What Is A Domain Name? The Easy Guide For Non-Technical Business Owners

A common question we receive from beginners is: what is a domain? Don't I just need a website? What's the difference?

What Is A Domain? The Easy Guide For Non-Technical Business Owners

Domain names, are often confused with a website or hosting service. Initially, the different terms may seem highly technical to someone who’s just starting.

Coupled with all the other aspects of running a website, all the technical jargon can make you feel overwhelmed. It’s like arriving in the middle class because you got lost on your way there and now you don’t have a clue what they’re talking about and you're scared to ask questions and be ousted as the noob who doesn't even know what a DNS is (hint: it's not a domain but vital to getting one of your own!).

Regardless of the situation,  you need to know the difference between a website and web hosting. You need to understand the importance of choosing the right domain name. And let's be honest, it's super helpful to know how Google can help your site actually be found.

Don't worry! It's a lot simpler to understand than you think. So grab a cup of coffee, and keep reading to learn precisely what a web domain is and the difference between a domain name, web hosting, and a website. You'll be the master of your own domain in no time (no Seinfield pun intended).

What Is A Domain Name?

Domain names indicate a numeric IP address used to access a website through client software. Sounds complicated, right? Believe it or not, you're probably already familiar with this term and may not realize it.

In order to visit your website, a visitor types in its domain name into their browser's URL bar. The domain name would be like the address of your website if it were your home.

Still confused? Here is a more detailed explanation: 

An Internet is a vast network of computers linked through a global system. The computers on this network can communicate with each other.

Computers are assigned IP addresses in order to identify them. An IP address (or Internet Protocol address) is a set of numbers that uniquely identify a computer on the web. Think of it like the computer's social security or driver's license number.

This manner has a name; the Domain Name System (DNS). DNS allows users to enter simple domain names and be routed to the websites they are searching. Rather than the website's actual address, which is a complex numeric IP address.

Because it's a lot more convenient to remember "Festivus.com" when you need supplies for the Feats of Strength than a long-winded number.

What Does A Domain Name Actually Do?

The first time you enter a domain name in your web browser, a request is made to a set of servers across the internet that comprise the Domain Name System (DNS).

Next, the domain servers search for the name servers associated with the domain and forward the request to them.

Your hosting company manages these name servers. Upon submitting your request, your hosting company will forward it to the computer where your website is housed.

Computers like this are called web servers. There is specially designed software installed on it (two popular web servers are Apache and CloudFlare). The server retrieves the web page and all associated information during this process.

Finally, it sends this information back to the web browser. The website loads and boom goes the dynamite.

So there you have it.

The purpose of domain names is to make it easier for users to reach a website's exact location, so they do not have to remember the address.

As unique as a snowflake, your domain name is yours. When people type it into a browser, they go straight to your website.

What's The Difference Between A Domain And A Website?

Domain names and websites are often thought of as the same thing. They're not though they're related. Essentially, the domain name is the address of your website, and web hosting is the home that your website resides in.

But we’ll discuss  web hosting a little later. For now, just know your website's actual files are kept on this computer. Host companies provide these computers as a service, known as servers.

A website contains various files, such as HTML pages, images, and more. You'll get a web address when you register a domain, but not a website (that'll be up to you). Even if you don't use a domain for a website, you can't have one without it.

If you're looking to start, before you start building your site, you'll need to buy a domain name, register it, and then find hosting so people can see it.

What Is Web Hosting?

Website hosting enables individuals and organizations to publish their websites online. In the technology world, a web host is a company that provides the technologies and services necessary for the internet to display websites and web pages.

These websites are typically stored on servers, which are special computers. Internet users need only type your website address or domain into their browser to access your website. Your web pages are delivered to their browser through a connection between their computer and your server.

You need to own a domain to host with most companies. Many hosting companies can help you buy a domain if you don't have one.

There you have it; the three things you need for a website.

More Domain Name System Fun Facts

The Internet Corporation manages the DNS for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). As a non-profit organization, it is responsible for formulating and implementing policies concerning domain names.

Domain Name Registrars are companies that receive permission from ICANN to sell domain names. These domain registrars are permitted to modify the domain name registry on your behalf.

These registrars are responsible for selling domain names, managing their records, renewing them, and transferring them from one registrar to another.

Your responsibility is to inform the registrar where to send requests as the domain owner. It is also your responsibility to renew the registration.

To Conclude

Still a little confused? So here’s a little analogy for you, think of yourself as your website, your domain name as your address, and web hosting as your house.

Now that you have a clearer picture of what a domain name is and what the differences between a domain name, website, and web hosting, what will you do with that newfound knowledge?

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