What is a domain? The beginner’s guide


When first starting out with the internet and putting your business online you will likely have encountered a lot of buzz words and technical terms that are confusing. Many of them are for something important but can be complicated to get your head around when you are first starting out. Among them are domains, and domain names.

To help you out we have created this guide which tells you what domains are, how they work, how they are different from web hosting, and how you can get one of your own. After reading this you should have the confidence and knowledge required to go out and find the domain you are looking for.

What is a domain name?

A domain is an address people use to find your website. They type this into the URL bar in their web browser to visit your website. Think of your website as a house, and your domain as a street address. Someone looking for your house would need your address in order to visit you.

In a more detailed explanation, the internet is a series of computers across the world all connected up to each other through a network of internet cables. Through this network, these computers can all communicate with each other. It is a massive web of differing devices, so to navigate it each computer is given a unique series of numbers known as an IP address. This could look something like this:

These numbers can be difficult for people to remember and could make it difficult to regularly visit all the websites you like to use. So, domain names were created to solve this problem. Now all you need is a website’s domain name to visit the site.  

How do domain names work?

There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes whenever you enter a domain name into your web browser. Here is the usual journey:

  1. When you first enter the domain name into your web browser your computer sends a request to a network of servers that hosts information on domain names. This is the Domain Name System (DNS).
  2. These servers will find the domain name before sending your request to other servers known as name servers.
  3. These servers are managed by the company which hosts your website. Which will then point the request towards the computer where your website is stored.
  4. This computer is known as a web server. It will collect the web page and all information associated with it.
  5. The information collected is then sent back to your computer and displayed in your web browser.

How is a domain name different from website hosting?

Web hosting and domains serve distinctly different purposes which work in unison to make the internet work.
If we go back to the house example, website hosting is like the home where your website is kept, while the domain name is the address of that home. While you may have an address, that doesn’t mean there is a home there. This means to create a website you need both a domain name and web hosting.

Often these will be bought from two separate companies, however, it is straightforward to connect these services. Your hosting provider will provide you with Name Server information. From there you will need to log into your domain account and edit the DNS settings. We recommend you take a screenshot of the settings before you change anything. Add into these settings the Name Server information provided by your hosting company.

What are the different types of domain names?

When you are searching for a domain you will notice all sorts of different extensions. These can include .com, .com.au, .net, .org, etc. There are a lot of different variations so we will run these through with you here.

                Top Level Domain (TLD)

TLDs are the generic extensions that most businesses will select. There are hundreds of different options for these. However, the most popular are .com, .net, and .org. There are other lesser-known ones such as .business, .info, and more. We recommend you avoid using these unless required.

                Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD)

A ccTLD is what you will likely find on most Australian business’ domains. These are country specific extensions such as .au for Australia, .uk for the United Kingdom, and .nz for New Zealand. For most Australian businesses it is best to get a .au domain. This will help you rank in local search when Australians are looking for your business on Google. Each of these domain types can often be paired with a TLD, for example, .com.au.

                Sponsored Top Level Domain (sTLD)

These domains are for websites that are sponsored by a community or institution which has its own specific domain extension. The most common of these are schools, .edu, or government websites, .gov.  

How do I purchase a domain name?

The easiest way to get a domain is through Domain Pilot. With our simple search and purchase tool, you can find the domain you were looking for in no time. If you are unsure which domain you should select or need assistance finding a domain, we can also help you with this. Our domain search and registration assistance service team will find you the right domain, perfect for your business and its future goals, and register it on your behalf. This means that you can spend your time focusing on your business while we take care of your domain.

Get started with your new domain over at Domain Pilot.

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