This guide is here for you to clarify all important terms related to domain names that you should know before you think about choosing a domain name and buying it for your website. It will help you understand what is a domain name. Selection of the right domain extension and domain name will then be simple and easy for you.
1. What is a Domain name?
In our daily life every time when we are asked to provide our home address, whether in an office, market, college, or in an online form on a website, we write (or type) our house number followed by a street, nearby road, village or block, town or city, state and then country.
Similarly, when we want to access information on a website, we have to enter the address of the website in our internet browser. Each page on the internet has a unique address which is called Uniform Resource Locator or URL.
Just look at the address bar of your browser and see the URL of this page on which you are reading this post right now.
Part of this address between the double slashes // and the first single slash / on the right is called domain name.
1.1 Definition of Domain Name
“A combination of any of letters, digits and/or hyphen together with one or more dots “.” in between, that is used as a substitute to a unique numerical (IP) address on internet is called website domain name”.
1.2 IP Address
Every device which accesses internet, is assigned an internet protocol address (IP address) which is a set of digits and dots (and even may be sometimes characters as well.
An IP address is unique and cannot be used by two or more devices at the same time.
All information like text, images, audio, and video, etc. that is published on a website is stored in a specific directory assigned for that website on a large computer called a server.
The server is owned by a company called webhosting company and the service they provide is known as webhosting service.
Each website has a separate directory on the servers. Usually, small websites with low budgets share a single server. Big websites with heavy traffic and enough budget choose to have separate dedicated servers maintained by the web hosting company.
Just like any other device connected to the internet, that directory or server also has a unique numerical valued IP address through which it can be accessed.
Domain Name is just a substitute or cover of that IP address. An IP address consists of digits and dots. A domain name consists of mostly letters and sometimes together with some digits and/or hyphens.
1.3 Why Domain Name is Necessary for a Website?
Now, after understanding what a domain name you may ask why it is necessary for a website.
Imagine if there were no domain names for a website, how would you access this website?
You may say that you did not directly entered the website address in the address bar and that you just came here by clicking on a link, so you would have done the same i.e. Clicking on an IP address.
But wait, if you read this post completely, and if it had helped you, you might like to read any other post on this website later, how would you do that?
By remembering the IP address?
Or writing it in your notebook?
Or if you were smart (Don’t worry, you are really smart because you are going to start your own website) then you would copy the IP address on your device.
But the question is that how many website IP addresses would you have to remember or write or copy and paste.?
Even for the smartest Copy-Paste Method if you were a crazy internet surfer, you would have to deal with a lot of websites. In that case, you would have to search for your website name through a big list of websites and then finding its IP address, then copy and paste. Fortunately, all this job is done by domain for us.
2. How does the domain work?
So, you got an idea of whats a domain name.
An easy and beautiful way that leads users to your website. Is not?
But how does domain work?
How does it help users to avoid dealing with those addresses containing long strings of random digits?
It is carried out by the domain name system.
2.1 Domain Name System (DNS)
Domain name system or DNS is a mechanism that translates a domain name into its corresponding IP address.
Domain Name System plays fundamental and key important role in the world of the internet. It consists of a set of rules, a structure of interconnected servers and a large database. The database contains a complete record of all domain names, network names, their hosting servers and IP addresses.
This is why sometimes DNS is called Phonebook of the internet.
The set of naming rules in the domain name system that helps in the classification of domain names constitutes a hierarchy of domain levels.
2.2 Domain Name Server
Domain Name Server, often called DNS server is the primary unit of the Domain Name System.
It may be considered as a large computer that runs all the time and helps in the implementation of DNS rules and responsibilities. Though DNS consists of millions of servers worldwide, it functions as a single database.
2.3 Behind The Scene
Each request from an internet user made on the internet browser of his device to access a particular website passes through the DNS. The DNS server gets the request, containing the alphabetical name of the website (the domain name), looks for the website record on its database, if not found the query is forwarded to another DNS. The process continues.
When a DNS server finds a matching for the domain name, it points the accessing device to the IP address recorded against the requested domain name.
The device browser, then gets on the web hosting server where all the files and contents of that website are placed for public access. The requested data is this way fetched to the user device.
All this process takes just a part of a second.
3. Types of Domains
Domains are categorized in several levels, including root domain, top level domains, second level domains, and third level domains.
3. 1 Root Domain
It is represented by a “.”. It is on top of the DNS hierarchy. A root domain is served by the Root Name Server.
3.2. Top Level Domain
Top Level Domains or TLDs are also called domain extensions. A top level domain in a domain name is the suffix following the actual website name and separated from it by a period. Like in cyberstir.com, the com is the top level domain.
Top level domains are used to indicate the category, field or country of the website contents.
Top level domains are classified into various subgroups. The three major groups are ccTLDs, gTLDs and ngTLDs.
A country code top level domain aims to indicate the country for which the website is published.
Examples are .us, .uk, .au, .in, .pk and .fr.
A generic top level domain aims to indicate the category of the website. For example .com was first used for commercial websites, .org for organizations and .net for companies providing network services.
New generic top level domains are new domains issued by ICANN for registration of domain names. There are more than 1300 ngTLDs including .icu, .site, .xyz and .top and .online among the top five.
3.3 Second Level Domain
A second level domain is actually the domain name we have to suggest and register for our website. You may register a domain name with a domain broker by paying a registration fee for a specified period which is normally one year.
