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When building a new site, choosing a domain name could be one of the most difficult decisions as the chosen name will be seen and entered into the address bar by anyone who wants to visit it, making it to be the identifier of the site.
Since your domain name will be the face of your brand, you want to make it brand-able and memorable in order for the site to succeed. Despite most users not knowing it, there are actually five different types of domain names you can choose between, although not everyone can be right for your site, allowing us to narrow it down.
Before registering a domain, you should delve into what are domains and what are the different types of domains, and how they work so that you can better choose the one that is right for you. We hope that this article will help you do just that and pick the domain that works for your site.
First, let’s find out what exactly is a domain.
What is a Domain?
We shall begin with what is a website domain. Put simply, at its core, a domain name is what goes in between the protocol sign (i.e. HTTPS://) and the first slash of a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) in a web address. For example, in https://www.monovm.com/dedicated/, the domain name is monovm.com.
What is good to know is that every domain name is just a stand-in which represents the computer’s or website’s IP address. Since every single device that uses the internet is assigned a specific IP, it acts as a distinctive identifier that cannot be used by another device simultaneously.
Each and every website or web app on the internet has to be hosted on a server of sorts, whether it’s a small on-site server or a complex server rack located in a designated colocation facility. Therefore, all of them must have an IP address assigned to them.
Just like every street needing a name and each house on it needing a number to receive its post, all devices connected to the internet needed to have a specific descriptor that allowed the traffic to be sent to the correct device.
In order to form a rudimentary virtual address book, computer scientists created the Internet Protocol Address System. It assigned a unique 32-bit or 128-bit string of digits, called the IP address (i.e. Internet Protocol address) to each computer or website so that they could all be distinguished.
Of course, trying to memorize the IP address of every site you often visit is not simply a burden but completely impossible for adept internet users. That is why computer scientists also devised a domain name system that assigned a unique name to every IP address, making it easy for any visitor to connect to a site.
How Domain Names Work
In essence, domain names are a shortcut to remembering complex IP addresses without which you would have to enter the full IP address into your browser’s address bar when wanting to connect to a site. For example, instead of remembering www.monovm.com, you would have to memorize 192.168.10.10 (not our actual IP) to connect to the site.
But, typing just that string of numbers would not even connect you to the site. It would only point to the server where the site is stored as there need to be some specific server settings in place as well. For most internet users this process would be too complex and time-consuming.
In this case, domains act as a middleman, making this process automated and incredibly simple.
This process is done with the help of the Domain Name System or commonly known as a DNS. The domain name system converts the domain names into IP addresses.
The DNS servers are located all over the globe but they’ll act as a single database. So to have a better understanding, imagine yourself typing a website on the google chrome search bar. Once you press enter, Google Chrome will communicate with the DNS server to find the specific IP address relating to the website you entered.
It will go through the database and get the website to your screen. This process happens in a matter of milliseconds. DNS system has made the whole process of navigating the internet extremely easy.
Difference between Domain and Web Hosting
If you wish to visit a site, there are two things that should be in place: a web server and a domain name. The former is where you will store all your website data such as files, databases, media, etc. This is the space on the server that you rent when you purchase web hosting services.
The domain is what a visitor must type into the address bar to visit your site, however, the speed with which they will connect to it though, is dependent on the optimization of your website and the quality of the webserver you are hosting the site on. That is why having a good web hosting service provider is crucial to running a successful site.
With the right web hosting provider, you will have no downtime, your website will increase its performance, you will rank higher in Google, and much more.
The 5 Types of Domains
When people think of a website, the standard ‘.com’ pops into their minds. Although it is, in fact, the most common extension, there are different types of extensions available for use.
There are, actually five extensions that you can use with your desired domain name, however, some of them are only available if you are running a specific kind of website.
Top-Level Domains (TLDs)
Back in the 1990s, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (i.e. IANA) released six top-level domains. These top-level domains (TLD) became known as domain name extensions and represent the highest level in the Domain Name System hierarchy. They include:
- .com: shorthand for commercial, .com was the first top-level domain in common use. While .com was initially created for use by commercial organizations, restrictions on this were not stringent. By the mid-1990s, .com had become the most popular and commonly used type of top-level domain for businesses, websites, and email.
