What is a Domain Name and How Do Domains Work?

What is a Domain Name and How Do Domains Work

However, many beginners confuse domain name with a website or website hosting service. If you are just starting out, then all these different terms may sound too technical.

In this guide, we will answer what is a domain name and how domains work. The goal is to help you understand and choose the right domain name for your website.

Here is a quick overview of the topics we will cover in this guide.

What is a Domain Name?

Domain name is the address of your website that internet users type in the browser URL bar to visit your website.

In simple terms, if your website was a house, then your domain name will be its address.

A more detailed explanation:

The Internet is a giant network of computers connected to each other through a global network of cables. Each computer on this network can communicate with other computers.

To identify them, each computer is assigned an IP address. It is a series of numbers that identify a particular computer on the internet. A typical IP address looks like this:

66.249.66.1

Now an IP address like this is quite difficult to remember. Imagine if you had to use such numbers to visit your favorite websites.

Domain names were invented to solve this problem.

Now, if you want to visit a website, then you don’t need to enter a long string of numbers.

Instead, you can visit it by typing an easy-to-remember domain name in your browser’s address bar. For example, bhosing.ng.

How Domain Names Actually Work?

To understand how domain names actually work, we will take a look at what happens when you enter it in your browser.

How domains work

When you enter a domain name in your web browser, it first sends a request to a global network of servers that form the Domain Name System (DNS).

These servers then look up for the name servers or DNS servers associated with the domain and forward the request to those name servers.

For example, if your website is hosted on Bhosting, then its name server information will be like this:

ns1.bhosting.ng
ns2.bhosting.ng

These name servers are computers managed by your hosting company. Your hosting provider will forward your request to the computer where your website is stored.

This computer is called a web server. It has special software installed (Apache and Nginx are two popular web server software).

The web server now fetches the web page and pieces of information associated with it.

Finally, it then sends this data back to the user’s browser.

How is Domain Name Different from a Website and Web Hosting?

web hosting

A website is made up of files like HTML pages, website builder software, images, and more. It gives you and your business an online presence.

If the domain name is the web address of your website, then web hosting is the home where your website lives.

This is the actual computer where your website’s files are stored. Such computers are called servers and they are offered as a service by hosting companies.

To create your website, you need both domain name and web hosting. You need both of them to make any kind of website whether its personal, small business website, or an eCommerce store.

However, it’s important to remember that they are two separate services, and you can buy them from two different companies.

Now you may be wondering, how would it work if you bought them from two separate companies?

You just need to edit your domain name settings and enter the Name Server information provided by your hosting company. Name Server information defines where to send user requests for your domain name.

We recommend getting both your domain name and hosting from the same company. This allows you to easily manage them under the same account.

Different Types of Domain Names

Domain names are available in many different extensions. The most popular one is .com. There are many other options like .org, .net, .tv, .info, .io, and more. However we always recommend using .com domain extension.

Let’s take a more detailed look at different types of domain names available.

Top Level Domain – TLD

Top level domain or TLD are generic domain extensions that are listed at the highest level in the domain name system. They are also referred to as gTLD or generic top level domains.

There are hundreds of TLDs, but the most popular ones are .com, .org, and .net. Other TLDs are lesser known and we don’t recommend using them. For example, .biz, .club, .info, .agency, and many more.

Country Code Top Level Domain – ccTLD

Country code top-level domain or ccTLD are country specific domain names which end with country code extension like .uk for the United Kingdom, .de for Germany, .in for India, .ng for Nigeria

They are used by websites that want to target audiences in a specific country.

Sponsored Top Level Domain – sTLD

Sponsored top-level domain or sTLD is a category of TLDs that has a sponsor representing a specific community served by the domain extension.

For example, .edu for education-related organizations, .gov for the United States government, .mil for the United States military, and more.

Second Level Domain – SLD

Second level domain generally refers to the name that comes before the top level domain or TLD.

For instance, in hostbliz.com, the hostbliz is the second-level domain of the .com TLD.

Domain registries use the SLDs to create a hierarchy for their ccTLD.

For instance, the .au ccTLD, which represents Australia, has com.au, net.au, and more. In this case, the .com is not the Top Level Domain but a sTLD of .au TLD.

Similarly, in the .co.uk domains, .co is the SLD of .uk TLD.

Who is Responsible for Domain Name System?

Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) manages the domain names system. It is a non-profit organization that creates and implements the policies for domain names.

ICANN gives permission to companies called Domain Name Registrars for selling domain names. These domain registrars are allowed to make changes to domain names registry on your behalf.

