Truthfully, you do not need a domain name to blog. All you need is your words and an account with a free blog host.

You can go to Livejournal, or Blogger, or Bloghost, or Myspace, or Vox, or any one of a few hundreds (perhaps thousands) of blog farms that will be happy to host your blog for you. There is something to be said for joining the hive -- for example, if you get a Livejournal account other Livejournal users may friend you and read your work. If you're just looking to be read or for publicity, and you are not worried about making money from advertising, a blog host may be the way to go.

However.

This series of articles is aimed at people who want to blog professionally and make money at it, or who want more control than a social networking site can offer. And, if you want to have a professional presence on the web, I strongly recommend registering your own domain name. It looks better.

Advantages to registering a domain name also include:

  • The address is yours, even if you have to change hosts. Conversely, if you decide that you're not happy with Livejournal and you want to move to Blogger, you need to get all your readers to go to the new address -- and you'll lose some in the process.

Problems happen with hosts. You cannot assume that they'll be around forever, even if they're big and well known. My first web site in the early 1990's was at www.primenet.com/~leva. Don't bother visiting that link. Primenet went bankrupt and was purchased by another ISP and the new ISP promptly did away with the domain -- which meant my site went away too. I had zero warning of this. I simply woke up one day and my site (and e-mail address) were gone. They didn't even offer redirects.


Then I purchased the domain firefox.org, and hosted it at a small company. That hosting lasted, oh, about a month. They promised me they'd put me on a linux server but instead hosted me on a Windows box. My apps didn't work in Windows. I told them to move me to the linux server they promised, or I'd leave. When the linux server didn't materialize, I left. In the second move, however, my domain name remained the same, which meant the move was far less of a headache.

  • Being www.yournamehere.com is more professional than, say, anyblogger.livejournal.com. Also, it lets you establish an identity of your own -- for example, failblog.org would be just one more blog out of a million if it was failblog.bloghost.com.
  • In many cases, you cannot monetize your blog with advertising on a blog host. A few -- Blogger comes to mind -- let you run Adsense ads. However, most blog farms only permit you to have a blog on their site for non-commercial purposes. You can't put your own ads on a Livejournal blog, or a Myspace page, no matter how much traffic (and money!) it's earning for the host.
  • You have more control when buy a domain and point it at an ISP of your chosing. With the right host and plan, you can run the applications you want. You can modify your apps. You can add hit tracking bugs, a chat room, a bulletin board, a mailing list, or a shopping cart. And if your host won't let you run the application you need, or you need PHP5 and they have PHP3 installed, you can also pick up and move to a new host and your users will still be able to find you at the new address.
  • A software company might name their best known product after your site. For real, this actually happens sometimes. I swear. Honest.

So, if you want a domain, how do you go about getting one?