the who, what, where and when of domain names
1.07 CAN YOU BUY A SECOND HAND DOMAIN NAME?
Yes you can. As previously stated, anyone who registers a domain name is, effectively, the owner of it. They can, therefore, pass on ownership to another person or entity for a fee. In chapter three we look in detail at how to choose the best domain name for your organization or venture - well it could be that the 'best' domain has already been registered by someone else. If this is the case it might be worth considering purchasing it from them - though if the domain hosts the website of a successful businesses or a recognized brand, it is unlikely to be for sale. However, as a business model, some people register names purely to sell them on, so those names will be available. Many other domains will sit between these two extremes - and so depending on your budget, their availability might be worth exploring.
There are a number of websites that sell pre-registered names - though I have found these to be pretty much a waste of time. At the time of writing I could have purchased such gems as: decksterdecks.com, sellnmore.com, 1wsv.com and ckurhealth.com, all at the bargain price of $10 each - and they are over-priced at that, I would say. Having said they offer little, it might be worth spending an hour or so trawling such sites - you are unlikely to find your primary name, but you may find something that is suitable for a particular element of your business or a name that describes your business but doesn't include your name. Either could be used on a microsite created to increase your online exposure, particularly for purposes of search engine optimization. An added attraction to pre-owned names is that (at the time of writing) Google takes into account the age of a domain name in its algorithms - meaning that an older name might appear higher in search results (note that there are many other elements to the Google algorithm).
If you do target a suitable - but already registered - domain, tracking down the owner of a registered name is your first job. Step one is to simply type the name into a browser. If a website appears, then the chance of buying the name becomes problematic. Not only is the owner unlikely to sell, but if you took over the name you would continue to receive the original site's traffic and, more importantly, you would have problems if the site has been indexed by search engines. If there is no website and the name is registered by a 'speculator' you are likely to get a generic website of the registrar with contact details for making a purchase. If no website appears this means that you need to track down the owner.
The details of who owns a domain name are made available through what is known as a Whois facility. These are provided by each Top level or Country Code organization - though they are available through many websites, normally those of domain name registrars (to find a local Whois directory, simply put 'whois' into a search engine). However, there is an obstacle for some domains - the data protection legislation that covers the country or region in which the domain originates. For an example, consider three of my domain names:
alan-charlesworth.com, alancharlesworth.eu and alan-charlesworth.co.uk. For the first - registered in the USA - the Whois tells you who registered it (me) and my details, including my full home address (so you can send me Christmas cards if you wish!). The second is managed by Eurid, a European organization which is governed by EU Directives, and so their Whois tell you my name and a contact email address. The last one, the .co.uk, is covered by the UK Data Protection Act, which means you get my name and little else. It is worth noting, however, that reputable domain name registrars will offer a service - for a fee - of restricting the information on the US Whois facility, with the domain authorities being content for the data to be available from the registrars if it is required.
DOMAIN NAMES IN PRACTICE :
For the vast majority of businesses, even those that trade purely online, the purchase of an existing name is not really a serious consideration. A suitable name is usually available for an existing company and for a new online venture the trading name of the business can be decided when availability of a suitable name has been checked (remember that for many online businesses, the domain name is the trading - and brand - name eg twitter.com). However, if the circumstances are such that a suitable domain name has been identified as being for sale at a reasonable price then this is a effective path to follow. What is reasonable? It depends on what value the buyer places on the name - and how much the seller wants.
keeping check on your competition
An extended use of any Whois facility is tracking domain name registrations to see what other players in your marketplace are up to. For example, the end of May 2006 saw the search giant register (through a not-too-difficult-to-identify third party) 'googlecheckout.com' - suggesting their future plans for diversification. Note that there are firms out there who will track your competitors' domain name activities - for a fee, of course.
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Copyright copyright 2009 Alan Charlesworth. All rights reserved.
International Standard Book Number: 978-1-4452-0538-0
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