We humans are a shallow bunch but the fact remains that people and organisations often make judgements about you and your lifestyle based on nothing more substantial than where you live, your postcode or even the first few digits of your telephone number. Now you can add Internet web site addresses or 'domain names' to the list.

To be fair there are practical implications in having a brief and distinctive Internet address. For example, let us suppose that you run a high-street florist business called 'Blooms R Us' and you wish to promote your products and services on the Internet. If you take up the offer of free web space from an Internet Service Provider (ISP) you could end up with a long-winded address.

It's not the sort of thing that's going to get you noticed, it will look dreadful on letterheads or the sides of your delivery van and it reduces the chances of potential customers finding your site. On the other hand, if you have a short snappy web address like, your web site will be much easier for others to find and remember. Better still, if your domain name ends in .com it will give your business the ultimate cachet, an impression of size and the appearance, at least, of being a multinational operation.

If you want to get ahead on the Internet you need a memorable domain name, and in a moment we'll show you how to go about finding one, but first, it helps to understand how it all works. Internet domain names are designated according to an internationally agreed set of protocols called the Domain Name System or DNS. The server computers that make up the backbone of the Internet automatically translate web addresses into an Internet Protocol (IP) number. This is a unique numeric code assigned to each and every web page; you may see an IP number flash up in your browser window's status bar: is the IP number for the Connected home page on the Electronic Telegraph web site.  

Domain names are split in to three levels, separated by full stops or 'dots'. The 'top level domain' (TLD) is the two or three letters following the last dot in the address (i.e. .com, .edu, .gov, .net, .org, uk, etc. – see Jargon Filter). TLDs like .com and .org etc. are mostly assigned to US or multinational organisations; otherwise it is a simple country code (.uk - United Kingdom, .fr - France, .jp - Japan, and so on).   

The second level domain is the bit that goes before the final dot. It could show a company name -- in the case of addresses with a .com or .org suffix -- or it signifies the organisation's status (.ac, .co, .sch, .ltd, .plc etc.) in the case of a web site ending in a country code. The third level domain comes before the second dot from the left, so in our fictional web site it would be the name 'bloomsrus'.

Clearly it is preferable to have a .com domain since the address will be shorter. There is also a certain amount of snobbery associated with a .com name. It suggests that the user is a large multinational organisation and that the user has been on the Internet for some time since domain names are issued on a first-come first-served basis. A web site address ending in '' would therefore be second best to a coveted .com domain for a British company. (The BBC recently spent a considerable sum buying '' from Boston Business Computing in the US.

So how do you go about acquiring a domain name, and what does it cost? The first bit is easy. Go to any of the web sites listed below (see Contacts). These are some of the companies responsible for domain name registration; simply type in your chosen name in the Search field and you will be able to see straight away whether or not it is available. The chances are if the name is a common one it will be taken, though it may not be in use since a lot of names have been 'banked', by individuals or companies planning to use or sell them at a later date.

There are several ways to buy a domain name. Check with your Internet service provider since some ISPs offer a registration and hosting service for commercial web sites. However, it can be quite expensive and in addition to the one-off registration fee there may be costly annual or biannual administration charges. The alternative is to use your free allocation of web space to host the site and buy a domain name from a registration company (see Contacts) accredited with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers or ICANN ( Prices vary but the initial registration fee for a .com domain is typically £100-£150 plus an annual charge of £25 or so. Less prestigious domains are usually a little cheaper at £100 or less, with lower annual maintenance fees and you may get a discount for registering names in 'bulk'.

Registration takes only a few minutes though it may be several days before your domain is operational. Once it is up and running DNS databases will direct visitors keying your address into their browsers to your web site, wherever it may be -- even if it is a free allocation -- so you are not permanently tied to an ISP to host your site. The registration fees normally include automatic redirection of Email sent to the site, and this will be forwarded to your nominated email address.

Next week – Installing a second hard disc drive






UK academic organisation


worldwide 'commercial' entities, individuals or companies

UK based commercial entity, individual or company


assigned to higher level educational establishments, colleges universities etc.


reserved for US government agencies and organisations and similar bodies in other countries when preceded by the relevant country code

UK Ministry of Defence establishment web sites


organisations which are part of the Internet infrastructure – i.e. Internet Service Providers etc.

UK national health service web site


originally reserved for non-profit making organisations (charities, political bodies, professional institutions, trades unions etc.)  but now issued to some commercial enterprises

UK schools domain



If you regularly need to switch between two settings on your printer (i.e. portrait and landscape mode, etc.) when printing from different applications, you can avoid a lot of messing around by making Windows believe you have two or more printers. Open the Printers folder in My Computer and click on Add New Printer and follow through the installation procedure for your existing printer. At the point when Windows asks the printers name change to default, Printer 2 for example. When the setup is complete right-click on the new printer icon, select Properties and change the settings as required. Now all you have to do is select the new printer in your application's Printer Setup dialogue box, or simply drag and drop the file onto the Printer 2 icon.

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