What is a Domain Name?

Do you know what a domain name is or why it can be useful to own one? You will by the end of this post!

What is a Domain name?

Your castle on the web

A domain name is a web site address, like google.com or techmadeplain.com. It’s your own plot of land on the internet, where you can build your castle (in a manner of speaking). Sites like Facebook let you build on their land, but you don’t own it. You’re a tenant, and they can change their policies or fizzle out (remember MySpace?). In short, a domain is your address online.

If you want to have your own web site for your business, the first step is buying a domain. Buying a domain is different than buying web hosting. A domain is just an address that you can point to wherever you want. A web host is like a house that holds all your files.

How to Buy A Domain Name

You can buy a domain name from any of hundreds of domain registrars, services that are authorized to sell domains. I recommend NameSilo mainly because they’re so inexpensive. They’ve given me good service, have no hidden fees or in-your-face upselling, and they keep adding new features. Plus whois privacy is included in the price ($8.99/year) so your name and address aren’t easily visible for the world to see when you register your domain. They have the lowest price I’ve found (ignoring first year discounts) that also has decent service.

What about com, net, org, etc?

Many people don’t know that in the early days of the web the TLD (Top Level Domain) was meant to tell you the kind of site you were visiting.

  • .com - A commercial site
  • .net - A network or umbrella site
  • .org - A non-profit site
  • .int - International organizations
  • .edu - Educational institutions
  • .gov - Government entities
  • .mil - US Military

The last three have maintained their meaning, but the first three have almost completely lost their original meanings. When you’re searching for domains, it’s best to get a .com if you can. It’s the most popular and recognized TLD.

There are now dozens of new TLDs from .aero to .zone, many of which you’ve probably never heard of. Some of them are catching on and may be worth buying. You may have to use a different domain registrar to buy some of the more obscure ones.

But What Does A Domain Do?

Simply put, a domain converts an easy to use name into a number. You don’t need to use them at all if you don’t want to. To visit google, try this link: http://74.125.207.138/. It works, but you’d have to have quite a memory if you wanted to browse the web like that.

Domains let you use names like google.com instead of the IP address (that’s what the number is called).

What are Subdomains?

A subdomain is the part that comes before the domain. For example, Gmail’s address is mail.google.com. Mail is a subdomain. They could have just as easily used bananaboat.google.com if they wanted. www is a common subdomain too. It’s become so common that many times you can just use the “naked” domain (without the www) to get to the site. If you go to https://google.com you’re redirected to https://www.google.com/ instead.

Let’s Review

A domain is your address on the web. You need a domain to host a web site, but you have to set up hosting as well. The part after the last dot is called the TLD (Top Level Domain), then the domain, and anything before that is the subdomain. You can have lots of subdomains if you want. Google probably has well over a hundred. Here’s a bunch of them.

Now you know what a domain is and why it’s useful to own one, and knowing is half the battle.

June 12, 2014
641 words
4 minute read

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