What is a Domain Name

What is a domain name
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Written by Simon

Last Updated 16/12/2023

Beginners often ask the PODTech Team: What is a domain name, and how do they work?

A common mistake to make is confusing a domain name with a website or hosting. In this guide, we will explore the relationship between domain name & web hosting to see how these two work together to deliver your website.

Beginner tutorial into domain names

What is a Domain Name?

If you imagine the World Wide Web as a giant network of roads intersecting one another and expanding out into the seemingly infinite distance, your domain name is like your home address. 

To understand this in a little more detail, the Internet is a giant network of computers. A global network of fibre optics connects all these computers. As you can imagine, with so many intersecting computers there needs to be a quick and simple solution to being able to identify these. 

To assist with identification, each computer is assigned an IP address. An IP address consists of a group of numbers and allows other computers to identify each other on the internet. A typical IP address may look like this: 55.658.99.1

For computers, this is the simplest way to identify each other. However, human brains aren’t wired in the same way as computers to remember information. Imagine having to remember a long list of numbers every time you wanted to jump on Facebook and share your cute dog pictures!

To resolve this, developers created domain names to replace these numbers. Our domain name is www.podtech.co.uk.

How Do Domains Work?

To understand how domains work, let’s look at what happens when you type in PODTech’s domain name into your browser.

The nanosecond after you hit Enter on your keyboard, your browser (Chrome/Safari etc) springs into action, sending out requests to a huge network of servers called a Domain Name System (DNS). These servers direct your browser to where your website’s information lives.

These servers are managed by hosting companies like PODTech. If these DNS servers don’t have the location of your website information, they send messages on to other DNS servers in a chain reaction until your host’s server is located.

Once your web host’s DNS server is located, it then sends the location of your website information back to your browser. A web server is the name given to this computer.

Finally, the web server fetches the web page and pieces of information associated with it back to the browser. All this happens in a matter of seconds.

How Is A Domain Name Different From Hosting Or A Website?

Files like HTML, JavaScript, CSS, and much more make up a website.

If the domain is your address, then your hosting is your house where all your stuff lives. Just like your house, you rent this space. 

This ‘house’ is a computer that stores all the files relating to your website. These computers are called servers and server space can be rented on these by web hosting companies such as PODTech. You need both a domain name and hosting to create a website.

Recommended Reading: How does Web Hosting Work?

What happens if you have purchased a domain from one company and hosting from another?

As all these computers are connected via the Internet, it’s very common to use one provider for one and another for the other. What this means is that you could purchase a domain name from a third party and a hosting plan with PODTech and set them up to talk to each other. You do this by editing the information with the domain name to point to your host company’s DNS records.

What Are The Different Types Of Domain Names?

So how do you tell what type of domain you have? This is quite straightforward, simply look at the domain extension. Let’s look at the example below:

example of how URLs are broken down into different sections

This link is split into four sections. “www.” tells us that this is a website. “pinkorangedesigns” tells us the main domain name. and “.co.uk” tells us the domain extension. Finally, after the “/” all other web pages associated to the website extend off from here.

There are three main types of domain extensions and each has its use:

Top Level Domain – TLD

A top-level domain are generic extension such as .com or .org

Country Code Top Level Domain – ccTLD

These again are top-level extensions but refer to specific reasons such as .uk for the United Kingdom or .za for South Africa

Sponsored Top Level Domain – sTLD

This extension indicates a representation of a community. For example, .gov is related to your country’s government.

So which extension should you pick?

Well, this boils down to personal preference. We always recommend opting for TLD or ccTLD. If you want something more generic always go for a .com, however, if you want to show your visitors what country you’re in, using .co.uk always helps.

How To Choose A Domain Name For My Website?

Before purchasing a domain, you must consider several factors.:

  1. Is my domain name appropriate for my industry?
  2. Do I need to include my business name in my domain name?
  3. Is my domain name too long?
  4. What is the best extension for my domain name?
  5. Is the spelling of my domain name correct?
  6. Do not use punctuation or numbers. 

How Do I Buy A Domain?

On average, you can purchase domains for £14.99 a year from many registrars. Don’t fall into the trap of cheap purchase domains as these tend to have hidden clauses that end up costing you more in the long term.

Recommended Reading: What is an SSL Certificate?

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