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Domain Name Basics


One of the most exciting activities associated with starting a web site is picking the domain name. With online tools available to help you search for and register available names, it has become a quick and easy process to stake claim to a domain. But what exactly is a domain name? What does it represent? This article digs deeper into the origins and definitions of internet domain names.

Just Like an Address

When you visit a website using your browser, you enter the location of the website which is usually denoted as "", where site-name could be Yahoo, Ebay, or Amazon. The entire tail end of the name "" is also called a domain name. A domain name is simply a unique address that specifies the location of a website. Just like every physical location has a street address (e.g. 123 Apple St.) which idenitifes its location (street number, city, zip code), a domain name specifies the address of a website. However, unlike your home address, web site domains are based on a different structure that underneath it all, helps your internet browser search through the entire world wide web to locate a specific web page.


In 1971 a protocol was developed called TCP/IP. Although it was not fully adopted until 1984, TCP/IP became (and still is) the primary method for computers to communicate over telecommunications networks. The entire backbone of the internet is based on the TCP/IP protocol. Without getting under the hood of TCP/IP and how it operates, simply understand that TCP/IP is a communications language that allows two computers (which may be different) to communicate with one another. As part of this protocol, an addressing scheme had to be developed so that one computer could identify another computer over a network. This TCP/IP address or "IP Address" uniquely identifies every location on the internet. A TCP/IP address is composed of 4 numbers separated by a period. Each number can range from 0 to 255. For example, an IP address may look something like : Every network connected device in the entire internet must be assigned a unique IP address so that communications can occur between it and other computers.

Too Many Numbers!

Unfortunately, although the TCP/IP protocol provided for a simple and effective way for computers to communicate across networks, it did create problems as the size of the internet grew. If you can imagine, in order for one computer to communicate with another, it had to have knowledge of the IP address of the destination computer. Certainly, you can see how hard it would be to maintain a list of 100 IP addresses and remember which destination computer is associated with it. In order to make the process of remembering the address of computers on the internet, a system was developed in 1984 called the Domain Name System. The domain name system established a way to recognize host computers on the internet without having to remember their numerical IP addresses. Using the domain name system, a computer on the internet whose IP address is "" could call itself "". Within the internet, there are domain name servers which are computers that store the millions of internet IP addresses and their associated domain name. So, when you type in "" in your browser, your computer first goes to one of the many domain name servers on the internet, finds (or resolves) the IP address associated with "" and, using that IP address, begins a communication session with the amazon system.

Get Them While They're Hot

Luckily, acquiring a domain name is very simple. In order to stake a claim to a domain name to call your own, you must first find an available name and then register the name with a registrar. A domain name registrar is a company who is responsible for distributing domain names to people.

On the home page, there is a list of registrars who can register your domain name. Domain names are registered yearly, if you let the registration lapse then somebody else can register the name.

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