3.4 Third Level Domain
A third level domain is just the path to a separate part or section of a website. It is usually known as a subdomain.
If you want to read about types of domain names in detail, you will certainly enjoy The Ultimate Crazy Guide to Types of Domain Names
4. The Right Domain Extension
After getting some knowledge about whats a domain name, you may ask how to choose the right domain extension for your website name.
As you read above that a domain extension is the top level domain which serves as a suffix to the actual website name.
Today there are more than 1500 domain extensions available for domain name registration.
So, if you are going to launch a website for the first time and need to register a domain name for your website, you may wonder, what is the right domain extension for my website?
How to pick up a domain extension from such a large number of domain extensions available?
This is not a difficult task. Selection of suitable domain extension for your website name is easy. Just follow these steps.
- Think about the aims and goals of your website.
- Write them on paper.
- See if it includes anything that will benefit you financially, and this will be your first website then it is better to go for the .com domain.
- If it is purely about the activities of a non-profit organization, you should select the .org extension.
- If it is about building an online community working together on the internet for earning or sharing valuable information, you may opt for a .net domain extension.
- If it is going to provide a platform for publishing information and guiding people about a specific theme, idea, object, place, or anything else, .info may be a good choice.
- If it is only for people of a specific country or geographic region, no one outside that region will have no interest in your content. And you want that the people of the region or country also get to know about it, that the website is just for the, then the country code Top Level Domain of that region or country may be the best choice for your website domain.
- If you are not sure what your website will specifically be about. Or you think its category may alter or broaden in the future, the best and safe way is to opt for a .com domain extension without thinking anymore.
5. How to select a Domain Name for website?
After selecting a domain extension for your website name, the big and challenging task is to think of a beautiful, unique, and easy domain name for your website.
While it mostly depends on your choice, needs and plans, here are some basic tips you must consider.
- The name should be easy to remember.
- It must not be merely a variation of a popular website name, differing just by a name spelling. Like gooogle or googal etc.
- It should reflect the niche or category of the website. Or at least it must not misguide someone about its contents.
- It should not be offensive, abusive, or vulgar.
- It should not be quite meaningless.
- It should not be too long to be typed.
- It should preferably not include hyphens or numbers.
WHOIS means: Who Is There, owning this domain?
What is the name of the person who has registered this domain? When he registered this domain?
When we register a domain name for our website, we have to provide basic information about us like name, addresses, residence information and contacts etc. The domain registrar is responsible to keep this information in an online database called WHOIS database. This database is publicly available. This means anyone can access it easily in just a few clicks.
Now the reality is that anyone wants to show his website to the world, but few people will like to show their home address to the world.
Having your personal information in reach to strangers on internet is definitely a disturbing thought. But it is not just your privacy that is exposed to others through WHOIS. Leaving your contact information open to all may be vulnerable to attacks on your online assets by hackers.
Keeping in view all these things, you will probably want to have the basic information hidden from public. This is possible through a service called WHOIS protection or WHOIS guard.
Some domain registrars like domain.com will charge you per year extra for this service. Some others like namecheap.com and namesilo.com provide this service free for life to all registrants.
7. What is SSL?
SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer.
It provides security to information provided by a user on internet. While purchasing a product, registering on a forum or subscribing to a service, you need to enter basic information about you in the fields of a form. This may includes your name, email address, postal address, home address, contact number, profession, credit card number, passwords etc. A hacker can intercept and access this data during its submission if it is not protected properly.
The best way to protect this data exchange between you and the website is to encrypt it. It means a mechanism which converts your entered characters and numbers into a unique code language, so that no one trying to intercept it can know about it. An SSL certificate does exactly this job.
Websites with addresses containing “https://” protocol are secured with SSL certificate while “http://” are not safe to provide your information over it.
Some domain name registrars provide free SSL certificates with their domain names. Others charge you an extra annual fee for providing it. It is better to choose the one that gives you an SSL certificate with a domain name free for lifetimes like namecheap.com and namesilo.com
8. Domain Name Brokers and Web Hosting
Now the story is simple.
If you are going to build a website for your business or blog, you have to purchase basically two services.
- A domain name (SLD) of your choice with a proper domain name extension (TLD) according to your industry or field of activity.
- A web hosting service according to your website needs and your budget.
You can register domain names directly with registries of TLDs or with domain name brokers, also called domain registrars.
Domain name brokers play the role of middlemen between you and the domain registry. A registry is a non-profit organization recognized and accredited by ICCAN which is responsible for regulating a specific TLD.
Web hosting services are provided by hosting companies. There are thousands of web hosting companies, providing a range of hosting-related services. Some web hosting companies also provide domain purchasing services. They are either resellers of domains or actually domain registrars that are offering hosting services as well to their registrants.
- Domain names are human language alphabetic substitutes for machine language numeric IP addresses of websites.
- Domain Name System plays a key role in managing domain names and directing users to websites.
- Domains are categorized into many levels.
- Selection of the right TLD or domain extension for your website name is easy when you consider a few points.
- A good domain name is one that is easy, short, beautiful, meaningful, related to the content, and not awkward.
- The WHOIS protection service hides our private information from public access.
- An SSL certificate secures the information exchanged between users and websites by encrypting it.