WWW FAQs: Can I register a .com domain name for free?

2006-09-14: No, you can't register and host .com domain names without paying for them. That's because of the way the Internet's domain name service (DNS) is designed.

The average person's computer looks up a name by consulting their ISP's DNS server, which consults the "root" DNS servers. And the root DNS servers only recognize the well-known domains such as .com, .edu and .gov, along with the many two-letter national domains like .us, .uk, .br, .eu and .tv.

The only way to get into the domain name databases recognized by the root DNS servers is by registering your site with a domain name registrar that participates in ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. You can find a list of accredited registrars on the ICANN site. Every company that sells .com domain names is either on that list, or reselling the product of a company that is on that list.

Participation in ICANN requires deep financial pockets. So registrars must charge their customers for domain name registration. Some do offer domain names at a steep discount, often in hopes that you will buy additional services.

A few companies do offer "free" .com domain name registration... but only if you pay to host your website with them. At the end of the day, while these companies may be offering good service at a reasonable price, it's not really free.
It is also possible to register domain names under many of the the various two-letter national domains. However, website visitors do not take such sites seriously unless they are located in or have a clear relationship to the country in question, and registration usually is no cheaper than in .com. Which, as I've mentioned, can cost as little as $9/year.

For more information, see the articles what is DNS, what is a domain name, how do I register a domain name and how do I set up a website.

If you just want a free hostname and you don't really care if it's pretty or in any particular top-level domain, check out the article How do I get a hostname for my home computer?

Legal Note: yes, you may use sample HTML, Javascript, PHP and other code presented above in your own projects. You may not reproduce large portions of the text of the article without our express permission.

Got a LiveJournal account? Keep up with the latest articles in this FAQ by adding our syndicated feed to your friends list!