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The date of expiration is posted. If your dream name is 'on hold,' you'll need to pay close attention to lists. When one you want is finally free, buy it quick.
Expired domain names can be purchased at any domain registration site. I continue to prefer http://www.godaddy.com, since buying a name through them for a year still costs under $10.
Once you've bought domain, immediately make an appointment with yourself for one month BEFORE domain expires, to renew. Don't forget and have your business name slip away!
One last tip: Reserve your own name as a domain. For example, I've reserved http://www.paulamorrow.com. Even though you may never actually use it as a web site, this at least insures that no one else will either! Take your name off market.
The Great Suffix Debate
As more and more people come online, and stronger names are taken off market, there will be more 'suffixes' added to expand registration options. Currently, following endings are available: .com, .net, .org, .info, .biz, .ws, and .us. With more to come.
If at all possible, choose a domain name ending in .com ('dot-com'). This is still most widely recognized ending, and most popular. When typing in a domain name, people will still, by default, try .com first. The next popular ending after .com is .net -- but always try for a .com name, if at all possible.
As you make this very important decision choose well because, if you're successful, you'll be living with it for a very long time.
Paula Morrow heads http://www.idealmarketingcorp.com. She specializes in public relations, information marketing and creating cashflow systems. Her newsletter, IDEALProfits, is now read in 12 countries. Subscribe and receive 5 BONUS ebooks worth $149! http://www.idealmarketingcorp.com/subscribe.html