For those of you who are already familiar with the terminology my attempt to simplify this information may seem silly so skip to the part you're already caught up to. For those gardeners who may not be familiar see is this helps you understand and feel free to ask questions or for clarifications.
Think of the internet as your neighborhood and all of the houses in your neighborhood as websites. In order for you for you to get mail, have pizza delivered or have family and friends visit you have to tell them your street address- on the internet your street address is your domain name. Continuing with the internet as a neighborhood analogy; on the internet there are people called domain squatters. Say you're a renter and someone comes into your neighborhood and buys the house you are renting because you've fixed it up or you're popular and constantly have guests over. He/she has no interest in actually living in your neighborhood but they know you love the place you're renting and you already have ties to the home and community, so they buy the home you're renting and squat on it in the hopes that one day you'll want to be a homeowner too and are willing to pay big bucks. Think of registering a domain as buying a house and the yearly renewal of the domain name as paying property taxes every year.
A while back I registered MrBrownThumb.com because I have an idea of how things work on the internet. There isn't anything actually there except a link to this blog for those people that can't remember or type out http://mrbrownthumb.blogspot.com. When I started my Garden Hacker blog as an extra blog I never registered that blog as a dot com because I didn't think it would be on the radar anytime soon. Now there is someone with a garden blog blogging under that name at the dot com version. I bring that up for the sake of clarity and to give you an idea of what can happen with your blog-so if you really like your blog name I'd suggest registering it if it is available.
The other thing you have to look out for is for squatters registering variations of your blog's domain in the hopes that people will mess up and land at their website accidentally and click on some ads. Don't believe me? visit mrbrownthumb.blogpsot.com all though if you do be careful because there are a lot of ads and Fire Fox tells me the site also has pop-ups. Make note of how the "S" and "P" are switched. I'm not special and I'm sure it isn't just happening to me I'd be willing to bet the same bible website is squatting on a "typo" version of your blogspot domain too. If you go to bibledesk.com you'll see the same site as you would if you switch the "S" and "P" in the blogspot domains except it doesn't have all of the ads everywhere. Now I'm just a backslider but I'm sure Jesus wouldn't do that and that he'd frown on that kind of deception and "slick" way of making money... but I digress...
When I wanted to start my Amaryllis blog I wanted to bypass some of the hassles that I mentioned above so I registered www.AmaryllisBlubs.org through Google Apps for $10.00. Everything is the same as this blog except for the domain name. If you look under the publishing tab on Blogger there is an option there for blogging with a custom domain and the ability to purchase one if you don't already own one. If you prefer you can purchase a domain independently through any number of domain registrars for prices ranging from 2-x dollars. But like with everything else in this world you should remember that you get what you pay for. I purchased mine through Google and their partner because I'm brand loyal to a fault.
The "glitch" with Google.
The one minor problem that Google needs to fix; when you purchase the domain through Google if someone typing in your domain leaves out the www in your domain name it doesn't forward to the blog like it should. Until enough people complain about it it seems nothing will get fixed. So until the fix you'll have to make sure every time you link to your blog or someone else does it that they include the www, existing links automatically get forwarded. This will only apply to links created after you've set up custom domain blogging through blogger.
You can avoid or "fix" this yourself if you buy the domain independently and asking your domain host to guide you or take the necessary steps so that your domain forwards properly.
Why you should do it.
If you're thinking of starting a garden blog I'd suggest that you take advantage of the custom domain feature and start your blog as a dot com, net, org or info from the begining. If you already have an established blog I encourage you to do this too as all of your current links are suppose to be forwarded and if someone still types in your blogspot address they will get forwarded to the new address.
I'm not sure how email service works if you buy the domain independently but through Google Apps I was given email (and a couple of other features) access right away and now I have e-mail accounts at a dot com and a dot org. Using those accounts I've been able to contact companies and people and ask questions, make comments (on various topics not just gardening related) that I'm sure they'd have ignored if I had sent them through my free (gmail, yahoo, hotmail) email accounts.
I plan to take advantage of the "value" a dot com or dot org carries and get into the gardening shows/events here with my camera and cover them for my blogs. I can print the simple domain name (that people can remember and spell) on shirts, business cards, bumper stickers etc and use them to promote my gardening blogs and myself. The best part is that I don't have to know how to administer a website or deal with web hosting/administration issues because Google/Blogger does it for free.
If you're the kind of gardener that is hard to buy a present for ask for domain registration or assistance in setting up custom domain blogging this holiday season. It only take a few minutes to set up and you can do it on your own but if you need some help feel free to ask a question or drop a comment and I'll see what I can do. If I can do it, so can you.