Understanding Domain Names

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Painted man painting dots on concrete wall photo © Copyright by Maria Bobrova

It’s my Domain

Domain names are keywords followed by a dot and an abbreviation that represent an entity (you or your business) in the online world. As an example, in the domain spiderz.com, ‘spiderz’ is a keyword which is followed by a dot (period), that is followed by ‘com’ which stands for ‘commercial’.

The ‘.com’ part in a domain is called a TLD which is short for Top-level domain – something the DNS or Domain Name System needs to help figure out where your domain resides on the Internet.

Give me DNS!

The Domain Name System runs like an intelligent address book that helps find the location or home of a domain and does this with the help of name servers assigned to help Internet users find their way through the Internet right to your website or email service.

All this involves the use of IP or Internet Protocol addresses, and beyond this little definition, everything becomes rather complicated – or magical.

.COM or dot whatever!

Like ‘.com’ there are hundreds of top-level domain choices today. Back in the day, life was simpler with .org for organization, .net for network, .edu for education and top-level country domain names like .uk for United Kingdom or .ae for United Arab Emirates.

Today, there are hundreds of top-level domain choices ranging from .com look alikes like .co and .biz to the almost hilarious .fyi and .xyz!

Who sells domain names?

The rules that govern domain names vary depending on the provider of the domain, often referred to as a domain registry. A domain registry is an organization that controls the policies of domain name allocation, at times sells domain names directly or appoints accredited registrars to manage sales.

A domain name registrar sells a domain name to the general public and offers domain name services like DNS parking, domain forwarding and setting up name server hosts, among many other services.

Domain registrars are plenty and most sell other related services alongside, including but not limited to web and email hosting, VPN services, virtual private servers, dedicated servers and SSL certificates, to name a few.

Most domain registrars are mass market sellers so they often over-brand and over-market simple services, offer insane get-through-the-door discounts that translate to higher fees for subsequent tenures, create confusion and try to rule the roost by positioning themselves as the lowest priced services on the Internet – under the hood, they’re as good as other registrar.

The problem with all this is that most people simply don’t have the interest and time to invest in going through the fluff when trying to purchase a domain name – decide a .com or .fyi or .xyz or whatever, think about adding a website plan, add email, or have the domain public or private, to choose a tenure, to figure out if you need some ill-named SEO package, and how about a VPN?

You get the idea – it’s not a simple, go-in, buy your domain, go out experience.

Where do I register a domain?

Domain name registrars often allow independent sellers to sign-up and resell domain names and other services provided by the domain registrar.

This often allows web developers and agencies to offer domain name registration to their customers, thereby opening up avenues of side-income for hundreds of thousands of web solution providers. These days you can buy a domain name through anyone – may be at a hypermarket? Who knows!

At Spiderz we offer domain name registration services and register domains for over 400 top-level domains like .com, .net, .org, .xyz, .fyi and more. We bundle all standard domain name services out-of-the-box including domain name privacy (your personal information is never visible on the web).

The idea behind privacy allows users to safely register as many domain names as they like without having to worry about receiving communication from unknown and often scrupulous individuals. Domain name registrars publicly publish the information you provide as a registrant of the domain, and once this is out in the waters, there’s a chance for anyone from scammers to marketers to get to you, directly!

Who owns my domain name?

Like most other assets that you own, domain names are your property and ought to be registered through domain name registrars or domain name resellers who can manage and service your needs over the period of your domain’s registration through them.

Be wary of registering a domain name through your web designer, a web design service, or a friend – since in most cases you are have no direct access to the registrar or domain name reseller used to register your domain – and in most cases your domain name may not be considered your property.

Is my information safe, out in the woods?

While registering a domain you are asked to provide four sets of information while registering your domain, the domain’s Registrant, Administrative, Technical and Billing contact information. While registering a domain directly, you can fulfill all roles and complete information that’s necessary.

In case you are purchasing for your employer, you may split the above information by department, whereby the stakeholder of your business would be listed as a Registrant, and the Administrative, Technical and Billing contact information would represent various departments within your organization and their respective contact information.

I’m a little worried about my domain’s contact information – where can I check it?

To look up your domain’s contact details, i.e. the Registrant, Administrative, Technical and Billing details, you can simply search the WHOIS database for your registry, which would usually be two of these:

ICANN Lookup (for .com, .org, etc. domains)
https://lookup.icann.org/lookup

AEDA Whois Lookup (for .ae domains)
http://whois.aeda.net.ae/whois/whois_local.jsp?

At times if your domain is unique, as in .at or a .pk (country specific domains), the only WHOIS lookup will be provided by their respective registries, so you’ll need to google that bit up if and when you’re looking up a domain from a new TLD pool or one that’s country specific.

