Do you have your own URL? If you don't, do you need one? If you
do, is it enough? A while ago, Software.net change their name to
All web sites can be identified with a unique IP address. If you
select http://126.96.36.199 you will be taken to the Virtual
Mechanics home page. The IP (Internet Protocol) address identifies
the location of a computer on the Internet. So what is a URL?
A URL or 'Uniform Resource Locator' is a more convenient way for
people to identify a file or web page. It can map a name to an IP
address so that you can find a web site or file on the Internet in a
more meaningful way. The fact is people can not remember a series
of numbers very well because they have no personal significance. A
name however, is far easier to remember especially if it relates to
something meaningful. Software.net for example, sells software.
A URL does more than identify a web page. It can identify any file
located on the Internet. This URL for example, will display the GIF
file of our Web Dwarf logo: http://www.VirtualMechanics.com/ClipArt/dwarfs.GIF. If only a
directory is specified, the Browser will automatically look for a
default file to load. The principal default file may differ depending
upon the server but it will usually be index.html, default.htm or
something similar. In this example, the URL only identifies a
directory so the file index.htm will be displayed: http://www.VirtualMechanics.com/news/
Knowing this, it is possible to create as many home pages as you
like on your web server by creating subdirectories and placing a
default.htm or index.html page in them. This is often done by
Dialup Access Provides to provide their customers with the ability to
create a personal web site. My home page in Florida is http://www.pompano.net/~sfan and no I have not worked on it for a
long time. Note that there is no ".com" following the address.
As most of you know, if you want a unique URL you can register a
Domain Name with Internic (or one of the new name registrars) to
purchase your own unique URL and have it mapped to your Web
Site IP address. Registering a Domain Name is going to cost you
approximately $70 for two years. If you don't already have a
commercial site for your unique URL you will also have to lease one
from an ISP (Internet Service Provider) which will cost you a
minimum of $5 to $10 a month and more for larger sites.
Why bother registering a Domain Name and paying an ISP to host
it? If your access provider offers free space why not use it. If not, you
can always sign up with a free host such as Geocities, Anglefire or
The answer depends upon the reason you have a website in the first
place. If your web site is for personal use these options are fine. If
you are establishing a commercial site then there are many other
factors that are involved. Whether you are selling widgets or Web
Design services, your web site is your storefront to the world. Like a
regular store, it can be located on Main Street or in a back alley.
A Dogma associated with promoting and selling products on-line is
that it can be cheap. It is not. It demands significant investments in
time and promotion. As those of you with large sites know, web
design and promotion is expensive. As the numbers above indicate
however, Domain registration and hosting expenses are by far one of
the lowest expenses you will have.
If you look at the address of my home page you will see that the site
name starts with a tilde (~ that's what this symbol is correctly called
but squiggle will do). This is a give away that it is probably not a
commercial site or a least not the home page for one. Another clue
of course is the lack of an "." ending.
".com" has been the traditional ending for commercial sites. As the
availability of ".com" names has dwindled, the use of ".net", ".org"
and country codes such as ".uk" and ".ca" have increased in
Is it necessary to have a unique Domain Name for your online
business? I believe it is. Not because you can not use a free site with
an unregistered name, but because it is an indication of your
commitment. It is the difference between purchasing a home
appliance from an established store or from the back of somebody's
What is in a name? One of the reasons Software.net changed their
name to Beyond.com is because their name was often confused with
Software.com, a completely different company. But there is much
more to it than that! Does it need to end in ".com"? What about the
name itself? Is there any other difference between Software.Net and
Next week I will discuss some of the considerations that should be
placed into selecting a name. Is there a value in having more than
one? And what are some of the cautions you should be aware of
when registering your name?