Domain name registrars can sell domain names, manage its records, renewals, and transfers to other registrars.

As a domain name owner, you are responsible for telling the registrar where to send requests. You are also responsible for renewing your domain registration.

How to Choose a Domain Name for Your Website?

Choosing domain name

There are currently more than 350 Million registered domain names and thousands more get registered each day.

This means that all the good ones are already registered or will be registered very soon. This puts a lot of pressure on new users to come up with a domain idea for their website.

We’ve created a free AI-powered business name generator tool that helps you come up with creative company name ideas and check domain name availability status to help you save time.

Here are some quick tips to help you choose a domain name for your next website.

  • Stick with a .com domain name as it is the most popular, easy to remember, and easy promote.
  • Make sure it is shorter and easy to remember
  • Make it easy to pronounce and spell
  • Do not use numbers or hyphens
  • Use domain name generators to come up with clever domain name ideas

For more tips and practical advice, see our guide on how to choose the best domain name for your website.

How to Buy a Domain Name?

You can buy your desired domain names from one of the many domain name registrars. A domain name registration typically costs 14.99 per year. Some popular domain name companies are:

  • hostbliz.com (Use this Domain.com coupon to get a discount)
  • bhosting Solutions

However, buying a domain does not automatically give you hosting service. For that, you will need a website hosting account as well.

Many WordPress hosting companies offer domain registration services as well. This allows you to manage both services under one account, and you also don’t need to worry about changing name server settings for your domain.

We recommend using Bhost. They are offering users affordable domain name and hosting. Basically you can get started

Frequently Asked Questions About Domain Names

Over the years, we have helped many of beginners start their first websites. We have heard almost every possible question about domain names that you can think of.

Following are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about domain names.

1. What is a subdomain?

A subdomain is basically a child domain under the main domain name. For example, videos.bhosting.ng is a subdomain of bhosting.ng.

Once you register a domain, you have permission to create subdomains for it by yourself.

Websites commonly use subdomains to create child-sites under the same domain name.

For example, a business website can create a subdomain for their blog or their online store as store.example.com or blog.example.com

2. Can I cancel my registration of a domain name?

Some domain registrars allow domain owners to cancel their domain registration at any time. If you cancel your registration, it will become available for others to register.

Other domain name registrars allow you to simply let your domain registration expire.

In most cases, you will not get any refund for the domain registration. However, some domain registrars do have refund policies which you may want to discuss with them before canceling your registration.

If you don’t have the auto-renew feature turned on, then your domain name will simply expire after the registration period you have paid for.

3. Can I move my website to a different domain name?

Yes, you can. You can point your domain name to your hosting server. You can also keep both domain names pointing to the same website.

However, search engines consider it duplicate content and that will affect your search rankings.

We have a step by step guide on how to properly move a website to new domain name and setup redirects, so you don’t hurt your SEO.

4. Can I sell a domain name?

Yes, you can sell your domain name. Domain names are like real estate for web. There is a huge demand for good brandable custom domain names.

Trading domain names is a multi-million dollar industry. Since domain names are so cheap, smart entrepreneurs are always looking for great domain name ideas to get their hands own.

If you want to sell your domain name, then there are many marketplace websites like hostbliz, GoDaddy, and others where you can list your domain for sale.

Popular registrars like Domain.com and Network Solutions also let you buy premium domains right from their domain search feature.

5. What is domain privacy? Do I need it?

ICANN requires people registering domain names to provide an email, physical address, phone number, and other personal information to be made available publicly.

Domain Privacy is a separate add-on service sold by domain registrars. It allows you to show proxy information instead of your actual personal info.

You don’t need to buy domain privacy if you don’t want to. However, if you are concerned about privacy, then you can buy this service for a small cost.

6. Can I find out who owns a domain name?

You can use Whois lookup tool to find information about who owns a domain name. However, if the domain name is using domain privacy, then you’ll see the proxy information provided by their registrar.

7. Can I buy more than one domain name?

Yes, you can buy as many domain names as you like.

8. What is www? Is it a part of domain names?

WWW is the abbreviation for the World Wide Web. In the early days of the internet, some experts started using it to indicate that it is a web address.

However, it is not a requirement, and most websites don’t use www in their website addresses anymore.

Technically, www is a subdomain of your main domain name. Anything that comes before your main domain and is followed by a dot is considered a subdomain like videos.bhosting.com.

9. What is the Difference Between a URL and a Domain Name?

URL is short for Uniform Resource locator. It is a web address that takes you to a specific page or file on a website.