How do you manage domain contact information?

Whenever registrars permit, Spiderz always chooses to shield your domain behind the registrar’s privacy protection service or by using Spiderz Trust that guards your information from appearing in WHOIS databases. We also maintain that domain names are owned by their registrants and process transfer requests on priority.

If you are looking for a reliable domain name reseller, try the Spiderz domain name registration service. We register and maintain hundreds of domains for our customers in the UAE and provide free DNS services upon request.

This article is authored by Yasser Masood, a partner at Spiderz Web International. He fulfills the role of Technical Product Manager and Solutions Consultant at the company. Yasser co-founded Spiderz in 2002, some seventeen years ago. Spiderz is a web services provider in the United Arab Emirates. Write to him at yasser@spiderz.com – he’ll be happy to hear from you!

Hyper-text markup WHAT?

Summer Reading photo © Copyright by Morgan Harper Nichols

HTML if you wonder, stands for Hyper-text Markup Language. Markup really means, you mark tags around text, images and other objects to have them represented on a page in a particular manner, that is when seen through a web browser.

HTML is not a classic programming language, making it quite easy to understand and write. If you have a text editor on your Mac or PC, you can begin writing HTML right away. You don’t need any special environment setup to key in a few lines of HTML.

In web design, HTML is the foundation of web pages, and offers a structure for the content of your page. That structure is later used to style and add functionality to the page.

So HTML is often used alongside CSS for style (Cascading Style Sheets), JS (JavaScript) for scripting on-page functionality and PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) for server-side, often database related uses – all those being other similar languages that help in developing websites.

In my ‘Are you ready to create your first website?’ post I discussed web design in a little more detail from the point of view of using HTML, WYSIWYG HTML editors and WordPress – it’s a good read for some DIY website action. Learning HTML is easy, as an example, to represent a piece of text in bold in HTML, you would type:

My nice text in bold. or My nice text in bold.

The text wrapped within a less-than and greater-than sign are referred to as tags. In the above case b and strong are known as tags, as in, the B tag, or the STRONG tag. Tags open and close. A tag that’s closed is represented using a forward slash / right before the tag’s keyword. In our example above, <strong> opens the markup, while </strong> with a forward slash, ends it.

There are an endless number of HTML tags and if you like, you can spend some time studying these at:

W3Schools
https://www.w3schools.com/html/

Khan Academy
https://www.khanacademy.org/computing/computer-programming/html-css

There are even a few HTML playgrounds where you can test everything and make the most of not having to setup a local development environment from day one (you’re only trying to learn some HTML, not building a full-blown web-based application!), so try:

CodePen
https://codepen.io/pen/

JSFiddle
https://jsfiddle.net

Studying CSS, JS and PHP come next – and a dozen resources and tools that help you code with these technologies faster than ever. The entire toolset can be intimidating to learn all at once so the best way forward is to begin work on it.

Getting started is the most important thing. Here are a few ideas of first projects in HTML:

a. Create a website about yourself.
b. Publish a blog or daily diary.
c. Create a Photogallery.

While doing so, try to see if you can reach the level and quality of work on similar websites you follow. You can use your web browser’s developer tools mode to view front-end content from your favorite websites and even borrow some code to test it on your own.

Now that you know, Hyper-text markup Language stands for HTML — go out there – markup your world!

This article is authored by Yasser Masood, a partner at Spiderz Web International. He fulfills the role of Technical Product Manager and Solutions Consultant at the company. Yasser co-founded Spiderz in 2002, some seventeen years ago. Spiderz is a web services provider in the United Arab Emirates. Write to him at yasser@spiderz.com – he’ll be happy to hear from you!

Are you ready to create your first website?

Man holds painted mess photo © Copyright by Alice Achterhof

Web design hasn’t changed drastically in the past twenty-three years that I remember. You plan a hierarchy of content, write that content, decide on a layout and go about creating your web pages. In theory of course.

When I use the term ‘website’ I simply mean a site that has many pages. The term can be used to refer to database driven applications, but that requires an entirely different skillset, training and tools.

There are many ways you can still create a website without spending money on hiring web design help or signing up for some DIY web design service. Here are a few ways it can be done, absolutely free.

HTML Love

Websites aren’t just visual entities, they’re a mix of visuals and code. Here’s an example, when you see an image on a web page, it’s represented as follows in code:

<img src="/myniceimage.jpg">

Though you see the photograph, your web browser renders it as a photograph by looking at that small piece of HTML text above. Once you add a link to your image to make it clickable, HTML changes too:

<a href="mynicepage.html"><img src="/myniceimage.jpg"></a>

Let’s say we thought it would be nice to accompany that image with some text under it. Here’s how you would add a link to your image:

<a href="mynicepage.html"><img src="/myniceimage.jpg"><br>Click here to visit my nice page.</a>

So you get the idea? What you see in this case, the image and small line of text right below it, is not what you see when you design your html page. It’s not WYSIWYG – What You See Is What You Get – it’s pretty much code.

