For many, a domain name represents nothing more than an address of a particular website. As simple as this explanation is, they are correct in many cases. However, even more, people do not understand what makes up a domain name and what separates the components of all domain names. Let’s take a closer look and review each section to provide a clear description of the functions of each.
URLs and IP Addresses
A typical website address looks like this:
Understandably, people call the above example a domain name, when in truth, it is a URL (uniform resource locator) which is another name for an Internet address. If a person plugs example.com into their web browser, they likely will end up there. There are instances where that might not happen, however. If the domain owner set up their domain to be read with the www prefix only, most browsers would not display the website. In such a case, the domain owner will need to create a new CNAME record in the DNS settings to allow the browser to display the page without using the www prefix.
Referring to the above URL, the
www.example.com part is the domain. Notice the https:// is missing in this example. It is missing because https:// represents the protocol required for all URLs. A domain breaks down into what is called its IP address. In essence, a domain name is, from a browser’s perspective, a series of numbers separated by dots. Here’s an example: 00.11.222.333. The browser sees this as
https://00.11.222.333 and displays the page located at that address.
An IP address is what the name implies. It is an Internet Protocol Address, much like what you might find in a phone book or address book. A domain name is, therefore, an IP address that points to the specific server where the website resides.
Protocols and Security
You probably noticed that I used the https protocol. I could use the HTTP protocol as well, but the former is the secure version. HTTP does not use SSL (secure socket layer) that encrypts data on the webpage to help prevent theft of that information. Most major browsers are adopting the use of a notification placed within its browsers to inform the reader when a website is unsecured because it does not use SSL. The lack of security is easily spotted by looking at the URL. If HTTP appears, it is advisable to navigate away from that page for security reasons.
Breaking Down the Parts of a Domain Name
Going back to the original example,
www.example.com, notice the COM. The letters COM represent a TLD or top level domain. The term TLD is not the universal language, however. Instead, many people call COM a domain extension. Other extensions such as NET, ORG, INFO, and others represent other TLDs. Also, country extensions are now available.
The word, example, in
www.example.com, is a second level domain. It is this name you choose when searching for a new domain with your chosen TLD or extension if available. Given the number of domains already in existence, always have more than two or three or more choices before you begin your search!
The last section of a domain name discussed here is the subdomain. The subdomain in our example is the www part. Subdomains confuse people because the use of www directs the reader to a smaller part of the much larger domain. Subdomains find their place where a user might want to keep files better organized. For example, if I built a specific page on my site called NOTES, the URL might look like this:
https://notes.example.com. The address represented here takes the user directly to the notes section of my website located at
Taken for granted by most people, understanding what each section of a domain name represents helps determine its validity and level of security. The HTTPS protocol is an excellent example of this.