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About Website Domain Name
Published: Thursday, January 08, 2004


What is a domain name?

Domain name is the unique address that identifies the location of the website. For example, the website address or URL (Uniform Resource Locator) of WebsiteGear is http://www.websitegear.com. Here websitegear.com is the domain name. http:// is the protocol used to access this website, and www is a subdomain (not required). You can access this site by typing in http://websitegear.com without the www. Domain names are registered by the website owner with a domain registrar such as GoDaddy.com.

Why are domain names used?

There are millions of unique websites and each website resides on a web server. Each web server can be identified by a unique address known as IP Address. In order to find the web server for a particular website, one has to remember the IP address of that server. IP addresses consist of digits only (e.g. 209.170.32.50) and are difficult to remember. Therefore, domain names were introduced in 1985 to create an easy-to-remember mapping of the server address and the web server location, where the actual website pages reside.

How is a domain name used to find the website?

Each domain name is registered with an ICANN (http://www.icann.org) approved domain registrar. The domain registrars maintain a database of the domain names registered with them along with the location of the name servers for that website. This information is stored in the DNS (Domain Name System) server. The information of the domain name and IP address mapping is stored at many places by the internet service providers so as to access the information faster.

When an internet user enters the URL for the website (e.g. http://www.websitegear.com), a request is sent from the web browser (or web client) to the nearest regional DNS server to lookup the corresponding IP address for that domain name. If the DNS server can not resolve the location of the domain name, it sends the request to a parent DNS server. This process goes on until the IP address of the server, which hosts the website, is located. The DNS server then provides the browser with the correct IP address, if it exists; otherwise, it returns an error message or redirects the user elsewhere. The browser can then interact with the web server using the IP address and request specific web pages or graphics etc. These pages are then downloaded to the web browser and displayed on the user's computer.

Domain name extension (TLD) and second level domain

The domain name consits of two parts: the top-level-domain (TLD) and the second level domain. A TLD is also known as the domain name extension (e.g. com, net, org). For example, in case of the domain websitegear.net, websitegear is the second level domain and net is the extension or TLD. The second level domain and the extension are separated by a dot (.). The most common TLDs in use are com, net and org.

There are country specific domain extensions such as .us (U.S.A.), .uk (U.K.), .ca (Canada).

Finding the appropriate domain name for your site

A website domain name often speaks a lot on the internet. It is necessary for a website owner to wisely choose the right domain name and extension. However, the increasingly unavailable domain name frustation can cause someone to deviate from the original naming suggestions to something that does not relate to the website's goal or content.

Whois

Whois is used to find the domain name information stored in a registrars database. It contains the domain name's owner, address, contact information, name servers etc. According to ICANN, this information should be publicly available for anyone to look at. However, due to high risk of origin of spam from whois, privacy concerns and competing registrar related issues, some registrars allow the domain registrants to hide their information and show the registrar's information instead.

Click here for the whois tool.
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