Your own privacy-aware, personally controlled server, part two

Feb 2012

This is part two of a series. I'm going to assume that you've already read part one, and continue.

You've got the computer you're going to use as your server, you've got your copy of Trisquel, you know why you're running your own server, and why it's important to do that with with free software. Now what?

Domain Name Registration

The very first step is establishing your server is to choose your address. This is also known as a domain name. Domain name registration should be done carefully, since there are various important elements to take into account at this point.

  • Choosing the Top-Level Domain (TLD)

The top-level domain is the final part of a domain name. The ones you're probably familiar with include .com, .net, and .org although there are many more. Some are generic, but each country and territory in the world also has its own specific TLD. Some are TLDs open to registration by anyone, while others will only allow those meeting specific criteria to register a domain name. There are many organizations that can register a domain name for you in a specific TLD, in exchange for payment of a fee, which brings up my next point.

  • Domain Name Seizures

The United States government has started seizing the domains of people and organizations they do not like, as part of things like Operation In Our Sites. To avoid the potential for your domain name to be seized it's important to select a TLD that has no association with the United States (VeriSign, a U.S. company, operates both .com and .net for example), since the United States government claims that they can seize any domain name that has any kind of connection with the United States.

In addition, some domain registrars (such as GoDaddy) supported legislation (like SOPA) that was harmful not only to the technical infrastructure of the internet, but to human freedom itself. GoDaddy later changed their position after many of their customers left but the fact that they did support it and only changed their position due to financial concerns is reason enough to not do business with them. If you also consider the government-sponsored domain name seizures, I urge you to not use a TLD or domain registrar that has any affilitation with the United States.

A TLD such as .me should be safe since it's associated with Montenegro and operated by an organization named doMEn, but then you'll also need select a domain registrar that has no connection with the United States. There are other TLDs which meet these criteria, so it pays to do your homework in this area.

However, recent developments indicate that this may not be enough.


As you register your domain name you'll encounter another thing that you may not be familiar with: DNS. DNS, short for Domain Name System, is like a telephone book for the internet. It serves to change human-friendly names like example.me into IP addresses, which is a string of numbers (or a string of letters and numbers if we ever start using something called IPv6.) Domain names are easier for people to remember, but meaningless to the computer. DNS is used for translating URL and email addresses. The IP addresses tell the computer exactly where to go on the internet to find the connected information.

There are lots of places that will offer to handle the DNS for your domain. Your domain registrar may even offer to do so, but I recommend declining that and simply "parking" your domain name with them for now when you register it. It's much better to do it on your own, and I'll cover that in later segments. Stay tuned.