(edited 1/20/19) Everything changed right after I wrote this original article.
Since the passing of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018, the WhoIs.net website has been taken down. Part of the GDPR law, is to hide all website owner information. This is good and bad. Good so you don’t have to pay to hide your information from spammers. Bad because web developers and other legitimate users have found this information helpful to their work.
This GDPR is a law currently only in the European Union. However, if your website does any business in Europe (including people viewing your site), then you must adhere to this law. This is why you are seeing so many notifications that any website you visit works with cookies and if you want to go through the site, you accept the fact that there are cookies. Cookies are little pieces of text code that are left on your computer (in and of themselves safe) that can collect information helpful to that particular website. Usually no big deal and many times helpful to you, the viewer, if you visit the site frequently.
Apparently, part of this law is that website ownership must be hidden. Up to this point, you had to pay to hide your information. And though, technically it is still legal to provide the “whois” information in the U.S., most websites that had provided this service have removed it altogether.
The good news is you could probably stop paying for the “privacy” service when you set up your domain and hosting now. This will save you about $20 per year per website.
I personally am not a fan of the fact that laws upheld in the EU have to be followed here in the U.S. But this is part and parcel with being on the WORLD Wide Web.
ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) which monitors the Internet, still provides the WhoIs service, though they make note that they are still considering how to move forward with this information. Chances are the U.S. will simply follow suit with all of this (my guess). At the time that I am writing this, you can still get WhoIs information at https://whois.icann.org/en.
As far as my original article about finding an available domain for your website, you can still do this at any website that sells domains.
Finding and buying an available domain is simple enough when you know what to do. Yes, you can go to any hosting company and search a desired domain to see if it’s available. However, those hosting company/domain name sellers (registrars) have a vested interested in grabbing domains that have been searched and selling them for extravagant prices. There are many anecdotal instances where someone looked up their name with a company such as Godaddy and saw it was available. They go back a couple of days later to buy it, but it’s no longer available and now Google owns it! It’s still for sale. It’s just that now the price has gone WAY up. So here’s what I do. I go to a website called WhoIs.net to check on my desired domain names. They don’t sell domains and I’ve seen no evidence that they buy up searched domains. They have no vested interest and are considered the standard domain availability search engine. So do your searches there! When you do go to search your desired domain, be sure that you first make a list of alternative domain names that make sense for your business. This list is just in case your first choice is not available. Try to keep the name as concise as possible. Make sure it’s easy for someone to say without tripping over the words. And make sure your words together don’t actually make an unintended other word or meaning. Could be very embarrassing. When coming up with domain names (addresses), avoid dashes and numbers as much as possible. They are allowed for domains, but people just don’t think to use them when typing in a web address. But if there is a numerical digit in the name of your business, then using that number may be just the right thing to do. You want it to reflect your business and also be easy to memorize or type. Okay. Happy hunting!