Before America Online Inc. announced that it would acquire Time Warner Inc. for $183 billion, it made sure it had the right World Wide Web site.

AOL registered at least 21 domain names that might be useful to the new company, which will be named AOL Time Warner. The sites the company registered Sunday ranged from the abbreviated aoltw.com to the spelled-out americaonlinetimewarner.com.

Registering domains "is getting closer to the top of companies' priority lists" in mergers, said Cheryl Regan, a spokeswoman at Network Solutions Inc. of Herndon, which oversees a database with over 6.7 million domain names. "It's important to your identity--as much as your printed materials."

The registrations were likely an effort to ensure that "cyber-squatters"--people who pay the $70 necessary to register the domain names of companies in hopes of reselling them for a profit--wouldn't lay claim to the sites.

U.S. courts have recently been favoring companies in cases involving domain-name piracy. The Anti-Cybersquatting Act, passed late last year, allows companies to seek up to $100,000 in damages against those who register domains with the intent to sell them to companies later.

On Sunday, according to an AOL database accessible from the Web, AOL registered the following domain names: americaonlinetimewarner.com, americaonlinetimewarner.net, americaonlinetimewarner.org, timeamericaonline.com, timeamericaonline.net, timeamericaonline.org, americaonlinetime.com, americaonlinetime.net, americaonlinetime.org, aoltimewarner.com, aoltimewarner.net, aoltimewarner.org, aoltime.com, aoltime.net, aoltime.org, timeaol.com, timeaol.net, timeaol.org, aoltw.com, aoltw.net, aoltw.org