A simple web page if written in code requires you to learn some HTML and there are some wonderful resources online to do just that:

https://www.w3schools.com/html/
https://www.khanacademy.org/computing/computer-programming/html-css

W3Schools and Khan Academy would be my two picks to get some HTML love going. They’re free resources and learning HTML is easy compared to most other computer programming languages.

If you’re planning a small project and can manage writing some HTML, creating your website is absolutely fun that way. Try it and you could develop this new skill into a web development career.

HTML web design use case:

All pages running our ordering system at https://secure.spiderz.com/domain-names were hand coded using HTML (and a few other things like Bootstrap, CSS, JS, PHP and MySQL).

WYSIWYG Contender

WYSIWYG website editors are computer software one can use to quickly create a website. I can’t recall the last time having used one, but when we used to, our favorite application was Adobe Dreamweaver.

For those who would remember, Dreamweaver was published by a company called Macromedia which was later bought by Adobe.

A WYSIWYG editor does one simple thing, it lets you use a mouse and a took-box to create your website visually, thereby taking away the pain of writing HTML by hand. Some editors can help you in even more ways.

There are a dozens WYSIWYG web design tools you can use and this is how, back in the day, in the later months of 1997, I discovered Microsoft Frontpage and used it to create web pages for the first time. I published my first HTML website that year and posted it on Geocities, some 23 years ago!

Here are a few website editors I’ve used in the past (and some I’ve totally discovered for the first time!)

WYSIWYG web design tools I’ve used in the past:

Adobe Dreamweaver – Mac OS X and Windows
Free to try, then pay for a subscription.
https://www.adobe.com/mena_en/products/dreamweaver.html

Dreamweaver is a lovely tool. It’s over-kill if you’re simply starting out. It has a paid subscription and prices differ from personal to business use to monthly and annual tenures.

It can be great if your school or university can provide you access to Dreamweaver. I wouldn’t recommend it for professional development (though the product is just that, aims at the professional market).

Microsoft Expression Web – Windows-only
Free to use. I couldn’t find a paid version.
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=36179

I certainly used Microsoft Frontpage (in the late 90s) which was later replaced with Microsoft Expression Web. I’ve used Expression Web for a bit on Windows, but from 2011 I have moved to the Mac platform. I’d still give it a try if I were on Windows – should be a pretty okay tool.

WYSIWYG web design tool that I’m using at present:

Elementor Pro – WordPress-only
Free version is called Elementor. Pro version is a subscription.
https://elementor.com

We use Elementor to design web pages at Spiderz – in so much as it offers WYSIWYG editing, it also takes care of a whole lot of layout and design challenges that web developers must undertake when creating a website.

Elementor isn’t a stand alone program that runs on your PC or Mac. It’s a plugin designed for WordPress so it installs atop a WordPress install. To run WordPress you require a web host that allows you to install custom-plugins (so WordPress.com is out!).

WYSIWYG web design tool that I discovered today!

Google Web Designer – Mac and Windows
Free to use.
https://webdesigner.withgoogle.com

I’ve only run the app this morning, for the first time. If I get around to using it for a project in future, I’ll come back and update this article.

WYSIWYG web design use case:

The Spiderz website is designed using Elementor Pro. We do use a little hand-written CSS to style a few elements here and there, but for the large part, everything’s built using the Elementor page builder.

Wooing WordPress

Web design today seems to be all about WordPress and it powers 34% of the internet. It’s also free to use, forever.

WordPress is classically known as a CMS (Content Management System) but that definition is broken for many reasons. It’s more of a platform, than anything else since we can use WordPress in more ways than we can think of.

You need to get it running and then get about your business of writing, designing and publishing web pages (the same goes for your blog). If you write one as a business, that is.

You can install WordPress using the famous 5-minute install, ask your web host to install it for you or use a 1-Click WordPress installer provided by them to automate the installation process. It’s not really difficult to get done.

Once WordPress is installed and you get to login, you’re faced with the dilemma of how to design your pages. You may know that Themes can do the job and given that there are thousands of free Themes, your task is made simpler if not almost DIY-ready. That is, if you simply want something to get going – a ready-made theme should do it.

Having chosen a theme, your next step is to create your pages, update your website’s menu and you’re done. Done as in, version one website can go online. You can keep building on top of that, as and when you have time.

