What's a Domain Name?

Each web site on the internet has a numeric address that functions like coordinates on a map. Instead of pointing to a geographic location on earth, these numeric addresses, called IP addresses, point to a geographical location on the Internet. Computers have no problems with locating and remembering numeric addresses. In contrast, most humans have trouble remembering long complicated sequences of numbers. So, to make surfing the web easier, the domain name system was invented. This system allows people to use easy to remember names for web sites instead of those number sequences.

The standard domain name consists of three parts:

  • Second level domain
  • Root (the "dot")
  • Top level Domain

Arranged as follows:
second level domain, root, top level domain

So, if your second level domain is second-level and you choose the "com" for it, then, when you add the "root," your domain name is second-level.com

So, in short, a domain name is nothing more than a three-part alias for a numeric web address. It's really that simple. If you like to get a more technical explanation, read on!

Domain names are organized according to specific hierarchy, called the DNS naming hierarchy. The DNS naming hierarchy is a tree-like arrangement with ascending authority. Each domain represents a distinct chunk of the naming hierarchy and is managed by a single administrative entity. The root of this "tree" is called "." (the dot in DNS jargon) and beneath it are the top-level (or "root-level") domains. The top-level domains are relatively fixed.

For historical reasons (the Internet started in the United States, funded by the Department of Defense in the 1960s, yes, that's nineteen-sixties, well before the birth of personal computers), there are two sorts of top-level domain names. In the US, generic top-level domains(gTLDs) used to describe organizational and political structures and are usually given three-letter names. Over the past few years, a number of these gTLDs have become "unrestricted", i.e. anyone can register a domain in that gTLD. You do not even have to reside in the US or be a business entity. For domains outside the US, two-letter ISO (International Organization For Standardization) country codes are used.

Here are the current gTLDs. Over the next few months, there will likely be new additions to this list.

Top level Domain What it used to be for Who can register?
.COM Commercial Companies Anyone - Unrestricted
.EDU Educational Institutions 4 Year Universities only
.GOV Government Agcy's Restricted
.MIL Military Agencies Restricted US Military
.NET Network Providers Anyone - Unrestricted
.ORG Not-for-profit organizations Anyone - Unrestricted
.ARPA A historical holdover No longer used

Thus, anyone can register a .com, .net or .org domain. In fact, many companies now register all three domains in order to truly secure their web identity.

To apply for a domain name, you must have secured at least two name servers for handling DNS inquires about your domain on the Internet. Thus, for individuals and companies who do not have full time connections to the Internet and who do not have these expensive name servers, it is easier to submit your application for a domain name through an Internet service company like us who can provide you the pre-requisite name servers and handle all the registration details for you.

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