Domain Names Explained – Beginners Guide to Websites

Welcome back to beginners guide to websites. Today I’ll talk about everything you need to know about Domain Names, their types, how they work, etc. Before I begin

What really is a Domain Name?

According to Wikipedia, a domain name is an identification string that defines a realm of administrative autonomy, authority or control within the Internet.

Went above your head? Don’t worry, it happened to me too when I first read it some years back. Here’s how we define a domain name:

“A domain name is simply an address to a particular location on the world wide web (internet).”

Just like you have an address of your house for people to get in touch with you, domain names are used to point specific locations on the web. For example, our website MyHostingLife is live on the web and its address is myhostinglife.com

Domain names are used to identify one or more IP addresses. This IP address represents a resource, such as your personal computer used to access the internet, a web server hosting a website or the website itself, or any other service used over the internet.

Since Internet is based on IP addresses, every web server requires a DNS server to translate domain names into IP address. This means when you type google.com in your Internet browser, a DNS server translates google.com into an IP address to communicate with the rest of the web.

Who is controlling all Domain Names?

Okay so Google gets to have google.com, gmail.com, alphabet.com, and many other domains. But who is actually responsible to make sure gmail.com stays assigned to Google or facebook.com stays with Zuck?

There is a not-for-profit organization named Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) charged with overseeing the name and number systems of the Internet. ICANN has particpants from all over the world dedicated to keep the Internet secure and stable.

If you want to know more about ICANN jump straight (after reading this article of course) to beginner’s guide to ICANN.

Domain Names Hierarchy

Domain names are organized in a hierarchical manner commonly referred as sub domains. On the top of the hierarchy is the DNS Root domain which is null (nameless). The first level of this tree consists of top-level domains (TLDs) including generic top-level domains (gTLDs), such as com, org, net, and edu, and country code top-level domains (ccTLDs).

Domain Names Hierarchy

The second and third level domains are open to public for reservation, who wish to run website or create other public internet resource, such as mail, ftp, etc.

How mail.google.com is accessed.

domain-hierarchy-example

Top Level Domain

Every domain name ends with top-level domain such as .com, .net, .org or something else. TLD is one of the domains at the highest level in the Domain Name System hierarchy. TLD is the end part of every domain name on the internet and these are installed in the root zone of the name space.

Top level domains can be further classified into two main categories: gTLD and ccTLD

1. gTLD

gTLD stands for generic top level domain. Initially ICANN implemented a group of seven gTLDs which represented a set of categories of names and organizations. These included the following domains com, net, org, edu, gov, mil and int.

2. ccTLD

Country code top level domain (ccTLD) is the second most widely used top level domain and is reserved for a country, state or a territory. All ccTLDs consists of two letters correspondint to ISO 3166-1-Alpha-2 country codes.

Along with these two top level domains, there are other TLDs such as restricted generic top level domains, test top level domain, sponsored top level domains and infrastructure top-level domains. These domains are not open to public for registration.

Second Level Domain

The second level domain (SLD) resides directly below the top-level domains. In the above example ‘mail.google.com.’ google is the second level domain of the .com TLD. In example.co.uk, .co is the SLD of the .uk ccTLD.

How to Buy a Domain Name?

Buying a domain name is as easy as reading this post. Domain names can purchased by domain name registrars. These registrars must be accredited by general top-level domain registry and/or country code top-level domain registry.

The process of buying a domain is simple and straight forward:

  1. Visit any domain registrar’s website (my fav is NameCheap
  2. Type the domain name you would like to buy in the search box
  3. Check for its availability
  4. If it’s available, add it in your cart and check out.

The cost to register a domain name is usually between $8.00 and $12.00 a year. Different companies charge different amounts and offer different included services with the registration of a name.

What is Domain “Privacy” or “WHOIS Protection” and should I purchase it?

Some domain registrars offer domain privacy/whois protection services to hide his or her registration information from the WHOIS(pronounced as who-is) database.

Since WHOIS is a public database, anyone can access it and see the email addresses used during registration; many companies harvest these addresses for spamming and solicitation services. If your organization email account comes with sufficient spam-blocking ability then this option may not be necessary for your organization.

 

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