A domain name alone locates a particular website. If you entered a domain name alone (e.g. bhosting.ng) in your browser, it will convert it into a URL like https://bhosting.ng and take you to the homepage of the website associated with that domain name.

Each page or file you see on the internet has a URL associated with it. For instance, you can see the URL for this page in your browser’s address bar above.

10. What is HTTP and HTTPS?

HTTP refers to Hypertext Transfer Protocol. It is the internet protocol technology used to access information on the web.

However, it is succeeded by the HTTPs which indicates Secure Hypertext Transfer Protocol. HTTPs indicates that a website is using SSL, which is a secure protocol to transmit data on the internet.

11. Where can I learn more about making websites?

Right here. bhosting is the world’s largest WordPress resource site for beginners.

What is a domain name? 

A domain name is a human-friendly address, sometimes called a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) or web address. It was created to make IP, or Internet Protocol, addresses more accessible and easier to remember. 

An IP address is a string of numbers, much like a phone number, that is assigned to every computer. But, unless you’re Sheldon Cooper, an IP address with seemingly random numbers like 191.124.184.129 isn’t exactly easy to remember. But a domain name like www.123-reg.co.uk is. 

So that’s why domain names were created – to make it much easier to reach a website. 

Your domain name is unique to you, just like a fingerprint. When someone types it into a browser, they’re taken directly to your space on the Internet where they can view your website.  

What is the difference between a domain name and a website?

It’s easy to think of a domain name and a website as being the same. But while they’re closely connected, they’re different things.

When you register a domain, you get a web address but not a website (this is something you’ll need to build). So while you can have a domain and choose not to use it for a website, you can’t really have a website without some sort of domain.

For example, if you want to get started online and you’ve picked a name, you’ll first need to register it, start building your website and then find a host so your site is visible on the web and people can access it. As your business grows, you can always change the look or design of your website while keeping the same domain name.

Where do domain names come from?

The domain name system (DNS) is overseen by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers or ICANN. This organisation was formed in 1998 and has been coordinating the maintenance and management of the DNS ever since.

While ICANN doesn’t rule supreme over the entire Internet, it does have the power to approve new extensions, to manage their function, and to shut them down if they don’t work according to the rules created by ICANN. So they basically ensure that the DNS and IP spaces that make up the Internet’s infrastructure are all running smoothly.

But ICANN doesn’t do all the hard work by itself. They delegate control over the various Top Level Domains like .com, .net and .org, to various entities known as Registries. These companies then become directly responsible for managing specific extensions. So, a registry controls and maintains the database of domains within their extension and makes it accessible through WHOIS tool.

Now, the registry may designate entities called Registrars. A registrar is a company that sells domain names to the end customer. So, if you want to register a web address for your new site, you’ll go to a registrar like 123 Reg that provides domain names from different registries, all in one place.

At 123 Reg, you can use our domain name search tool to scour through thousands of domains with 350 different endings (aka TLDs or domain extensions). Our collection features TLDs from .co.uk, .info, .email, and .online to .store, .me, .club, .events and .farm.  

If the domain you want is available, you can buy it through us, and it’ll be registered in your name with 123 Reg. 

If you need to buy more than one domain, we also offer a Bulk Ordering service that’s designed to streamline the process of buying several domains at the same time.  

This infographic from ICANN should help you to better understand the registry process: 

1_icann_infogr

How do new domains get released?

Now, let’s assume a new extension has been approved is about to hit the market. Typically, there are three stages to the registration process:

Sunrise: This stage gives trademark holders a chance to register their domain names first. The idea is that they get the chance to protect their brand early. Often, the sunrise period will allow trademark holders to block registration of domains containing their trademark. This means they don’t have to worry about remembering to renew and manage lots of domains, but still ensures nobody else can use them.

Landrush: At this point, it’s possible for anyone to bid for a domain name. The process is different for different domains, but what usually happens is that you can apply to register a domain name. At the end of the landrush period, domain names are allocated appropriately. If there’s more than one applicant for a domain name, an auction is held. Landrush enables you to pay a bit more to secure particularly attractive domains.

General availability: This is where the new domains become available on an ongoing basis. Anyone can take their pick of remaining domains, and it’s first come, first served. If the domain you want is available, you can register it there and then.

Not every domain extension release follows this process exactly. But most of them follow a similar pattern.

What if you miss out?

If you have your eyes on a particular new domain name, get in there early when it’s released – especially if you think there’ll be competition.

Landrush is your best chance to secure the name, although you may have to pay more than at general availability.

