What is a Domain Name?

If you want to know more about exactly what is a domain name, this post answers some common queries about domain names and how they work…

In simple terms a domain name is another name for a website name.

Like the one for this site – FastStepInternetMarketing.com

It uniquely identifies an internet site address in a human friendly way using more understandable words and characters instead of the numerical only protocol (called IP addresses) that computers use to communicate with each other over the internet.

It means you, and others, can more easily locate and reference a website’s content.

The computer (web host server) that stores the content and files for a particular site will have its own IP address – as do the millions of other computers connected to the internet.

An IP address currently comprises 4 numbers, like this for example, 123.456.123.789 or

To avoid having to type (and remember) numbers like this into a web browser whenever you want to view a website, (which you can if you wish), you use its domain name instead.

The domain name that is entered into the browser gets translated by the Domain Name System (DNS) process into the correct IP address. This means that when a browser requests the files to display the content for a site, it is directed to, and connected to, the computer with that IP address and from which the relevant files can be retrieved and then displayed by the browser.

When you register a website you will associate it with one or more (usually more) nameservers. These act to associate your domain name with the IP address of the computer that is hosting the site so that other computers can locate it to access and display the content requested by someone trying to view your site.

Is a Domain Name the Same as a URL ?

Sometimes people refer to a domain name as a URL which is incorrect.

A URL (or Uniform Resource Locator) also includes the protocol (such as http:// or ftp:// or mailto:// etc ) that precedes the domain name as well as anything that follows after the domain name, such as the file path information for a particular page or file.

Like the one for this page – http://FastStepInternetMarketing.com/domain-names/what-is-a-domain-name/

The first part shows the protocol in use, the second part is the domain name, and the remainder shows the file path (which may include directories and then file names, or just file names)

What is a Top Level Domain?

A domain name consists of different elements separated by dots.

The term Top Level Domain (TLD) refers to the last part of the domain name such as .com & .org & .net and so on. The Top Level Domain is the most significant part of the domain name.

There is a group of Top Level domains called generic Top Level Domains (or gTLD). These are .com, .net, .org, .mil, .gov, .edu and a few other such endings (originally there were seven, now there are several). Some of these endings are restricted for use by appropriate types of organisations, such as .edu for educational bodies etc.

In addition, there are country code Top Level Domains (ccTLD) such as .au (Australia), .uk (the UK), .nl (Netherlands), .in (India) etc etc.

What is a Subdomain?

You may see a domain name like this:   http://www.support.businesswebsitename.com/about

In this case the label ‘support’ is a subdomain. A subdomain allows a site to be split into sections for easier management and navigation.

In the case above, ‘support’ is a third level domain (businesswebsitename is the second level domain). You can have additional levels of subdomain (upto 127 if you really want) each separated by a dot – e.g.


And if you’re wondering, yes www is also a subdomain level – it shows that the hostname is a webserver. It could instead be ftp for an FTP server.

For the purposes of internet marketing, that’s probably about as much (if not more) of an understanding of domain name terminology as you’ll need in most cases.

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