It used to be free to register a domain name. But when the number of name registrations exploded–from 18,000 com addresses in mid-1994 to more than 82,000 a year later–InterNIC imposed a registration fee. These days, it costs $10 up front to register a domain name for the first year; it’s about the same to maintain it thereafter.

Your service provider can take care of this for you, usually with an additional processing fee. Namecheap, for example, charges $10.99 and some ICANN fees, Internetbs charges $9.60. But services that accompany the fees vary, so investigate your options fully. Beware of excessive charges: some unscrupulous ISPs charge as much as $50 and would like you to think the domain name search is costly. In fact, it’s free (see step 1).

And don’t think you can get away without paying the ICANN fee. If you don’t pony up, you’ll be cut off and your domain name will be up for grabs (see our news story about what happened to some who didn’t pay: “Web deadbeats to get identity crisis”).

Find out how the us domain works and how you can save money by using it. The registration fee, by the way, is paid only by users of domains with a top level of com, org, and net. The NSF foots the bill for edu and gov, while the Department of Defense pays for mil registrations. But the us domain is free. To find out more about registering under the us domain, click on the image at the left.

There are two ways to register a domain name. The easier method is to ask your Internet service provider (ISP) to do it for you. But if you’re an ardent do-it-yourselfer, you can fill in the online InterNIC forms yourself. (Of course, you still have to mail a check.) Why choose one over the other?

the ISP method

*It’s easy – all the work is done for you.

*You’re all set to link the domain name to your Web page.

*The ISP can also set up your email address.

the do-it-yourself method

*It’s fast – you register by email.

*It’s probably cheaper – there’s no setup or search fee.

Unless you’re hard-wired to the Internet, though, you need a service provider, who will charge a fee to link your domain name to an Internet protocol (IP) address.

Note that not all ISPs allow you to register your own domain name (America Online, for instance, is one that doesn’t allow it). Check with your ISP to be sure you can do so. If your current ISP doesn’t allow it, and you really want your own domain name, you’ll need to get a new service provider.

Be sure to investigate the costs of both the ISP method and the do-it-yourself method before making a decision.