Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes when you are creating web content for people all around the world? To understand how website content is accessed, you must understand what domain names are and how they work.
Domain names are a fundamental part of the Internet infrastructure and enable us to easily access websites, email servers, and other content. In this article, we will explain how exactly domain names work and how they enable users to access web content.
What is the difference between a domain name and a web host?
A domain name is to a website as a home address is to a house. A domain name – for example, www.openprovider.com – provides directions on the internet to where a website lives. Where the website lives – it’s “home” – is the web host.
The web host refers to the computer that stores a website’s files. Everything that is needed to create the website content is stored in this computer, such as the HTML, software, and code. These computers are commonly referred to as “servers”. They “serve” to provide this functionality to other computers and devices.
Websites can be hosted either on shared, dedicated servers or cloud-based servers. In recent years, there has been an increasing move towards cloud-based servers. Rather than requiring websites to purchase a specific amount of resources – which they may or may not end up using – cloud-based servers allow websites to scale as needed.
What, exactly, is a domain name?
As we said earlier, a domain name is similar to a person’s home address. It provides a location to direct internet users to the places on the internet that they want to access.
The Internet is, to put it simply, a giant network of computers, each connected to each other through a global network. By communicating to each other efficiently, the internet is able to function. However, in order to communicate, each computer on this network must be able to recognize the other.
Each computer has a unique IP address which serves their identification. An IP address is a series of numbers – usually around 8 – which looks this: 12.345.67.8.
Obviously, it is quite difficult to remember a randomly generated series of numbers to access a website. Domain names circumvent this problem by allowing users to access popular websites without having to memorize numbers.
How do domain names enable users to access website content?
So, you have the address (or, domain name) for your friend’s new house (his website) which he is currently building on a certain plot of land (his web host server). How do you actually use this information to get to his website? What happens behind the scenes when you type in the domain name for his website?
When you first enter in a website name, your computer likely does not have information about it in their database or cache. This triggers your computer to send a message to a DNS (Domain Name System) Server. This is a list of all the registered domain names on the internet, similar to the database of registered home addresses you might find in the Yellow Pages.
The DNS Server finds the IP address that corresponds to the name server for your website and then communicates this to your computer. Although this whole process occurs very quickly, your computer will cache this address for future requests to cut down on website loading times. For example, if your website is hosted on Openprovider, the name server information might look something like this:
The name servers will refer to the web servers from your hosting company that hold the information about your website. The files that comprise the website will then be sent back to the internet browser. The user can then access the website.
What is the Domain Name System (DNS)?
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (known simply as ICANN) is a non-profit organization that manages domain names on the internet. This organization gives out permissions to Domain Name Registrars: companies that sell the rights and ability to make changes to specific domain names.
Every domain name must contain an extension, the most popular one being .com. There are, of course, other extensions such as .org, .io, .net or .gov and more. Different extensions are categorized separately.
A generic Top Level Domain (gTLD), such as .com is available for anyone to purchase. It does not matter what your affiliation or country of origin is. Country code-specific Top Level Domains (ccTLDs), such as .nl, are smart choices for websites who only want to target a specific country. Lastly, a Sponsored Top Level Domain (sTLD) refers to a website that serves a specific community. Examples of these are university websites (.edu) or government websites (.gov).
Choosing the perfect domain name
There are over 350 million registered domain names, and many new ones are registered each day. In fact, demand for certain domain names can be intense. Many domain name resellers make money selling over the rights to certain domain names. For example, the domain name carinsurance.com was sold for a record $49.7 million in 2010! Domain names, like prime pieces of real estate, can be valuable if they bring a large amount of traffic, due to their association with specific words, industries or products.
How do you choose the right domain name for your business? A good domain name is short, easy to remember and preferably is as similar to your business name as possible. If your business has a hard-to-spell or long name, consider abbreviating the name or using just its first word.
There are plenty of domain name generators online that can help you come up with a good domain name. Many of these domain name generators also check if domain names are available before making suggestions.
You can easily get the perfect domain name for you at Openprovider. We offer great deals on top domains, automated domain transfer services, high quality customer support, and free and easy DNS management. Partnering with a domain registrar like Openprovider is therefore a good option. We take care of everything related to your domain and website, so you can dedicate yours to creating the best content for it!