Are you thinking of setting up a website or landing page for your business? Among the first set of things you need to do is register a domain name for your business. The problem is that when you are not IT savvy, understanding how the Domain Name System works alongside the terminology associated with it can seem challenging. This guide was designed to simplify everything for you.
First of All, Do You Know What an IP Address Is?
An IP address simply means an internet protocol address. It’s consists of four numbers separated by a dot, and each number has one to three digits. An example of an IP address is 220.127.116.11.
Every computer or server has a unique IP address. Computers on the internet use IP addresses to locate and share information with one another. For a clearer picture, think of a computer or server as a house. Then think of an IP address as the mailing address of that house.
Relationship Between Websites and IP Addresses
Every website has one or more IP addresses. Which means that a website can be hosted on one or more servers. To simplify this, a computer is like a house, an IP addresses is the address of the house, and a website is the occupant of the house.
What Is a Domain?
Typically, if you want to visit a website online, you are supposed to type in the IP address of the computer hosting the website. Now, looking at the IP address 18.104.22.168, you can see it’s not easy to memorise, especially if you are not good with numbers. When you now consider that you need to visit many websites from time to time, you begin to see how memorising a lot of IP addresses (a bunch of numbers) can be a huge problem for the human mind.
This is where domain names come me. They are a way to identify IP addresses. For instance, www.amazon.com is a domain name identifying some of Amazon’s IP addresses. So instead of memorising Amazon’s IP addresses or typing them to visit their website, you just need to memorise or type their domain instead. Makes everything easier, doesn’t it?
Domain Name System (DNS)
You have probably heard of the term several times but don’t know what it means. The DNS is an electronic address system (an internet service) that translates domain names into the corresponding IP addresses they identify. So when you input and send the domain name www.example.com, the DNS finds the IP address it identifies and then locates the computer associated with that address, so that you can view the website hosted on that computer.
The DNS consists of three levels:
- The Top-Level Domain (TLD)
- The Second-Level Domain (SLD)
- The Third-Level Domain or subdomain.
Top-Level Domain (TLD)
This is the DNS root zone. It’s the highest level of domain names you can find online. All domain names end with a TLD, and there are over 800 top-level domains. Another name for Top-Level Domains is ‘domain extensions’. They come in three categories:
- Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs): These are domain extensions like .com, .net, and .org.
- Country code Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs): Any domain extension associated with a particular country is categorized under ccTLDs. There are more than 200 domain in this category. Examples are .es for Spain, .nz for New Zealand, .us for the United States, .ng for Nigeria, and so on.
- New Top-Level Domains (nTLDs): These are the same as gTLDs above, except that they were introduced recently, from 2013 to 2016. They are associated with generic words and are very easy to remember. Examples: .agent, .tokyo, and .blog.
To register a domain name for your business, you get to choose from over 800 TLDs.
Second-Level Domain (SLD)
In the DNS hierarchy, right below the top-level domains are the second-level domains. Take a complete domain name like www.example.com; the second-level domain is the name immediately left of the TLD. ‘Example’ is the SLD.
To register a domain name for your business, you have the freedom to make up your SLD. It can be a random word, your business name, and it can include numbers and even hyphens.
These are called subdomains. They are written immediately to the left of SLDs. In www.example.com, the third-level domain is ‘www’. In mail.example.com, it is ‘mail’. And in ftp.example.com, it is ‘ftp’.
Third-level domains refer to the designation of servers: ‘www’ refers to web servers, mail.example.com refer to a mail server, while ftp.example.com refers to a file transfer protocol server. Third-level domains simply offer structure to a website.
How Do I Get a Domain Name?
By now, you already know that your domain name should have three levels as depicted in www.example.com. To get yours, all you need to do is visit the website of a domain registrar. A domain registrar is any institution that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has given license to sell domain services to people.
An example of a registrar is NameCheap, which we use for our company website at Macaulay Gidado and for our clients’ websites. When you are looking to register a domain cheaply and also get renewal charges and add-on services that are very cheap, NameCheap is the registrar to go with.
Be aware that registering a domain for a year means you own that domain for one year. Should you fail to renew it at the end of your one-year registration, the domain will become available for other people and businesses to register.
Find out more about how to choose a domain name for your business.
This article also appeared in Macaulay Gidado Medium Publication.