Welcome to the Internet: What is a domain name and how does it work? | Dunlap Bennett and Ludwig plc

Part 1

As of January 2021, almost 40 years since the first iteration of a communications protocol capable of transmitting and interconnecting different computer networks, there are more than 4.5 active Internet users. [1] Yet even though 60 percent of the world’s population uses the Internet for anything from sharing vacation photos or videos of fireworks/concerts (which no one wants to watch), or buying a third plastic grass flamingo—because two weren’t enough— Few people know what they are doing on the Internet or how it works. If you are planning to own a business in 2022, you will undoubtedly need a website, but what does that mean? This series will cover general topics related to domain names, including what a domain name is, rights granted to a domain name registrant, how to protect your domain name, domain name disputes, cyber brilliance, and malicious use of a domain name.

The rules that govern how the Internet works are called “Internet Protocol,” or “IP,” which makes it possible for computer networks to communicate with each other and essentially allows the Internet to function as we know it.

To see what information is transferred from one device to another, each device that connects to the Internet has a unique set of numbers to identify the device—also known as an “IP address”.

Likewise, each site has its own complex IP address consisting of a series of incomprehensible numbers (for you or me, it is clear that a computer can understand them well).

To make this more user-friendly, numbers are associated with a word, phrase, or string of letters and numbers that one might enter to go to the website they wish to visit. For example, “www.google.com” or “www.amazon.com” are the domain names of both Google and Amazon, while “www.dbllawyers.com” is the domain name for this law firm, Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig PLLC.

When an individual wants to access a website, they type the domain name of the website they are trying to visit into the Uniform Resource Locator (“URL”) in their web browser, which people often refer to as a ‘web address’. A domain name has several sub-parts, including a top-level domain (for example, .com, .org, .net, .gov, and .edu) and a secondary level domain (for example, “google” and “amazon” and “dbllawyers”). In addition to these domains, there are also “subdomains” such as “support.google.com” and paths that take you to a specific page of a website, such as “dbllawyers.com/team”. The entire system that manages this interaction is called the Domain Name System, which allows the user to type in the domain name. The DNS server translates the handy word into a string of numbers that make up the actual IP address of the website.

Domain names are managed by domain registries (such as VeriSign), which rely on domain registrars (such as GoDaddy), which are certified organizations that sell domain name reservations to the public.

Both registries and registrars answer to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (“ICANN”), a non-profit organization made up of representatives from more than 100 governments, Internet service providers, registries, registrars, and other online stakeholders who coordinate these IP interactions across the world. A registrant is a person or entity who wishes to reserve a domain name, and when the name is registered with the registrar, the person or entity becomes the registrant for up to 10 years, depending on the length of the registration. [2] The registrar must then renew its domain registration prior to this termination date; Otherwise they may lose the domain name.

So, let’s say, for example, that you are about to open Tom’s T-Shirts, LLC, an exclusive high-quality T-shirt brand. You know that direct to consumer sales via a website is the best way to grow your business, so you have to turn to your domain registrar to purchase (actually, reserve) an available domain, like “tomstshirts.com”.

Unfortunately, this range is reserved, but a “tomstshirt” is available, so you can buy it.

Congratulations, you now own this domain for this limited booking period. When your holding period expires, the registrar will ask you if you want to renew the domain or let it lapse. If you do not renew the domain name, it will be advertised again and sold on a first-come, first-served basis to another buyer.

What happens if you decide you don’t like working with your registrar anymore and want a change? easy. You have the rights to transfer your domain registration from one registrar to another (although you may need to follow certain procedures set out in your reservation agreement with your initial registrar). Likewise, what if you buy some domains and someone wants to buy one from you? Again, easy.

You can sell and transfer ownership of your domain to a third party, usually through an intermediary.

It is critical that you keep your registrar account information and transfer codes confidential during the transfer process, and in general.

Once the transfer occurs, or in the unlikely scenario someone learns your account information, it becomes difficult to get your domain back.

This is because domain registrants often remove themselves from any domain name ownership dispute and rely on court orders and decisions from an ICANN-accredited dispute resolution service provider under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (“UDRP”). Regardless, it is a best practice to keep all information about your domain safe and secure and to use only a trusted vendor so you don’t risk losing it to a nefarious third party.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Welcome to the Internet: Bad Intent Domain Name Registration and Cyber ​​Theft.

[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/617136/digital-population-worldwide/

[2] Notably, there is a “lifetime leases” process where your registrar keeps the name for 10 years but then automatically renews the domain for another 10 years without having to go through the renewal process. This is somewhat risky in case the domain registrar stops working.

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