Domain name 101 – The basics.

We’ll be looking into the basics: what a domain name is and why is needed, the theory behind it. Types of domains: TLD & ccTLD. Three to the party: registrant, registrar and registry. Tips before choosing a domain name.

Domain Name – Definitions

A domain name or domain for short, is an unique name used to identify and locate a website. Pretty simple huh?, but why is a domain name needed?. Every single device connected to the internet get an unique number or ip (internet protocol), this number is the address we use to locate and connect with this device (website). The problem is that we are not very good memorizing numbers, so we came with the fantastic idea to map numbers with names and voila!, no more problems remembering our favorite website. Well I still have some problems but that’s beyond the point.

When you type the address of a website, let’s say hostingfornoobs.com, your browser that loves numbers instead of names, go crazy and crash, well not really: it goes around asking if someone knows that hostingfornoobs website, in fact it knows exactly where to find that information: a Domain Name Server. A DNS primary function is to take that beautiful name that  you typed into your browser and translate it into an IP address and then serve that number back to your browser, your browser in turn can now find the website without any more problems.

Domain  Hierarchy

Think of domains like a tree structure, on the root we have a nameless domain from whom every single domain propagates. The domains that are closest to the root are called Top Level Domains or TLD. Second Level Domain is a domain that is below a TLD (further away from the root). Then we have country specific domains in both categories: ccTLD & ccSLD, where cc stands for country code. Let’s see some examples:

  • yourdomainname.com  —-> Top level domain, notice the single extension: .com
  • yourdomainname.ar     —-> ccTLD for Argentina, again notice the single extension: .ar
  • yourdamainname.com.ar –> ccSLD for a commercial organization from Argentina, this is a second level domain as you already guessed.

Having a top level domain is usually what you want, think about this: will people around the world be as interested in your business if your domain seems to be targeting people from you country?. However sometimes, for example in the case of institutions or small businesses, a second level domain is more adequate or desirable.

Registrant, Registrar & Registry

The moment you try to register a domain name you became a registrant. The entity that is selling you the domain is the registrar. Both you and the registrar are regulated by an organization called the registry.  You will need to provide your relevant data to the registrar, the registrar in turn will pass that info along with your new domain name to the registry who will then check that everything is in order and make that info available to the public so that the rest of the world can now be aware about your new domain name and where it resides.

About that last part, you are responsible to provide the address (ip) of the host where your website will be residing, to the registrar. This is called “updating the dns” or something alike. Once that is done your registrar will pass that info to the registry and they will finally match-up (or map) your domain name with an ip. People around the world can now find your website just by typing your wonderful domain name. I am sure you realize now that when registering a domain name you are not required to provide a IP number immediately, that’s it: you don’t need to specify a hosting provider, this come in handy if you just found a great name for your domain and want to “reserve” it but are not ready to choose a hosting company or to create a website yet.

Choosing a domain name

Now that you know what a domain is and why you need one, is time to talk about some tips when choosing your name. First of all let’s go with the generalizations:

  • choose a relevant name to the content of the website
  • avoid trademarks problems, don’t go choosing names like wordpressfornoobs.com
  • avoid hyphens ( – ) , they are not user friendly
  • avoid names that are prune to confusion like: hosting4noobs instead of hostingfornoobs
  • try to use short names: less typing, easier to remember
  • go for a top level domain, one that is relevant to your business or institution (see here)

Exceptions to the above:

  • content is king, if you cannot choose a relevant name but you can serve good content then don’t worry too much, your website will still be relevant
  • hyphens are necessary sometimes to help name clarity
  • personal sites and websites for special occasions are OK with a very long and descriptive name
  • like stated before, second level domains are also important and more to the point sometimes
  • invented words can also be OK if they are easy to remember and have no tendency to be confused with something else

If you are ready to choose a domain name then you will need a registrar, you will have no problem finding one, some of the most popular registrars are Godaddy and Namecheap. I won’t tell you which one to pick, that’s up to you, however there are things that you should consider before going with any registrar. I will address those things in a future post so stay tune!.

Finally remember that your domain name is your brand, choose wisely!.

 

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1 Response

  1. Registering a domain name is essentially like owning a small slice of internet real estate and, just like in the real estate market, consumers will be expected to cough up a good deal of information about themselves and pay for the privilege of claiming their corner of the internet’s public space.

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