What is domain and how do they work?

A beginner’s guide to domains and how they work

While everyone knows that different sites have different names, not everyone knows where these domains come from, or who’s in control. If you’ve ever wondered, this post is for you.

Here is a walk through the world of domain names where we explain everything you want to know, from what they are and where they come from to how they work and more. And since this post is intended for everyone, amateur or professional, chef or plumber, young or old, you can rest assured it’s also code and geek jargon-free!

Let’s get started!

What is a domain name?

A domain name is a human-friendly address, sometimes called a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) or web address. It was created to make IP, or Internet Protocol addresses more accessible and easier to remember.

An IP address is a string of numbers, much like a phone number, that is assigned to every computer. But, unless you’re Sheldon Cooper, an IP address with seemingly random numbers like isn’t exactly easy to remember. But a domain name like www.360locker.com

So that’s why domains were created – to make it much easier to reach the exact location of a website without having to remember its numeric address.

Your domain name is unique to you, just like a fingerprint. When someone types it into a browser, they’re taken directly to your space on the Internet where they can view your website. Learn more about domain names.

What is the difference between a domain name and a website?

It’s easy to think of a domain name and a website as being the same thing. But while they’re closely connected, they’re different things.

When you register a domain, you get a web address but not a website (this is something you’ll need to build). So while you can have a domain and choose not to use it for a website, you can’t have a website without a domain.

For example, if you want to get started online and you’ve picked a name, you’ll first need to register it, start building your website, and then find a host so your site is visible on the web and people can access it. As your business grows, you can always change the look or design of your website while keeping the same domain name.

Where do domain names come from?

The domain name system (DNS) is overseen by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers or ICANN. This organization was formed in 1998 and has been coordinating the maintenance and management of the DNS ever since.

While ICANN doesn’t rule supreme over the entire Internet, it does have the power to approve new extensions, manage their function, and shut them down if they don’t work according to the rules created by ICANN. So they basically ensure that the DNS and IP spaces that make up the Internet’s infrastructure are all running smoothly.

But ICANN doesn’t do all the hard work by itself. They delegate control over the various Top Level Domains like .com, .net, .org, etc., to various entities known as Registries. These companies then become directly responsible for managing specific extensions. So, a registry controls and maintains the database of domains within their extension and makes it accessible through the WHOIS tool.

Now, the registry may designate entities called Registrars. A registrar is a company that sells domain names to the end customer. So, if you want to register a web address for your new site, you’ll go to a registrar like 360Locker that provides domain names from different registries, all in one place. If the domain you want is available, it’ll be registered in your name with 360Locker.

This infographic from ICANN should help you to better understand the registration process: