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If you are a beginner you may have some basic questions like,  what is a domain name and what is the domain name system?  Furthermore, what is the purpose of domain names and how do you buy a domain? 

In this article I will cover the basics of domain names, the purpose of domain names and the difference between a domain, IP address, website, web hosting and other terms.

What is a Domain Name?

A domain name is a unique name that identifies a website.  This is analogous to a physical address that identifies the location of your house.   

A domain name is the unique web address that identifies a specific website. Thus, each domain name is owned by only one company or individual at a time. Once the domain is connected to a website, a person types it into the internet browser bar to view or access the information on that website. 

For example, the domain name for this website is businessinaweekend.com. When you type www.businessinaweekend.com in the browser you will end up at my homepage. 

Domain names were actually created in 1985 to help people connect to websites through human language rather than a computer language. In 1985 only 6 domain names were registered, now millions are.

Because, computers speak …well… computer launguage, domain names make things easier for us to interact on the internet with computers!


How do Domains work?

The Internet is a huge network of computers connected all over the globe.   Websites on the internet are assigned Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, a string of numbers that are typically separated using dots.

Website on WordPress

However, identifying and remembering these series of numbers proved to be a huge challenge for web users. So, domain names were developed to address this issue. 

Domain names are an easy representation of the complicated IP addresses discussed above. 

Instead of remembering something like 18.130.133.171, you have an address like www.catchywebsite.com . 

That would be like remembering the GPS coordinates to your home instead of 52 B Street!   Either will get you to the right destination, but I have no idea the GPS coordinates of my house. 

Similarly, if you type either the IP or domain name into your browser, you’ll be taken to the same web page, thanks to the giant network chain known as the Domain Name System (DNS).

What usually happens when you type in a domain name is that the network of servers that form the DNS will search for the name servers related to that domain. 

Then a request is forwarded to the name servers, which are basically network computers that are managed by a hosting company. 

The company forwards the request to a web server where your website is stored. The information is then sent back to the browser. 

Don’t worry, we will cover this more in depth in this article. 

Related Content:  If you want to be able to use all this jargon like a pro (or just need a good dictionary), you need to get my ultimate glossary of terms


What are the Parts of a Domain? 

A domain name will typically have three parts, each separated by a dot. 

For example, take the domain name www.yourwebsite.com

  1. First, www is assigned to every network-connected machine on the World Wide Web.
  2. The second part or second level domain (SLD) – yourwebsite –  is the actual identity of your website. The second level domain for this blog is businessinaweekend.
    • Many second level domains are the name of the business or a catchy phrase that is easy to remember.
  3. The last segment (.com in our example) is the Top-Level Domain (TLD) or domain extension.   

What are Domain Extensions and Top Level Domains (TDLs)?

Domain extensions are intended to further distinguish and categorize domains based on certain features, such as the purpose of the website, geographical origin, or the owner. 

TLDs are generally categorized into two main classes: generic and country code domain extensions.   As the number of users on the internet grows, more and more domain extensions are being created.  

Here are the popular top-level domains in use today.

.com – Commercial business

.gov – Government agencies 

.org – Organizations 

.net -Network organizations

.edu – Educational institutions 

.mil – Military

.au – Australia

.ca – Canada

.uk – United Kingdom

Newer domain extensions that have been created include: .inc, .store, .co, tech and many more. 


What is the Purpose of a Domain Name?

Now that you know what a domain name is and how it all works, you may be wondering if you really need a domain.

Or maybe you have a domain name already registered because someone told you to but not sure what the point it. 

Let me ask you, what do you do when you are looking for a business or product?  Go straight to the internet?  Me too!

Domains are essential for anyone, businesses, or organizations interested in having an online presence. 


Want to Register a Domain and get started Building your Website right away? I have a free course just for you – with step-by-step video instructions.


Besides the unique identification of websites, registering a domain name can go a long way in protecting copyrights and trademarks, increasing brand awareness and building credibility. 

If you don’t have one already…. register your name soon.

Related Content: The cost is less than $1 a month, even if you are not ready to build your website. 


What is the Difference between Domain Name, IP, Website and Web Hosting?

I just wanted to cover a few more frequently asked questions about domain names.  Getting all the terms, and parts of building a website straight can be confusing.

Like I said earlier, a domain name is an easy-to-remember address of a website.

Domain Name, IP, Website and Web Hosting

So how does everything work together? 

A domain registrar, offers services to help anyone looking to build a website pick a domain name and then register it to a unique IP address. 

To display a full website at the address, a website such as this one is built of files and data. 

Think of it this way: Until you actually build a house (website), your home address will just be a location in space but not actually a home.  You have to build the structure to be a home.

A house contains steal, wood, windows and other materials that come together to be a home.  

A website contains lots of files such as HTML pages, images, and ccs files. 

The website is the actual framework, files and data set that exists at the address.  

Web hosting is a space on a computer or larger server where these files are stored.  The web host not only stores the files but also keeps the information safe and displays the website on the internet. 

My favorite host for this website and I recommend to everyone is SiteGround.  


Who is responsible for the registering domain names?

Someone has to keep all of this straight. So multiple people or businesses can’t have the exact same name for their websites.  

A private non-profit organization known as Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is that responsible party.  They create policies, implement the registration system, and manage the domain name system. 

Only domain name registrars accredited by ICANN are allowed to sell, register, and renew domain names. 

Also, a domain registrar can manage domain name records and make changes to registry on your behalf. 


So how do I get a domain? 

Steps to registering a domain name. 

Anyone can register a domain name.  You don’t face a lot of technical hurdles or restrictions when you want to get a domain name. 

In fact, this is the first step in building a website or starting a blog

1. Decide the domain name you want

Your domain name needs to consist of alphanumeric characters (a-z, A-Z, 0-9) and hyphens. 

However, make it easy for the user to memorize it. The shorter and less complicated the domain name, the better.

Of course, many names are already taken or you may have trouble deciding on one name.  

Related Content: Check out our article on lever ways to come up with a brilliant name for your website or blog. 

2. Check if your preferred domain names are available

Thousands of domain names are registered every day. 

That’s why you must check whether your preferred domains are still available.

Many name generators will check if a name is available, but I suggest only using the search function at a reputable registrar.  (Not actually searching Google for the name. Sounds suspicious but bots are looking for new domain names on the internet.)

My favorite process is to create a list of my top favorite and use the bulk search function at NeameCheap.com. You can enter as many names on the list as you want and extensions. You will receive a list of what is available.

Below is the bulk search (or Beast Mode) at NameCheap.

Search multiple domain names on NameCheap with bulk search function

At this point you can register your name because NameCheap is a domain registrar (more on this below) or you can register your name with your hosting company.

3. Choose a Domain Registrar

A domain registrar is the only way to register a domain name.  Many, many registrars exist.  In fact, if you are ready to build your website, many web hosts will also register your domain name.

My favorite for choosing and registering a domain name is NameCheap

If you are ready to build your website, an even easier is to register a name with my favorite web host, SiteGround. 

You can follow the step by step instructions to build a website on this article or sign up for the free tutorial. 

Related Content:

How to Choose a Domain Name and Build a Website

How to Choose a Domain Name and Start a Blog


Conclusion

Well, we covered a lot of ground here.  I hope you have a better understanding of what a domain is and how it all works.

If you’re ready to start thinking up a perfect domain name for your business check out this article – ways come up with a brilliant domain name.

Do you have more questions about what a domain is and how the domain name system works?    Please post them in the comments below. Like any good instructor – if I don’t know the answer – I’ll find it for you.

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