- .net: shorthand for network, .net was created expressly for institutes that partook in network technologies such as an internet service provider or an infrastructure company. Like with .com, the restrictions meant to limit .net to networking purposes were never upheld and it became one of the more popular top-level domains, with many seeing it as a close second to using the .com top-level domain.
- .edu: shorthand for education, .edu was made for educational institutions. Although it was intended for universities everywhere, the TLD .edu became associated with only educational centers in America. Schools from other countries will use .edu in conjunction with their country-level domain, which we will discuss further below.
- .org: shorthand for organization, .org was created for nonprofits. As we’ve seen with these other top-level domains, such intentions were often not upheld or enforced over time. These days .org is used as a top-level domain by nonprofits, for-profit businesses, schools, and communities.
- .mil: shorthand for military, .mil was created expressly for U.S. military branches. Unlike the other different types of top-level domains, this restriction is still upheld. Now, it is quite common for .mil to use second and third-level domains in conjunction with the .mil TLD.
- .gov: shorthand for government, .gov, like .mil, was restricted for American federal governmental agencies and personnel use only. These days .gov is used by governmental agencies, programs, cities, states, towns, counties, and Native American tribes.
Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLD)
The next type of domain is country code top-level domains. As can be inquired from the name, these domains are technically tied to different countries, with each one having its own ccTLD, however, it is not required to use one of them if you are in a specific country.
These domain extensions are useful if you are building a site in a specific country and want your visitors to know that they have arrived at the right place. For example, companies out of the United States can use the .us extension, and ones located in Lithuania could use .lt.
Here are some ccTLD examples:
- .cn (China)
- .de (Germany)
- .uk (United Kingdom)
- .nl (Netherlands)
- .eu (European Union)
- .ru (Russia)
- .ar (Argentina)
- .br (Brazil)
- .it (Italy)
- .lk (Sri Lanka)
Please note that: In order to register most ccTLDs you will need to provide documentation proving that you are residing in that country.
Generic Top-Level Domains
Although this is more of a definition than a type of domain, it is considered as a different variation of a TLD. Therefore, you could classify it as a top-level domain as well.
- Despite there being over 1500 gTLDs available to register, there are 21 generic top-level domains within the root zone, which is the highest level of the domain name system structure. Thus, these 21 gTLDs make up the vast majority of all types of domain names. They include the following 4 sub-categories:
- Generic (.com, .net, .org, .info), domains that can be used for general purposes.
- Generic restricted (.pro, .biz, .name) domains that can only be used for their specific purposes.
- Sponsored (.edu, .gov, .int, .mil, .aero, .cat, .asia, .mobi, .coop, .travel, .tel, .jobs) domains that can only be used by businesses involved specifically with that industry.
- Infrastructure (.arpa) was one of the original top-level domains used to help with the DNS infrastructure.
Second-level domains are a step below the previously mentioned TLDs in terms of the domain hierarchy. The best way to describe it would be with an example. In www.monovm.com, “monovm” is the SLD (i.e. Second-Level Domain).
There are also country code second-level domains such as:
- .co.uk – commonly used by companies in the UK
- .gov.au – used by governmental institutions in Australia
- .ind.br – used by industries in Brazil
Third Level Domains
These domains are below the SLDs within the domain name hierarchy. They are not considered to be full domain names in and of themselves, but as a part of a domain name. For example, in www.monovm.com, the “www” part is the third level domain.
It is no longer required to have www. as a part of a domain name and thus third-level domains are not necessary for a domain to function properly. You can connect to our site by simply typing “monovm.com” in the address bar.
The main reason why you might need a third-level domain is if you are planning to add a subdomain. For example, you want to add a store to your site, so you create the subdomain “store.yoursite.com”.
It's extremely important to have an idea about how domains work and picking the right domain name for your business. A domain name is a long-term investment for your business as it is the first thing your customers will see. A domain is like the seed that will grow your business.
But how to buy a domain name? In order to get a domain, you will need to find an ICANN accredited domain registrar (like Monovm). After that:
- Run a domain name search
- Check if the domain is available by using a domain checker
- Pick your preferred domain
- Complete the domain order process
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