General Question

bloom's avatar

Why do I have to pay for a URL?

Asked by bloom (22points) April 30th, 2010

I mean, who owns that? Why can’t I just have the content on my computer and host it from there? And who gets to give out and reserve URLS? I think of the internet like a giant computer, so I get that there can only be one website for each domain, like there can only be one file called Documents/Stuff.txt on my computer, but who privatizes that? I need to make a website for a school project, and suddenly am miffed by the idea of paying some faceless millionaire to host content when I could go to Fry’s and buy a TB hard drive for $80. So could some one explain,

A. How Domain registration works, and who it is that’s behind it all, or

B. How I could host my own content online. I know what I’m paying monthly for is server usage, so why can’t I just provide my own storage?

Thanks, just trying to get to the bottom of this.

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27 Answers

CMaz's avatar

It has to reside somewhere. You could get around it but it would have to be parked on your computer (it now being a server/static IP address) and up all the time.

gorillapaws's avatar

@bloom I’m pretty sure you don’t want to host your own web content. Your ISP almost certainly forbids it under your terms of service. There are free web hosts, which is probably the easiest route. As far as why the various domain registrars get the rights to do what they do, I’m not 100%, but I think if you wanted to start up one you could. It’s just that it requires a lot of technical knowledge, accounting, legal stuff and expensive hardware which makes it a tricky business to get into.

marinelife's avatar

Because everyone wanting to host everything and have their own urls would create chaos.

There has to be some organization. It costs money to be the keeper of the flame and manage the process.

Thus, those costs are passed on.

Snarp's avatar

You don’t have to pay for a URL. You have to pay for a static IP address, which is really just paying for an internet connection, but a little more expensive because it is static. That IP address can serve as a URL. You also have to pay for domain registration, which pays for the costs associated with maintaining a global registry connecting IP addresses with domain names.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

Because domain hosting isnt free. It’d be nice if it was, but that’s just not the reality of the situation.

bstar3's avatar

isn’t a domain URL only like $11 a year? whats so bad about that??

Snarp's avatar

What level of school project is this? University’s often provide web hosting services to their students and professors on the University servers, so your site could be at “”. (Or something to that very general effect).

mrentropy's avatar

You do have to pay for an URL, but it’s usually cheap unless you’re looking for something that somebody wants a lot of money for.

You could host your own server, though, but there’s problems there. As @gorillapaws says your ISP probably forbids it unless you go with a business account which will cost more than just going to a cheap hosting company. You could do it anyway, but then your URL will be mostly useless unless you pay more for a static IP address (if your ISP will do that for a non-business account) or you use one of those dynamic DNS services that will update your URL to your IP address if it changes.

Snarp's avatar

Also, most ISPs provide some free webhosting space that is probably adequate for your needs in a manner similar to what I suggested for the university server. Your URL is kind of ugly, but it’s there.

grumpyfish's avatar

You can also use a dynamic IP if you’re OK with some non-reliability and use a free dynamic DNS service. Then you can use your own server to serve the data and not have to pay for anything but the data link.

jaytkay's avatar will give you a URL and they will direct its traffic to your home computer or wherever you want.

Totally free.

erichw1504's avatar

Doesn’t your school give you your own shared drive on its network? That’s how I always made mine. That is if you are going to college. For high school, it will depend on the school.

bloom's avatar

Yeah I’m in college but I think my needs are going to be beyond what the school server will allow. I need to create a site with some sort of social network aspect, so it’s possible the school will host it, I’ll check. However, I by no means mind paying $10 a year for hosting, I’m just curious where it is that my money is going. I feel like a lot of people think on @marinelife‘s line, but I want to know “who,” and “why.” I sometimes am afraid that the internet, the real last bastion of free speech, is heading towards being completely regulated and privatized, which is a kind of terrifying thought. So, “Because big brother knows best,” isn’t generally an answer that will satisfy my curiosity. Anyway, thanks for the helpful answers. :)

UScitizen's avatar

Because when Al Gore invented the Internet, he made it that way. :-)

njnyjobs's avatar

A viewer-friendly website needs an address (or URL) that’s easy to remember. That is why there is a Registry of web address or URLs so that registered owners can have the sole right to use any particular address that they have claimed by way of Registration.

As far as Cost of hosting your own content VS using a hosting provider, consider these:

It’s not only Server Space that you pay for when you subscribe to a web hosting provider.

There are costs involved in keeping the Servers up and running, available for your viewers to browse at any given time. (emphasis on plural as reliable providers mirror their servers in different places for redundancy).

There is also cost in securing the servers from malicious entities who launch DOS attacks to target sites.

Consider the cost of bandwidth to/from the servers to assure viewers that your content is available as fast as they can download with their own ISP providers.

Cost of backing-up/restoring server contents as needed.

cost to power the servers, including infrastracture for back-up power in case of power outage.

These are just a few of the factors involved in webhosting.

mrentropy's avatar

If I were going to be pedantic, though, I’d say you’re not paying for an URL, you’re paying for a domain name.

CMaz's avatar

Ok, so you get all the costs taken care of and the security and the server that never shuts off.

So then, how do you totally take possession of your URL?

gorillapaws's avatar

@ChazMaz you get that from the registrar that you had to buy it from (e.g.

On the registrars site you will enter the information of where your sever is and it will get routed to there (not sure exactly how that routing works).

CMaz's avatar

I understand that and I have to continue to pay that registrar to hang on to it.

Who is the registrar paying to have that URL to begin with? Or do they just buy it outright.

njnyjobs's avatar

@ChazMaz ICANN

Routing is sort of handled by IP addresses. Bandwidth providers (aka ISP) are assigned a range of IP addresses to distribute to their customers. A Domain Name is simply a nickname for a particular IP address or a set of IP addresses of a computer holding the content of a website. An indepth explanation is available here.

CMaz's avatar

So do I go to ICANN and request possession of my IP address. That will reside on my server. Then, not having to pay anyone any more for the “privilege” of me having it?

gorillapaws's avatar

@ChazMaz it doesn’t work that way. You could start up your own domain registrar company (if you were sitting on a lot of cash) and register with ICANN, then you could give yourself cheap domains, but I believe there’s still a minimal fee involved which goes to cover the administrative expense of routing, documenting, organizing etc. I may be wrong about this.

njnyjobs's avatar

@ChazMaz you can compare the idea of registering a domain name with registering your vehicle with a State DMV office. When you register your vehicle to get a unique License Plate Number, you sometimes get to deal with private contractors hired by and working on behalf of the State Agency. You pay the registration fee to these agents, which then gets remitted to the State DMV coffers.

Also, a registered Domain Name does not reside anywhere. It is used by authorized Domain Name Servers (DNS) to point or redirect request for your webpages that’s located on your web content server (whether it is located in a huge, secured, commercial data center or on a PC located at a corner of your garage or basement.) The DNS agents keep track of the database of Domain Names and its related IP Addresses and make sure that such traffic travel at the quickest/shortest possible route.

jrpowell's avatar

If you are using OS X and have access to your your router and can port forward it takes two seconds to host your own stuff.

CMaz's avatar

@njnyjobs – Now I see. The DMV analogy got into my sometimes very thick noggin. Thanks. :-)

NRO's avatar

You would wear out a lot of computers using them as servers and you would have a lot of maintenance. The domain name servers would have to recognize your url, so it would have to be registered.That costs. Maintaining a global registry is not without expense. Without paying for a domain name but just a static web address, your domain would be an ugly bunch of numbers. And you might be spending almost as much as if you bought a cheap domain name.

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