What's in a name

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 changed their
name to Beyond.com. Why?

All web sites can be identified with a unique IP address. If you
select   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

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 cannot 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:

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 Providers to provide their customers with the
ability to create a personal web site. My home page in Florida is
sfan and no, I have not worked on it
for a long time. Note that there is no ".
com" following the

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 $70US 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 they don't, you can always sign up with a free host such as

Geocities, Anglefire or Hypermart.

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 a significant
investment 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

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). The tilde 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 popularity.

Is it necessary to have a unique Domain Name for your online
business? I believe it is. Not because you cannot 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 truck.

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 Beyond.com other than the

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?

"IMS Web Tips" ISSN 1488-7088
© Copyright 2000 Virtual Mechanics

"IMS Web Tips" is a weekly news letter for all web site managers regardless of experience who are looking for detailed information on creating, maintaining and promoting their web sites.

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