What is a domain name? A simple guide to understanding the complex world of domains

5 MINS
Web.com Team

Domain names are the unique addresses that identify a website on the internet. They serve as the online identity for businesses, organizations, or individuals, allowing users to access websites easily. Consider a domain name as your virtual street address; they enable people to find and visit your website.

domain name consists of two main parts: the actual name and the extension. For example, in “example.com,” “example” is the name, and “.com” is the extension. The name should ideally reflect your brand, business, or website’s purpose, making it memorable and relevant to your audience.

What you’ll learn from this article are:

  • How Domains Work
  • Structure of Domain Names
  • How to Register a Domain Name
  • How to Transfer and Manage Domain Names
  • Challenges and Issues with Domain Names

How Domain Names Work 

The Domain Name System (DNS) is like the internet’s phone book. It translates human-readable domain names into IP addresses that computers can understand. When you type a domain name into your browser, the DNS system springs into action:

Request

Your computer sends a DNS request to your internet service provider’s (ISP) DNS server, asking for the IP address associated with the domain name. 

Recursive Query

If the ISP’s DNS server doesn’t have the requested IP address stored, it starts a recursive query. It contacts other DNS servers, working its way up the hierarchy until it finds the authoritative DNS server for the domain. 

Authoritative DNS Server

The authoritative DNS server for the domain contains the specific IP address associated with the domain name. It responds to the ISP’s DNS server with the IP address. 

Response

The ISP’s DNS server receives the IP address and caches it for future requests. It then sends the IP address back to your computer. 

Connection

Your computer now has the IP address and can establish a connection with the web server hosting the website associated with the domain name.

The Role of Domain Registrars:

When you want to register and purchase a domain name, you need a domain registrar for it. Domain registrars are companies authorized by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) to register and manage domain names.  

Some key roles of domain registrars include:

  • Registration: Domain registrars allow individuals and businesses to register and purchase domain names for a specific duration, typically on an annual basis. 
  • DNS Management: Registrars provide tools and interfaces to manage DNS settings, including setting up custom nameservers, managing DNS records, and configuring domain-related services. 
  • WHOIS Management: Registrars collect and maintain WHOIS data, which includes information about the domain name owner, contact details, and registration dates. They also ensure compliance with ICANN’s policies regarding WHOIS data accuracy and privacy. 
  • Support and Assistance: Registrars offer customer support and assistance with domain-related issues, including technical support, domain transfers, and renewals. 

ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is a non-profit organization responsible for managing and coordinating the domain name system (DNS) and the allocation of IP addresses. This organization ensures the stability, security, and integrity of the DNS. Furthermore, it also sets policies and guidelines for domain registrars and registries.

One of the trusted registrars is Web.com. It has served various small businesses to help get their businesses online seamlessly and securely. Partnering with a registrar like Web.com will ensure you trouble-free domain name management.  

The Difference Between a Domain and URL:

While a domain and a URL might sound similar, they have distinct meanings:

Domain: A domain is the human-readable address that identifies a website, such as “example.com.” It represents the online identity of a business or individual.  

URL: A URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is the complete web address that specifies the exact location of a specific page or resource on the internet. It includes the protocol (such as “http://” or “https://”), the domain name, and the specific path or resource on the server (e.g., folders, subfolders, or filename).

In simpler terms, a domain is the broad identifier for a website, while a URL provides the specific address to access a particular page within that website. 

Structure of Domain Names

Here, you’ll see the components and types of domain names:

Components of Domain Names 

Here are the key components of domain names:

Protocol

The protocol, such as “http://” or “https://,” specifies the manner of data transfer between a browser and a web server. The latter is more secure because the client and server’s communication is more encrypted compared to the former.  

Subdomain

A subdomain is a prefix that precedes the domain name. This means that a domain is a part of another domain. For example, “blog.example.com” has “blog” as the subdomain. The “blog.example.com” belongs to the primary domain which is “example.com.” 

Domain Name

The domain name is the central and unique part of a web address, representing a website. For instance, “example.com” has “example” as the domain name. 

TLD (Top-Level Domain)

The TLD is the highest level in the domain name system and indicates the website’s purpose or category. Common TLDs include .com, .org, and country-specific TLDs like .uk or .ca. 

Subdirectory/Path

The subdirectory or path follows the domain name and specifies a specific folder or location within a website. For example, “example.com/blog” has “blog” as  in your website. 

Ready to Find Your Perfect Domain with Web.com?

Domains not only serve as the address of a website, but they also represent a brand. Therefore, they must be memorable and easy to remember so that it creates a lasting impression on a user. It can also help establish trust and credibility among users if chosen right. 

Domain names are estimated to grow in the future; hence, you must choose to create and register one that best represents your business and resonates with your target audience. 

For ease of registration, register your ideal domain name with Web.com. You can choose from among different extensions as well as pair it with a custom email address. What are you waiting for? Register now!

  • Web.com Team

    Our goal is to be your go-to partner in today’s always-on digital world.

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