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What is a Domain Name and How Do Domains Work?

Beginners frequently ask us, “What is a domain name, and how do domains work?” If you’re a beginner, you’ve probably heard that you need a domain to create a website.

Many newcomers, however, confuse a domain name with a website or a website hosting service. All of these different terms may sound too technical if you’re just starting out.

This beginner’s guide will explain what a domain name is and how domains work. The goal is to assist you in understanding and selecting the best domain name for your website.

What are domain names and how do they work?

What exactly is a domain name?

The address of your website that people type in the browser URL bar to visit your website is known as the domain name.

In other words, if your website were a house, your domain name would be its address.

A more in-depth explanation:

The Internet is a massive network of computers linked together by a global network of cables. Each computer on this network has the ability to communicate with other computers.

Each computer is given an IP address in order to be identified. It is a set of numbers that identifies a specific computer on the internet. An example of a typical IP address is as follows:

An IP address like this is extremely difficult to remember. Consider how you would feel if you had to use such numbers to access your favorite websites.

Domain names were created to address this issue.

You no longer need to enter a long string of numbers if you want to visit a website. Instead, enter an easy-to-remember domain name into your browser’s address bar. For instance, wpbeginner.com.

How Do Domain Names Work?

To understand how domain names work, we’ll look at what happens when you type them into your browser.

How domains function

When you enter a domain name into your web browser, it sends a request to the Domain Name System, which is a global network of servers (DNS).

These servers then look up the domain’s name servers and forward the request to those name servers.

For example, if your website is hosted by Bluehost, the name server information will be as follows:



These name servers are managed by your hosting provider. Your hosting company will route your request to the computer that houses your website.

This computer is known as a web server. It is equipped with specialized software (Apache, Nginx are two popular web server software). The web server now retrieves the web page and any associated information.

Finally, it sends this information back to the browser.

What is the distinction between a domain name, a website, and web hosting?

hosting a website

A website is composed of files such as HTML pages, website builder software, images, and other elements.

If your domain name is your website’s web address, then web hosting is the place where your website lives.

This is the computer on which your website’s files are kept. These computers are known as servers, and hosting companies provide them as a service.

You will need a domain name as well as web hosting to create your website.

However, keep in mind that they are two separate services that can be purchased from two different companies.

You might be wondering how it would work if you bought them from two different companies.

Simply edit your domain name settings and enter the Name Server information provided by your hosting provider. Name Server information specifies where user requests for your domain name should be routed.

We recommend that you get both your domain name and your hosting from the same company. This allows you to manage them all from the same account.

Domain Names of Various Types

Many different extensions are available for domain names. The most well-known is.com. There are numerous other options, including.org,.net,.tv,.info,.io, and others. However, we always recommend that you use the.com domain extension.

Let’s take a closer look at the various types of domain names available.

TLD is an abbreviation for Top Level Domain.

TLDs are generic domain extensions that are listed at the top level of the domain name system.

There are hundreds of TLDs available, but the most popular are.com,.org, and.net. Other TLDs are less well-known and should be avoided. For instance,.biz,.club,.info,.agency, and many others.

ccTLD stands for Country Code Top Level Domain.

Country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) are country-specific domain names that end in a country code extension such as .uk for the United Kingdom,.de for Germany and .in for India.

Websites that want to target audiences in a specific country use them.

sTLD stands for Sponsored Top Level Domain.

Sponsored top-level domains, or sTLDs, are a type of TLDs that has a sponsor who represents a specific community served by the domain extension.

For example,.edu is for educational organizations,.gov is for the US government,.mil is for the US military, and so on.

Who is in charge of the Domain Name System?

The domain name system is managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). It is a non-profit organization that develops and implements domain name policies.

Domain Name Registrars are companies that are authorized by ICANN to sell domain names. These domain registrars have the authority to change the domain name registry on your behalf.

Domain name registrars can sell domain names, manage their records, and transfer them to other registrars.

As the owner of a domain name, you are responsible for informing the registrar where to send requests. You’re also in charge of renewing your domain registration.

How Should You Pick a Domain Name for Your Website?

There are currently over 350 million registered domain names, with thousands more being added every day.

This means that all of the good ones are either already registered or will be very soon. This places a lot of pressure on new users to think of a domain name for their website.

To save you time, 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.

Here are some pointers to consider when selecting a domain name for your next website.

  • Stick with a.com domain name because it is the most popular, easiest to remember, and easiest to promote.
  • Make it as short as possible and as easy to remember as possible.
  • Make it simple to say and spell.
  • Use no numbers or hyphens.
  • To come up with clever domain name ideas, use domain name generators.

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

How Do I Purchase a Domain Name?

Domain names can be purchased from one of the many domain name registrars. A domain name costs an average of $14.99 per year. Some well-known domain name registrars are:

However, purchasing a domain does not entitle you to hosting services. You will also need a website hosting account for this.

Many WordPress hosting companies also provide domain registration services. This allows you to manage both services from a single account and eliminates the need to change the name server settings for your domain.

Frequently Asked Domain Name Questions

We’ve helped thousands of beginners launch their first websites over the years. We’ve been asked almost every domain-related question you can think of.

The following are some of the most frequently asked questions about domain names.

1. What exactly is a subdomain?

A subdomain is essentially a subdomain of the main domain name. Videos.wpbeginner.com, for example, is a subdomain of wpbeginner.com.

When you register a domain, you gain the ability to create subdomains for it on your own.

Websites frequently use subdomains to create child-sites under the same domain name. A business website, for example, can designate a subdomain for their blog or online store as store.example.com or blog.example.com.

2. Can I cancel my domain name registration?

You can cancel your domain registration with some domain registrars at any time. If you cancel your registration, it will be made available to others.

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

In most cases, you will not be able to get a refund for your domain registration. However, some domain registrars have refund policies that you should inquire about before canceling your registration.

If you do not enable the auto-renewal feature, your domain name will simply expire at the end of the registration period you have paid for.

3. Can I change the domain name of my website?

You certainly can. You can point your domain name to the server where you host your website. Both domain names can also point to the same website.

Even so, search engines recognize duplicate content, which will have an impact on your search rankings.

We hope this article helped you learn what is a domain name and how do domains work.

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