If you miss out altogether and can’t find any alternatives you like, you can always source a domain name in other ways. There’s a thriving secondary domain name market, where individuals and businesses buy and sell domain names. You may be able to buy a domain that has already been registered with Premium Domains from 123 Reg. Trademark rules apply when buying Premium Domains, so make sure you don’t infringe anyone else’s intellectual property.

What happens after I register my domain name?

Once you’ve registered a domain name, it will be your to use for as long as the registration lasts. Most people use a domain name as their website address and/or for their email address. As long as you keep renewing your domain, it remains yours.

If you fail to renew it, it will expire, but you’ll still have the chance to register it. Next comes a redemption period, during which you may be able to renew the domain if you pay a recovery fee. After that, your domain name will be released back on to the open market and made available for purchase. It’s a good idea to set up auto renew for your domains and keep your payments up to date to stop this happening.

The below infographic explains more about the domain lifecycle.

How do domain names work?

To understand how domains works, you first need to understand what a Domain Name System or DNS is, and how it works.

Everyone who has ever used the Internet has used the DNS, even without realising it. DNS servers are necessary because they’re like the Internet’s equivalent of a phone book. They manage a massive database of domain names and translate them into IP addresses to route your request to the site you’re trying to reach. Think of it as dialling a phone number to connect to the person you’re trying to call.

A DNS is required because while domain names are easy for people to remember, computers or machines access websites based on IP addresses. So a domain name system is important so you don’t have to remember the IP addresses of all your favourite sites, but instead type in a domain name to access the site you want to visit. The browser will then search through the DNS and find the exact IP address of the site you’re looking to access.

2_dns

 

Now that you know how important a DNS is, let’s explain how domain names work, from how they’re structured to how to register yours.

Every domain consists of at least two parts: the actual domain name and the TLD or Top-Level Domain. In google.com for example, “google” is the domain and “.com” is the TLD. An organisation may have a hierarchy of sub-domains further organising its Internet presence, like “bbc.co.uk” which is the BBC’s domain under .co, an additional level created by the domain name authority responsible for the UK country code.

Here’s a graphic to get a clearer picture of how a domain name is structured:

Want your own web address? Here’s how domain name registration works, and the steps to follow to get your own:

  • Research which domain registrar you want to go with and then use its domain search function to find if your chosen domain is available. At 123 Reg all you need to do is enter the domain name you’d like into our search bar. If the domain name isn’t available, the search results will suggest some similar domains. 
  • For example, let’s say you wanted yummycakes.co.uk. The 123 Reg search may reveal that this exact domain is not available, but it might tell you that yummycake.co.uk, theyummycakes.co.uk and yummycakes.store is available.  
  • When you’ve found a domain that you like and which is available, you can register . With 123 Reg you can get a new web address for as little as 79p for the first year. 
  • Next, you’ll need to get the best UK web hosting for your domain so anyone on the web can view and access your site. 

When were domains first created?

If you’re curious about the history of domain names and when the first one was created, here’s what you need to know.

Domains were first introduced more than 31 years ago with the registration of Symbolics.com. This web address was registered on 15th of March 1985 by a computer manufacturer, and it was the start of domain names.

4_symbolics

From then until the end of 1985, five more domain names were registered, as follows:

  1. symbolics.com -15/03/1985
  2. bbn.com – 24/04/1985
  3. think.com -24/051985
  4. mcc.com – 11/07/1985
  5. dec.com – 30/09/1985
  6. northrop.com – 07/11/1985

Before 1995, anyone who wanted to could register free domain names. That all changed when the National Science Foundation awarded tech consulting company Network Solutions the ability to charge for registration. So it’s in 1995 when domain names were first sold, with prices starting at $100 for a two-year registration.

How many domain names are registered to date?

There were 351.5 million domain names registered up to the end of Q2 2022, according to Verisign.

How many domain extensions are there?

With more than 1,500 domain name extensions in existence, you should have no problem finding your perfect web address, with whichever extension you prefer.

Curious to know what domain name extensions are available? Here are just a few you can choose from:

  • Generic top-level domains (gTLDs): The most popular ones are .com, .net, .org. The .biz domain was introduced because of the popularity of .com addresses.
  • Country code top-level domains (ccTLDs): These represent specific countries or territories. While some require residency or a presence in that specific country, most have no restrictions on who can register them. Here are some examples of ccTLDs: .be (Belgium), .de (Germany), .es (Spain), .uk (United Kingdom), .us (United States of America).
  • Geographic extensions: Ideal for local businesses as it tells people exactly where you are located. .berlin, .london and .vegas are a few of the many to consider.
  • New generic top-level domains (New gTLDs): These extensions are a fantastic alternative to the traditional .com or .org. A web address with a gTLD like .dentist, .accountant or .construction tells people what you do right from your domain.

