Crash Course in Domain Names (Including Infographic)
Picking a domain name is one of the first things you have to do to become a website owner. It’s how users remember your website and it’s largely permanent. You can go through the hassle of changing your domain name, but it’s best to get it right the first time.
To help you understand domain names, the web hosting experts over at the Hosting Tribunal created a helpful infographic with all the domain facts you need.
Here, we’ll cover the basics and explain what domain names are about.
What Are Domain Names
Every website has an IP address. It’s a unique string of numbers that browsers use to find the website on the internet. Technically, you don’t need a domain name. All you need to visit a website is the IP address. Unfortunately, humans aren’t all that good at remembering random strings of numbers.
You can think of it as contacts in a phone. A phone can hold thousands of phone numbers, but the person owning it probably wouldn’t know or even recognize most of them. That’s why contact names exist and are associated with each number.
It’s the same with domain names. They help you find a website without knowing the IP address. For example, you can find Facebook by typing “188.8.131.52” in your browser. However, it’s much easier to remember the domain name “facebook.com”.
For it to work, each domain name has to be unique. It is a complicated system, but ICAAN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) regulates it. They ensure there are no overlaps in domain names. All you need to know, for now, is that no two websites can have exactly the same domain name.
If you want to see whether a domain name is available, you can check on a domain name registrar. GoDaddy lets you check domain name availability for all common extensions like .com, .org, .uk, and so on.
Breaking Down Domain Names
When you look at a web address in your browser, it looks like this: “https://www.google.com/”. It has several segments. We’ll explain each one.
The “https” is not an actual part of the domain name. It is a protocol computer networks use to communicate, and it is the basis of communication on the internet. While it is important, it doesn’t have much to do with domain names so we won’t cover it here.
Where the rest of the link is concerned, you read a domain name from right to the left. This is because the TLD (e.g. “.com”) is superordinate to the actual domain (e.g. “facebook”). And the actual domain is superordinate to the subdomain. We’ll explain in a moment.
So, if we go from right to left, the first is the TLD. It’s marked by a .com, .net, or any other extension.
TLD stands for Top-Level Domain. It is hierarchically above your particular domain, meaning that one TLD contains many actual domains; there are millions of dot-com websites.
So, if your domain name has a .com extension, it shows you own a commercial site. .org usually means you run a non-profit organization. These two, however, are not strictly regulated. You can use .org for commercial purposes if you want to and vice versa.
There are those extensions that are restricted. For instance, only colleges and universities can use .edu.
When choosing a domain name, .com is the most familiar to internet users. That’s why it’s usually the best option.
The middle part is the actual domain. This is the “google” in “www.google.com”. It is what the users remember, so give this part some thought
Although you can, you are best off not using numbers or hyphens in your domain name. Also, make the domain name under 14 characters long. You want a domain name that is snappy, short, and memorable. You’d be surprised how much of an impression domain names leave on users.
The final section indicates a subdomain. The actual domain usually gets a “WWW” prefix. Subdomains are a level under the actual domain.
For instance, if your website “www.example.com” has a subdomain with a mobile version, its address might look something “m.example.com”. In this example, the “m.” would be the subdomain.
A subdomain belongs to your main domain and forms a smaller domain of its own. It operates under your actual domain. That’s why it’s called a SUBdomain.
That covers the basics of what domain names are. You can register your own domain name through any domain name registrar.
Before doing so, it’s best to do some research and find out what kind of domain names appeal to internet users. A domain name is your website’s name and it makes the first impression, so you want it to be a good one.
The infographic below is a good resource to start. It has a lot of fascinating info about domain names.