As you may or may not know, the task of creating a website usually begins with getting a domain from a registrar. (A domain is, loosely speaking, the address of your website. For example, the domain of the website you're reading is "thesitewizard.com".) This involves the payment of an annual fee to the domain name registrar. One of my visitors baulked ("balked" in US English) at the thought of having to make this recurring expense for the life of his site, and asked if it was possible for him to be his own registrar.
If your aim is to save money, this solution will end up costing you more. Much more. A cursory look at the requirements of being a registrar shows the following costs:
You have to pay an annual accreditation fee of something like USD $4,000 to ICANN, the organisation in charge of running the domain name system.
You need to have a commercial insurance policy with a policy limit of at least USD $500,000.
You have to pay ICANN a small yearly fee per domain name registered. I think it's 18 cents at the time I write this.
Every domain name suffix has a registry operator. These operators maintain computers which contain the necessary data for domain names carrying those suffixes to work on the Internet. They also set the policies which determine who can get what domain. (For example, the operator for ".eu" only allows people and organisations in the European Union to register domains with that suffix.) For each domain you register, you have to pay the relevant operator a certain annual fee. For example, for ".com" names, you have to pay the operator USD $7.85 per name per year. Other suffixes have different fees.
Contrast this with an annual fee of about USD $10 if you simply use an existing domain name registrar. And I'm sure my list above is actually incomplete, since it overlooks any technical requirements that you have to fulfill before you can be accredited.
Over the years that thesitewizard.com has been in existence, I have come across many cockamamie schemes to save the (approximately) $10 annual registrar fee that experienced webmasters regard as one of the unavoidable costs of running a website. In my opinion, these schemes are not only impractical for the small-time webmaster, they will also end up costing him/her more. And what is incurred is occasionally not just financial but also opportunity costs.
Now I know that some of you will be thinking, "No, but my plan is not like any of these other schemes you have been told. It will surely work." That's entirely possible. The people who created the Internet today can't possibly be the only human beings who can invent workable systems. However, to save you time, in case it's a solution that has been tested and found wanting, let me list some of the more sensible plans I've been told, and the issues they face.
The simplest plan, of course, is to simply use the free subdomain names given by a free web host. I have addressed this in my article Is it Possible to Create a Website Without Buying a Domain Name? The Cost of "Free". Please read it to find out the flaws in that approach.
Another proposed solution is to use one of the so-called "free domain names" offered by third party services on the internet. (Don't get excited. I said "so-called" for a reason.) However, this is just the free subdomain name problem (mentioned in the point above) under a different name. The same problems with that plan apply here.
A more radical proposal is to set up something that allows you to create any name at will, ignoring the official registrars and existing suffixes (extensions), perhaps even allowing names that don't use the traditional suffixes (or even any suffix at all, for that matter). While that may sound innovative, it's actually not a new idea. There are apparently already numerous alternative domain name systems around. But the fact that you, and most other people, haven't heard of them (nor used them) should already tell you something about its general usefulness.
In general, to make any domain name system work, computers in geographically diverse locations with a good connection to the Internet have to be set up (so that if one machine cannot be reached due to a network hiccup in that area, the others can). These machines function as what is known as name servers. When a web browser wants to access a particular domain name, say "thesitewizard.com", these name servers will supply the actual Internet address (which is a number like "127.0.0.1") so that the browser can reach the website for that domain.
Having your own domain name system may sound exciting, but I'm sure you've already guessed the problems associated with this. Firstly, the fact that you have to set up multiple computers all over the world just to match the names in your system to numeric addresses already points to the cost involved. This is not an undertaking for someone trying to save $10.
Secondly, what happens if the name you create under your system conflicts with a name someone buys through the official registrars? Whose website should the browser display?
Thirdly, how are you going to get people to use your name servers? Remember, a name like "thesitewizard.com" only works because your visitors' Internet provider (that is, broadband or dial-up company) resolves the name to a real numeric Internet address. By default, Internet providers the world over resolve names from the servers in ICANN's system. For your competing names to be accessible, you need to find some way to get your visitors to use your name servers instead. Good luck with that.
If you can actually afford to pay the registration fee, and are only exploring the alternatives because you dislike having to fork out an annual payment, my recommendation is that you should just regard it as one of the costs of running a business on the web, and move on. As far as I know, there is no realistic way to avoid that expenditure. In fact, once your site is operational, you'll find that it is just a miniscule part of your entire Internet business. It's really not worth using up all your time and energy on this little thing. You will have bigger issues that you need to attend to, namely, attracting visitors to your website, fulfilling your orders (or whatever your website business is about), answering customer support queries, etc. After all, it's only $10 (more or less) a year. Surely, you intend your business to make more than that.
Of course if you genuinely cannot afford a domain name, then you have no choice in the matter at all. You'll just have to set up a website without one. I don't recommend that, but if you have no choice, then there's nothing more that can be said about it. But make sure you know what you're getting into, because you will surely face the consequences in the future.
For those who have resolved to get their own domain, you can read my article on how to register one. Otherwise, if you're just browsing to learn more about domains in general, you may be interested in the list of my other articles on this topic.
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