A word of caution about Themes – try to use one from a reliable source – many a themes are known to be poorly coded and some can be hacked, so your best bet is to use a theme like GeneratePress, that is well-written, insanely popular and free to use.

We use GeneratePress Premium at Spiderz and simply love this theme. It’s superbly-supported and updated all the time.

Now, if you’re anything like a kung-fu web designer, you’re going to want to have a layout that’s unique to you, something that shares your style and represents your skills as a designer – welcome Elementor.

Elementor offers an abstraction layer over your theme (GeneratePress in our case) and lets you design while it writes all the underlying HTML, CSS and JS required to translate your design into code, and it does this in real-time, in your web browser.

Elementor is a free plugin and well maintained. If you’re planning to design a website with all bells and whistles, opt for Elementor Pro – which is what we use at Spiderz.

WordPress web design use case:

This blog is one example. It uses WordPress. Our Spiderz.com website uses WordPress. All client websites we develop, use WordPress.

Summary

You can create a website for free even today. There are several ways to do this and I have highlighted a few that we have used in the past. Web pages can be hand-coded using HTML, CSS, JS (PHP too), they can be created using WYSIWYG website editors and they can be created using WordPress.

The only paid component in creating your website is hosting, i.e. the place where you plan to reside your website. That’s the only cost you’ll incur.

The question is, ‘Are you ready to create your first website?’

This article is authored by Yasser Masood, a partner at Spiderz Web International. He fulfills the role of Technical Product Manager and Solutions Consultant at the company. Yasser co-founded Spiderz in 2002, some seventeen years ago. Spiderz is a web services provider in the United Arab Emirates. Write to him at yasser@spiderz.com – he’ll be happy to hear from you!

Stories live for eons

WALL-E robot waving at the Sun as it sets
To the summer photo © Copyright by Dominik Scythe

The idea of blogging in the context of blogging as a business has taken a back seat. The habit of sitting down and sharing thoughts and experiences, like some small businesses would a few years ago, has taken a back seat too.

There’s been nothing to say for hundreds of thousands of businesses for simply too long. One, they are simply too busy running their little shows and putting out fires day-in and day-out, and two, most of them are inundated with immaculate, well articulated, well written, dazzling content from the few who can write and produce.

Google anything, and you will find enough information on any subject – from almost everywhere on the planet, from almost everyone who has any voice on the Internet – good, bad or ugly.

The term ‘anything’ itself returns about 3,880,000,000 results – three billion, eight hundred and eighty million. Every time you use Google, you get millions, if not billions of results – way too many for you to consume and simply too many to go past page one. Page one gets you what you want.

There’s going to be a time when the only sufficient answer provided to us by a service like Google or Apple’s Siri shall be the one we’re looking for – assisted by artificial intelligence and human use. You won’t hunt through pages for information, instead, you will be guided to a ‘true’ answer – the right page, blob of text, movie clip, news item or whatever it is that you seek.

In such a scenario, when every query is answered with a ‘true’ answer on the information platform of your choice, where would, all the hundreds of thousands of articles written to please Google first, and humans second, rank? If not even require a mention.

Large, deep, dense, 4000+ word articles written to gain the pleasure of Google and to satisfy its appetite for content rule the roost. The one-single publisher who outshines at this form of publishing takes the limelight on page one, and with it, most search traffic.

The search world as we know it will cease to exist the way we know it. There is too much noise on most systems and the only, if not the first ‘singularity’ we may face, one that would be an acceptable one, is the purging of noise across systems by an AI that is designed to assist humans. A Wall-E type of humble, AI, that comes in to clean-up the mess we have created. It could be one governed by law.

In the backdrop of all this, two entities will survive in cyberspace. ‘True human stories’ and AI-assisted ‘true answers’. Given that AI is largely modeled to serve business interests first and human interests second (YouTube comes to mind), we are far off from that point in time, but a quarantine for machine-friendly, search-optimized content on galactic proportions is conceivable*.

When that happens, the only bit of information that shall survive will be human emotion, experience, suffering and stories of our lives, written by well-meaning, ‘wise-men’ who saw the world differently – who wrote to share the many little things life brought them and to which they put pen to paper.

Stories live for eons. Write one about you and your journey as a business.

*Google does this all the time by tweaking its algorithm. Apple tries to get you the most correct answers or a list of answers through Siri. The Stopping Bad Robocalls Act in the US aims to deter an estimated 47 billion robocalls.

This article is authored by Yasser Masood, a partner at Spiderz Web International. He fulfills the role of Technical Product Manager and Solutions Consultant at the company. Yasser co-founded Spiderz in 2002, some seventeen years ago. Spiderz is a web services provider in the United Arab Emirates. Write to him at yasser@spiderz.com – he’ll be happy to hear from you!