How do Domain Name Work?

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.

Domain registration guidelines are not set on a pre-registrar basis, but are instead determined by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN. This governing body is essentially a global regulator of best practices for registrars, web hosts, and the clients who interact with them. According to the body’s standards, all customers registering a domain name must be prepared to furnish contact information for themselves, their organization, their business, and even their employer in some cases.

Domain names work because they provide computer users with a short name that is easy to remember. Users enter web addresses into the URL field at the top of their browser’s page from left to right. The domain name itself is read from right to left according to the naming hierarchy discussed below. This link provides directions to the network, which ultimately results in a successful page load at the client end of the transaction.

The common fictitious domain name, www.example.com, is comprised of three essential parts:

  • .com – This is the top-level domain.
  • .example. – This is a sub-domain.
  • www. – This is a sub-domain prefix for the World Wide Web. The original use of this prefix was partly accidental, and pronunciation difficulties raised interest in creating viable alternatives.

Many servers use a three-letter naming convention for top-level domains, and they are separated from sub-domains by a dot. The significance of the top-level domain is the most important for new users to grasp. It identifies the highest part of the naming system used on the Internet. This naming system was originally created to identify countries and organizations as well as categories.

The most common categories are easily recognized by new computer users, and they include:

  • .com
  • .org
  • .edu
  • .net
  • .mil

A significant expansion of the top-level domains occurred, and they now include:

  • .biz
  • .museum
  • .info
  • .name

Country codes are also easily recognizable to new users because the abbreviations are the same ones used for other purposes. The organization of the domain name hierarchy and the ability to reserve them for only one purpose has already undergone several modifications. Discussions and debates concerning the availability and affordability of domain names can be expected to continue.

For those customers who are seeking to register a country-specific domain name option (like “.us” or “.co.uk”), a good portion of the registration process will be dedicated to determining whether or not the customer is a resident of that country and therefore legally permitted to purchase one of its country-specific top level domains (will talk about this later). And that should hammer home a secondary point to consumers.

While there are hundreds of available domain name suffixes (like “.com” or “.net), many of these domains have specific registration requirements. For example, only organizations can register a “.org” domain name, and only American citizens can register a domain name that ends in “.us.” Failing to meet the guidelines and requirements for each type of domain during the actual registration and payment process will result in the domain name being “released” back into the pool of available domain names; the customer will have to pick a top level domain for which they actually qualify, or cancel their purchase altogether.

Sub-domains are organized to the left of the top-level domain, and this is the part of the domain system that is most recognizable to humans. It is common to see several levels of sub-domains, and some countries developed specific conventions of organization to communicate information within their internal naming systems.