Everybody needs a domain name

(a.k.a. "Why you need a domain name even if you're not planning an IPO")

Assuming you've owned a computer (or a television set) for more than a week, you've probably seen a lot of domain name registrars begging for your business. Most of them pitch you based on the idea of establishing your 'real world' identity online, and/or making big bucks with a great name. "Protect your identity in cyberspace!" they yell. "Your dot com is your brand!" they scream. "A good name is good for business!" they blather.

Ignore the yelling, screaming, and blathering (unless it's mine; I'm an expert, you know). Identity online has always been more fluid (i.e., self-created) than offline identities. The most sucessful online identities (from Kibo to Orbitz) have, at best, tenuous connections to their meatspace counterparts. On the Internet, John Doe doesn't need to be JohnDoe.com, he just has to be interesting.

Likewise, a John Doe with content beats a JohnDoe.com without it, anyday. Just ask books.com what happened when they ignored the upstart Amazon.com. Never heard of books.com? Yeah, well there's a reason for that.

So, if you a domain name won't make you rich or famous, why bother? You bother because a domain makes you free, and there's nothing more important than your freedom.

It's about freedom, baby. Dig it?

The relationship between individuals and their Internet servive providers is basically feudal. You pledge your allegiance to their brand and policies, and they deign to allow you a little bit of webspace with an address like http://www.example.com/JohnDoe. In an ideal world, both sides get what they want: You get some easilymanaged webspace, and your feudal overlord gets a little free advertising everytime somebody sees your web address in their browser. Sounds good, doesn't it?

The problem is that feudal relationships give all the power to the landowner. If you're using http://www.example.com/JohnDoe, you're vunerable to whims and weaknesses of example.com, which means they can break your address anytime they want. For instance,

See? By signing up with somebody else's domain name, you've surrendered a lot of freedom. Registering your own domain name gives you your freedom back by guaranteeing your most important freedom: The freedom to walk away. As long as you control your domain name, you have immunity from the smaller problems, and the power to leave service providers who cause big problems.

So, renounce your serfdom! Declare your independence from your callous corporate overlord, and register a domain name. It doesn't have to be a great name. (You make it great by what you do with it). It doesn't even have to be your name. (You make it yours when you use it.) It just has to be a name you call your own.

Where do we go from here?

Oh, I suppose you want to know where to get a domain, too. Websnob recommends Dotster.com, an ICANN accredited registrar of .com, .net and .org domain names.

Once you've got the name set up at the ISP of your choice, you might want to read about what to do after registering a domain name.