When you type a domain name into your browser address bar, what happens is as good as magic. All you have to do is type in a few letters and suddenly a website appears. But domain names are far from magic, it’s technology at its finest. If you’re here, then you’re probably wondering how domains work? What really goes on behind the scenes? In this post you’ll learn what domain names actually are, how they work, and the different types of domain names available to you.
What Is a Domain Name?
Domain Name System, or DNS, is the friendly naming system for giving addresses to web servers and web pages. Somewhat like international phone numbers, the domain name system gives every server a memorable and easy-to-spell address. Simultaneously, the domain names hide the really technical IP address, which most viewers aren’t interested in.
A domain name allows you to type in something memorable, such as mysite.com, instead of a complicated string of numbers (known as an IP address) to access a website. How does this process work? The content that makes up your website (photos, blog posts, font files, etc.) are your website files. These website files are hosted on servers all across the globe. But these servers are only recognized by IP addresses. Your IP address will be a string of numbers similar to this: 220.127.116.11.
Your IP address is an identification number that allows one computer to communicate with other over the internet. There’s an intermediary called a Domain Name System (DNS). A set of DNS servers act like a phone book that connects IP addresses to domain names. The role of a DNS is to make browsing the Internet much easier by pointing your domain to a specific IP address.
Instead of having to type in an IP address whenever you want to access a website, all you have to do is type in the domain name. In other words, a domain name is a more memorable version of your IP address. Every domain name is composed of two different elements, the domain name and the top-level domain. In the example above “mysite” is the domain name, while “.com” is the top-level domain.
Some example internet domain names:
What Is a Top Level Domain (TLD)?
Top-level domains are the highest level of domain names. Common top-level domains include .com, .org, .co, .net that you see everywhere. There are a variety of TLDs available and the one you choose depends upon your style of site. For instance, .gov is a top-level domain, but it’s only available to government organizations. Wikipedia offers an exhaustive list of every single top-level domain out there. When purchasing a domain name you can choose the TLD that’s best suited for your website.
What Are Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLD)?
Country code top-level domains are similar to the TLD above, but instead they refer to a specific country. It used to be that you could only register a ccTLD if you were a resident of that specific country, but today those rules are changing. Some common ccTLDs include .co.uk and .au. If you’re curious, here’s another listthat contains every single country code top level domain.
What Is a Subdomain?
Subdomains are prefixes of regular domains. For example, “new.mysite.com” would be a subdomain. These are commonly used to test out new sites, or to build additional elements of a site on the same domain. For example, some companies choose to place their blogs on subdomains, e.g. “blog.mysite.com.”
What Is a Parked Domain?
Sometimes businesses have multiple domains they want to use for a single website. For instance, let’s say you owned “myblankets.com” and also “newblankets.com”. If your site was built on “newblankets.com”, then you could have “myblankets.com” be a parked domain that forwards to the other site. Parked domains are commonly used if you have a domain name that’s typically misspelled, or if you have more than one domain that should go to the primary domain.
What Are Add-on Domains?
An add-on domain is separate website with its own content. You can typically add multiple domains within the same hosting account. But, you still have to register these domains separately. The total number of add-on domains you have associated with a single host will depend upon your hosting package.