What’s the most expensive domain name?

The most expensive domain ever sold was Voice.com, which sold for $30million in 2019. You can find a list of the most expensive domain names here.

Statista.com also put together a ranking of the most expensive new gTLDs worldwide. In February 2015, Google purchased the .app domain for 25 million U.S. dollars. Online retailer Amazon spent 4.59 million U.S. dollars for the new gTLD .buy in September 2014. But the most expensive new gTLD was .web, which was won at auction by Nu Dot Co LLC for 135 million U.S. dollars.

7_expensive_domains

On the whole, however, buying a domain name doesn’t have to cost you the earth.  

As mentioned above, you can buy a domain name through 123 Reg for as little as 79p for the first year. 

What restrictions are there?

There are some general rules and restrictions to consider when registering a new domain. Depending on the type of domain, there might also be other restrictions that you’ll usually be made aware of by the registrar.

General rules and restrictions for registering a domain name:

  • You can only use letters, numbers and hyphens. Other forms of punctuation and symbols cannot be used.
  • You can use multiple instances of hyphens, but not a double hyphen. You also can’t use hyphens at the beginning or end of the domain name.
  • Punctuation (.) can only be used for grouping the domains in hierarchies, meaning to separate the domain name from the extension.
  • A web address can begin and end in a number, example: 9-5.uk
  • Domain names are not case sensitive. This means you can advertise your name using capital letters if you wish. For example 123-REG.CO.UK is the same name as both 123-Reg.co.uk and 123-reg.co.uk.
  • Some TLDs allow registration of web addresses containing special characters and accents such as æ, ø and å. These are called IDN (Internationalized Domain Names).
  • A domain name must contain between 2 and 63 characters before the punctuation. Additional rules apply for the different top level domains.

How do domains work

Typically, when you browse the Internet, you type in a domain name into the address bar of your web browser. The web browser and technology behind it then work their magic and you get the website you requested.

But what is a domain name and how does it work?

What is a domain name?

The simplest explanation of a domain name is that it is the address that the browser uses to find a website. In other words, it is a unique identifier for a website or email account.

Expanding on this explanation, a domain name is a human-friendly label of a specific IP address.

What is an IP address?

An IP address is a unique identifying number given to every single machine on the Internet. An IP address consists of a set of numbers separated by period, for example, 73.14.213.99. Any machine connected to the Internet has an IP address: your computer, mobile phone, gaming console, etc. In every case, the IP address acts like a telephone number – it shows ownership and allows the machine to be located by other machines.

Is an IP address the same as a domain name?

While both IP address and domain name are unique identifiers, the are not the same. An IP address is the true identifier of a web server (or computer connected to the Internet) and the domain name is simply a human-friendly pointer to help people find the web server.

For example, when you type in a domain name in your web browser, your browser will match that domain name to an IP address. The IP address will tell your browser which web server hosts the website of that domain name. Your browser then connects to the web server and request for a copy of the website.

Do I really need a domain name?

In order for your website to be viewable on the Internet, it needs to be connected to the Internet (ie. your web files need to be on a computer that is connected to the Internet) and thus, it will have an IP address. Trying to remember the IP address for every website on the Internet is a difficult task, and that’s where domain names come in. A domain name tells other machines (computers, mobile devices, etc.) which web server they need to look to for your web files.

In other words, yes, you will need a domain name for your website.

The structure of a domain name

Every domain name consists of at least two parts: the actual domain name and the domain extension.

For example, Doteasy.com. In this example, the actual domain name is “Doteasy” and “.com” is the domain extension.

Does it matter which domain extension you use?

People tend to prefer the domain extension .com as it is the most common and familiar domain extension. But do keep in mind that because of their popularity, there might be a chance that the domain name you want is no longer available in the .com extension.

If the .com domain name that you want is already taken, you have a few other options:

  1. You can register the .net or .org version of the domain name,
  2. You can register the domain name with an alternative country-specific domain extension. For example, if your website targets customers in Japan, you can consider using the .jp domain extension.

What happens when you register a domain name?

When you signup for a Doteasy web hosting package, you will be given the option to register a new domain name for that hosting package. You can select your domain name and the domain extension.

Once you submit your domain registration request, Doteasy will register your domain name with a DNS (Domain Name System). A DNS is a database that matches IP addresses with their corresponding domain name. We will create all the configuration settings and records so that your domain name is connected to your assigned web server.

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