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What is a domain name, anyway?

If you’re starting out a new business, one of the key things on your to-do list should be to create a web presence. There are a lot of moving parts in the process of acquiring one, including things like registering your domain name, setting up web hosting and installing a security certificate. This blog post aims to answer the question: what is a domain name, anyway?

When you type a web address, you are trying to reach a computer or group of computers somewhere that hold the content you want. Each of those computers will have a unique address (called an “IP address”) so that it can be located on the web network. Every IP address is unique, so that every computer connected to the web can be addressed directly. It is possible to contact an individual computer or server by typing in its IP address directly into your browser.

However, most people using the web prefer a more language-like form to make the connection. Moreover, many websites consist of a collection of IP addresses that are difficult to address one at a time.

The web address is organized something like a military command. First you have the “http://www” part. The initials stand for hypertext transfer protocol on the World Wide Web. These initials are a request (or a command) that calls for a response from a computer that hosts a website. It says, “send me a status report. Let me know if we connect.”

The second part of the web address is the domain name. The domain name is the name for the collection of IP addresses in a website. When you enter the web address you are calling for a particular internet identity or package of IP addresses. The domain name ends with a dot followed by a designation. There are a limited number of designations, but that range of designations is growing over the next few years. The designations include the familiar

  • “.com”–commercial,
  • “.net”–network (also commercial),
  • “.org”–non-profit organization, and
  • “.ca”–Canadian.

Following the domain name you often find a “/” followed by the “resource id.” This is the name of the particular page or part of the substance within the domain name you are looking for specifically. The domain name may be a library that contains a collection of web pages or sections. The “resource id” is one of those sections contained in the domain name’s collection.

The idea of the URL (Uniform Resource Locator–sometimes called the web address) is to help people find web locations more easily. The browser you use on your computer includes software called DNS lookup (domain name system lookup) that looks for the IP address associates with the URL you ask for.

How to get yourself on the World Wide Web.

If you want to put content on the internet, you need an address. You can get one by adding your content to an established website, thereby obtaining a resource id. Many blog sites are available that let you do that.

However, if you are a businesse, you may prefer to have your own domain name. Getting a domain name involves finding a unique name and registering it with an organization (located in Los Angeles, California) called ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) which will slot you into the namespaces of the internet.

If you have a domain name, you still need to have a server to host your domain and all the content you want others to access. Typically the server must be connected to the internet all the time. There are many companies that will help you buy domain names (including us!). Web hosting services will provide the server for your web site for a monthly “hosting” fee.

Hyperweb Communications is a Toronto-based website development and hosting company that has delivered hundreds of websites since 1995. For more information, please contact us.





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