What is a Domain Name?
Imagine a telephone directory. You look up your name to find your phone number. You call the phone number, and you find … you! The Domain Name System works in a similar way. When someone types in a domain name, computers or DNS Servers, translate that name into an internet address number, the IP address. Your browser then uses that internet address to find the correct website for that domain name. A lot more happens behind the scenes, but you get the general idea.
Domain names, like the one for this article, are broken up into two sections. The top-level domain name (TLD) is ‘.com’ while the second-level domain name (SLD) is to the left ‘flyingcowdesign’ which is the name describing the website. The suffix, .com, determines the TLD the site belongs to. There is a limited number of suffixes available to choose from. A few are:
- .com – Commercial business
- .gov – Government agencies
- .org – Non-profit organizations
- .net – Network organizations
- .mil – Military agencies
- .edu – Education facilities
- .ca – Canada
- .uk – Europe
- .th – Thailand
Your web server has a Domain Names System (DNS) server installed, so you do not have to remember the long chain of numbers which make up an IP address. The DNS server keeps DNS records on your computer, reducing the amount of time it takes to translate the domain names into IP addresses.
Registering a Domain Name
It is a simple process to register your domain name. Simply choose a web hosting site, choose your domain name, and pay the registration fee. However, it is not as simple if the domain name you have chosen is already taken. All reputable domain registration websites use WHOIS to determine eligible domain names. WHOIS can also show you the owner of the domain name you have chosen which is not available.
Choose a domain registration website which offers more than purchasing your domain name. Do your research on prices and services offered. You will need services to host your website as well. Otherwise, no one will find your domain. You will also benefit if you choose a domain registration website which offers services such as fixing your domain and how to help your website gain traffic.
Your web hosting plan does not necessarily have to be purchased through the same site as the domain registration. However, the convenience of having all your services under one roof is beneficial and cost-effective for most e-commerce website owners.
Domain Name vs. Web Hosting
The domain name tells internet users what page they are visiting using the top-level domain names and second-level domain names. On the other hand, all of these web pages within your main domain name need a place to ‘stay.’ This is called web hosting. The web hosting service provides servers which send the website files to internet users searching for your domain or keywords. Web hosting providers offer different services depending on the package you choose. Together the domain name and web hosting provide internet users a satisfying experience.
How a Domain Name Differs from a URL
While most think the domain name and URL are interchangeable, they are completely different in reality. The domain name is, however, part of the URL. After the full domain name, you will find folders and subfolders which determine the web page you have landed on. For instance, this article, the folder, and subfolder look like this: ‘website-security-services/domain-names-explained.’ In the ‘Website Security Services’ folder, you will find the article named ‘Domain Names Explained.’
Common Domain Name Problems
Typos are the biggest factor for getting a 404 Page Not Found error when searching the internet. Luckily, Google’s search engine is smart enough to guess what you are searching for if the spelling is close enough to the original.
Another common problem is when the website is down. For numerous reasons, a website could be down. This could be that the owner is performing updates and needed to shut it down temporarily, or the website could have been shut down by hackers among other issues. There is nothing you can do to fix this problem, except try again later.
If your DNS server is malfunctioning, you will not be able to reach the domain name you have typed in. The DNS server is not able to translate the words into numbers to ensure you get to the right website. You can either try a free DNS server available online or change the DNS server you are currently using.
For a better understanding of domain names, or if you need help registering your domain name, call Flying Cow Design today. Our services include web hosting, content management, SEO and much more.
CEO, Flying Cow Design
Attended University of Auckland
Lives in San Francisco Bay Area