Modern era of online content consumerism demands that you must own an online space through which you can publish content, meaning you will also have to purchase a domain name that is both an address and a way of branding your website.
Considering that you are already paying for website hosting on a monthly basis, the question arises why do you have to purchase a domain too? Let’s start from the beginning and discuss the positive and negative sides.
What is a domain name?
The domain name, or just “domain” for short, is the human readable address for your website that is translated into a machine readable numerical address by the DNS (domain name system) so that visitors can access your website.
Besides being the human readable address it is also a marketing tool, as an appropriate domain name is desirable for marketing purposes. A suitable domain name, short and catchy, can have a significant impact on the recognizability of your website as well as the ability of users to remember and visit it again later.
Because of this we can say that a domain name is a valuable property, much like real estate, hence we have to discuss why you have to purchase it and what are the conditions as well as consequences.
Why do you have to purchase a domain?
The domain name system (DNS) is the basis for operation of the Internet, a vast global network of client and server computers, from individual home computers to large data centers.
We dare say that the Internet is the most empowering tool for every human being as it enables us to learn and discover, educate and entertain ourselves, and enables rapid sharing of information and knowledge through websites on the Internet.
Providing, operating and maintaining the DNS so that we can visit our favorite websites any time we desire, 24/7 has a cost and by purchasing a domain we fund registries and registrars that make websites accessible globally.
How come some companies offer free domain registration with a hosting service?
Yes, it is true, some companies do offer a free domain registration when you purchase a hosting service from them.
However, I would like you to note that with most companies this is a 1-year domain registration and after the first free year you will have to start paying for the domain registration. Same can be said if you decide to change your hosting provider, you will have to start paying for the domain.
Should I consider a free domain name with a paid hosting service?
Getting a free domain name with your hosting service is definitely an option, though I would rather get the domain and hosting separately, as the hosting company may have you pay for next year renewal or a transfer fee if you decide to transfer-out the domain.
Second reason why I would like to have the domain name separate from hosting service is that you must be aware of the value of the domain and at some point you may be contacted by a third party with an offer for the domain ownership.
If you have the domain name with the hosting then it may be so that the legal owner of the domain is the hosting provider as they are listed in the WHOIS record, meaning that you may lose ownership of the domain.
How about a totally free domain?
Now, this is a very specific case. A very few domain registrars are currently offering their domain name for free as they are trying to build-up their customer base which is not a bad intention in itself.
However, free domains are very commonly used by spam and scam websites, meaning that websites which use such domain names are very untrustworthy so I would imagine that this domain would have very little user traffic and also a very low value.
Totally free domains can be used only for very low value projects and you cannot expect to gain any value or sell such domain.
We can conclude that while domain names are not protected by an intellectual property right, they can hold value and if you register one and keep paying the renewal fee you will hold ownership of a domain.
By purchasing a domain and holding ownership over it you are free to use it as a human readable address for a website, or sell the domain ownership to another individual or company for a considerable monetary gain.