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: . 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 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 $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 romotion. 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). 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 ending?

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 2001 Virtual Mechanics

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