Domain Names: What They Are and How They Work
Until recently, very few people outside of the technical community could identify a domain name, much less how to obtain one. Domain names are essentially the address of a person or organization on the Internet. They help users direct email traffic, locate websites, and establish an online identity. Domain names help other users find the website they are searching for online. It took rapid expansion of the Internet for people to take advantage of this useful tool.
What is a Domain Name?
A domain name acts similar to a street address for a house or business. It identifies a specific website by a unique name and directs visitors to it. For example, the domain name “www.whitehouse.gov” directs visitors to the U.S. government website for the White House. Domain names essentially route visitors who do not know the specific numeric address of the website to where they want to go. When visitors enter a domain name into their Web browser, the browser finds the IP address associated with that domain name and directs the user to it. People use domain names instead of IP addresses because it is much easier to remember a name than it is to recall a long string of numbers for every site you want to visit. Users can register a domain name for their website with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Contrary to popular belief, users do not own the domain name they register: They lease the use of it from ICANN.
What Are the Different Types of Domain Names?
A URL has different parts that increase in specificity. Top-level domains are the part that is located to the right of the final dot in a URL. The use of top-level domains is governed by ICANN, and they include common extensions such as .net, .gov, .edu, .org, .info, and a variety of country codes (also known as ccTLDs). The primary domain is the name that precedes the TLD suffix. ICANN grants people the use of domain names based on their availability. A subdomain is the part that precedes the primary domain name. Subdomains are granted by the organization or entity that owns the primary domain name.
- Top-Level Internet Domain Names
- What You Should Know About Country Code Domains
- Explanation of TLDs, Domain Names, and Subdomains
What is DNS?
The Domain Name System (DNS) translates a domain name into an IP address. Networked computers connect to each other through IP addresses, but they are harder to remember than domain names. DNS allows users to connect to another networked computer using a domain name rather than a numerical IP address. Reverse DNS (rDNS) does the exact opposite of regular DNS: It translates an IP address into a domain name. Each website that maintains a computer network will have at least one server, also called a name server, that will handle DNS queries. Name servers hold a list of all IP addresses within their network.
- Ohio State University: Domain Name System
- The University of Oklahoma: What is DNS?
- How Does DNS Work?
What is Hosting?
Web hosting refers to the process of housing, serving, and maintaining files for one or multiple websites. Web hosts provide server space, Web services, and file maintenance. Hosting allows users to launch their website without owning their own servers. The majority of hosting services require the owner to pay a fee; however, there are Internet service providers (ISPs) that offer free space for a small website. Some hosting services offer virtual servers, which give the appearance that users can control a server dedicated entirely to their website.
- What is DNS? Host Names
- What to Look For When Choosing a Web Hosting Provider (PDF)
- IP Addresses, Host Names, and Domain Names
The Importance of Domain Names, DNS, and Hosting
Webmasters need domain names to help drive traffic to their website. Without domain names, people could not find a specific website unless they knew its IP address. A domain name server (DNS) translates an IP address into a domain name, which makes it easier for people to find a target website. A website cannot exist without a host to house, serve, and maintain its files. All three of these pieces interconnect to make a functional website.
- Domain Names and Trademarks
- Indiana University Knowledge Base: What is DNS?
- The Internet Domain Name System Explained for Non-Experts (PDF)
Senior Tech Writer for Vodien Internet Solutions
Bill Poh is the Senior Tech Writer at Vodien and he covers web hosting, online marketing, social media, business and the latest tech innovations. When not writing, he’s busy pursuing his passion for photography, graphic design, and creative arts.
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