs. Weigh the pros and cons and if the domain idea comes out on the up-side, go for it. I’m very happy I did.