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What Is a Domain Name?

Updated on March 3, 2014
What are domain names?
What are domain names? | Source

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are domain names?
  • Why do we need them?
  • How are they used?

Domain names are…

names that identify computers on the internet. Domain names are used in URLs to identify certain web pages and the purpose of a domain name is to help us easily remember IP addresses.

Characteristics of a domain name

Most of us have memorized dozens of domain names such as:,, Yet do we really know what a domain name is? A domain name is a hierarchical, unique, correspondent to an IP address that identifies computers on the internet. In short, domain names are used in URLs to identify certain web pages. For example, is the domain name in the URL - However, a domain name is not the same as URL. A URL goes into much more detail than domain names and provides more information such as a specific page address, folder name, machine name, and protocol language.

Every domain name has to be unique and on the internet no two organizations can have the same domain name. Each domain name has two or more parts that are separated by a dot such as The part to the left of the dot is specific and the part to the right of the dot is more general, indicating the logical venue of the site. Domain names must be registered with a . A typical domain name has a second-level domain and a top level domain. Every domain name has a suffix that indicates which top level domain (TLD) it belongs to. For example:

    .com - Commercial business
    .edu - Educational institutions
    .ca - Canada

The COM, EDU and CA part of a domain name is called the top-level domain or first-level domain. There are several hundred top-level domain names as well as unique two-letter combinations for every country. There is also a huge list of second-level domains in every top-level domain. For example, in the COM first-level domain, there is:

  • yahoo
  • msn
  • microsoft
  • about

Every name in the COM top-level domain has to be unique, but there can be duplication across domains. For example, and are completely different machines. Because all of the names in a given domain need to be unique, there has to be a single entity that controls the list and makes sure no duplicates arise. Domain names are intended to be a memorable "nicknames" for the user such as

The true address of a web host is its Internet Protocol Address, or IP Address. Since the Internet is based on IP addresses and not domain names, every web sever (a web server is a computer that delivers web pages) requires a Domain Name System (DNS) server to translate domain names into IP addresses. Each domain name corresponds to numeric IP addresses which are used by the internet to transmit data. The DNS completes the task of matching domain names to IP addresses so that the user only has to remember the domain names and not the numbers.


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