What is a Domain Name and How Do Domains Work?
Many beginners confuse domain name with a website or website hosting service. If you are just starting out, then all these different terms may sound too technical.
What is a Domain Name?
Domain name is the address of your website that people type in the browser URL bar to visit your website.
In simple terms, if your website was a house, then your domain name will be its address.
The Internet is a giant network of computers connected to each other through a global network of cables. Each computer on this network can communicate with other computers.
To identify them, each computer is assigned an IP address. It is a series of numbers that identify a particular computer on the internet. A typical IP address looks like this:
Now an IP address like this is quite difficult to remember. Imagine if you had to use such numbers to visit your favorite websites.
Domain names were invented to solve this problem.
Now if you want to visit a website, then you don’t need to enter a long string of numbers. Instead, you can visit it by typing an easy to remember domain name in your browser’s address bar.
How Domain Names Actually Work?
To understand how domain names actually work, we will take a look at what happens when you enter it in your browser.
When you enter a domain name in your web browser, it first sends a request to a global network of servers that form the Domain Name System (DNS).
These servers then look up for the name servers associated with the domain and forward the request to those name servers.
For example, if your website is hosted on Bluehost, then its name server information will be like this:
These name servers are computers managed by your hosting company. Your hosting company will forward your request to the computer where your website is stored.
This computer is a web server. It has special software installed (Apache, Nginx are two popular web server software). The web server now fetches the web page and pieces of information associated with it.
Finally, it then sends this data back to the browser.
How is Domain Name Different from a Website and Web Hosting?
A website is made up of files like HTML pages, website builder software, images, and more.
If the domain name is the web address of your website, then web hosting is the home where your website lives.
This is the actual computer where your website’s files are stored. Such computers are called servers and they are offered as a service by hosting companies.
To create your website, you need both domain name and web hosting.
However, it’s important to remember that they are two separate services, and you can buy them from two different companies.
Now you may be wondering, how would it work if you bought them from two separate companies?
You just need to edit your domain name settings and enter the Name Server information provided by your hosting company. Name Server information defines where to send user requests for your domain name.
Different Types of Domain Names
Domain names are available in many different extensions. The most popular one is .com. There are many other options like .org, .net, .tv, .info, .io, and more. However, we always recommend using a .com domain extension.
Let’s take a more detailed look at different types of domain names available.
Top Level Domain – TLD
Top level domain or TLD are generic domain extensions that are listed at the highest level in the domain name system.
There are hundreds of TLDs, but the most popular ones are .com .org, and .net. For example, .biz, .club, .info, .agency, and many more.
Country Code Top Level Domain – ccTLD
Country code top-level domain or ccTLD are country specific domain names which end with country code extension like .uk for the United Kingdom, .de for Germany, .in for India.
Sponsored Top Level Domain – sTLD
Sponsored top-level domain or sTLD is a category of TLDs that has a sponsor representing a specific community served by the domain extension.
For example, .edu for education-related organizations, .gov for the United States government, .mil for the United States military, and more.
Who is Responsible for the Domain Name System?
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) manages the domain names system. It is a non-profit organization that creates and implements the policies for domain names.
ICANN gives permission to companies called Domain Name Registrars for selling domain names.
Registrars can sell domain names, manage its records, renewals, and transfers to other registrars.
As an owner, you are responsible for telling the registrar where to send requests. You are also responsible for renewing your domain registration.
How to Choose a Domain Name for Your Website?
There are currently more than 350 Million registered names and thousands more get registered each day.
This means that all the good ones are already registered or will be registered very soon. This puts a lot of pressure on new users to come up with a domain idea for their website.
Here are some quick tips to help you choose a domain name for your next website.
- Stick with a .com as it is the most popular, easy to remember, and easy promote.
- Make sure it is shorter and easy to remember
- Make it easy to pronounce and spell
- Do not use numbers or hyphens
- Use domain name generators to come up with clever ideas
How To Buy a Domain Name?
You can buy domain names from one of the many registrars. A domain name typically costs 14.99 per year. Some popular domain name companies are:
However, buying a domain does not automatically give you a hosting service. For that, you will need a website hosting account as well.
Many WordPress hosting companies offer domain registration services as well. This allows you to manage both services under one account, and you also don’t need to worry about changing name server settings for your domain.