What is a Domain & How do they work?
A domain is simply your address on the internet. It’s much like your home address which tells users where on the web you live. When someone wants to find your website, a domain is what they type into the browser URL bar. Domains make finding websites super simple, but it wasn’t always that easy.
Before, users would use a series of numbers called an IP address to identify a particular computer on the internet. These numbers were really hard to remember and so domain names were created to solve this problem.
Types of domains?
There are various types of domain names and they are all broken down into different categories. Let’s start by noting that there are three main categories of domain names.
- Generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) - like .media, .app, .lawyer, etc.
- Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) - such as: .lu, .uk, .de, .fr, etc.
- Sponsored Top Level Domain (sTLD) - .edu
Generic Top Level Domain (gTLD)
TLD are generic domain extensions. These include .com, .org and .net and are considered the cream of the crop in the Domain Name System - DNS.
Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD)
ccTLD are country specific. They end with country code extension. .uk for the United Kingdom and .ca for Canada are examples of ccTLD. Websites wanting to target audiences in specific countries generally opt to use ccTLD.
Sponsored Top Level Domain (sTLD)
sTLDs generally have a sponsor representing specific communities that are served by the domain extension. These include .edu or .com. They are all the types of demands such as Second Level Domains and Subdomains.
How do domain names work?
Domains are super important, because they allow computers to find the server on which your website is being hosted. But to understand how domains work, it’s important to note that they are part of a bigger network referred to as a domain name system or DNS.
How DNS works is that when your domain name is entered into a browser, the computer will first check it’s cache. This is to see if the same domain had been previously requested. If there’s no record of it being requested before, the computer will make contact with the local DNS server. When it does that, if it still finds that there are no records of the domain name in the ISP cache, the computer will move on to the next step which is to locate the name servers which are associated with that domain.
To make this association, the local DNS server goes into full detective mode by splitting up the domain name into different sections so it can undertake its inspection.
An example of this would be www.luxhosting.lu which would be broken down into .lu, luxhosting and www.
The investigation will then begin with the .lu section being reviewed first. In this review, the local DNS server makes a link with the root name server in an effort to find out which server has the domain information for the sTLD.
Once that’s established the computer will then contact the next server to find out which name server is the holder of the details on the second part of the domain name which would be a luxhosting.
The process continues like this until all the requested information about your website arrives to the browser that initially made the request.
How to register a domain?
To buy or register a domain name you have to main options. You’ll need to either use a web host provider or a domain registration company. Let’s look at each option.
1. Web host provider
There are a number of ways that you can use your wireless provider to get a domain name. The most common way though is to go through your primary web hosting company, which is super easy and convenient. But like everything else in life, this method comes with advantages and disadvantages.
One of the disadvantages that readily come to mind is that if you decide to change your web hosting company, it may prove difficult to get the same domain name. But there is good news in that not all web hosting companies will make the process difficult for you.
2. Use a domain registration company.
Your second main option is a domain registration company which comes with a number of pros and cons. One example of the cons is that the process is long and time-consuming. But the pricing associated with it, makes the registration process the cheaper option in the long term.
So if you registered it, you own it for the duration of the registration period.
While the process of using a web host of a domain registration company is different, there are some basic things that you should look out for whether you’re considering one choice or another.
- The company should have an accreditation from a governing body.
- Use an a reputable company
- Be sure to find out if it protects your private information, gives great customer support and has no hidden fees.
Here are some other points to ponder before you make an actual purchase of a domain name.
- Safety. When you register for a domain name, WHOIS stores your personal information. Who has access to that? Everyone! For this reason, it is encouraged that you pay the little extra to secure your data with WHOIS domain privacy.
- Multiple domains - When you buy one type of domain, such as the gTLD, buy the other versions of you afford to. This prevents you from losing traffic and visitors who may mistype your website info. It also prevents your competitors from creating similar sites and rerouting your traffic to theirs.
- Auto renew it. This may sound like very basic information, but failure to renew your registration could cause you to lose it to someone else. So instead of taking the risk of forgetting to renew, set up auto renew at time of purchase.
Setting up a domain name is a quick and easy process. Once you register your domain your name, either with a web host provider or a domain registration company, the next step is to create your website and launch your big idea on the World Wide Web.