What is a domain name and how do they work

When creating a site as a beginner you’ll quickly find that you need to somehow acquire a domain. But what is a domain, and how do they work?

As a beginner it often gets quite confusing to have many technical terms thrown around, so these guides are a way to help you out.

In this post we’ll be going over what domains are, and how they work. Afterwards you’ll be able to choose a domain for your own site.

What is a domain name?

As the name suggests, a domain name is just that, a name. It’s a human readable address you can type in your browser to visit a site.

Just like your own house has a readable address, servers do too. While servers may communicate to each-other through IP-addresses, domains are a way to make this easier for humans to do.

When the internet was first created, this system of using IP-addresses to identify computes was invented. Shortly after however domain names were invented as remembering and writing a string of numbers was too difficult for humans.

How do domain names work

In order to properly understand how these domain names work, let’s compare domain names to using Google Maps to navigate somewhere.

For this example we’ll be navigating to a place you haven’t gone before, like a restaurant a friend recommended.

  1. When navigating to a site you type the domain name in your browser URL bar, like, this can be seen as typing in the name of the restaurant in Google Maps.
  2. Next your browser will send out a request that will go through DNS name servers to see if they know the domain name. It will optionally try several, until one of them has the record. Google Maps will also contact its servers and retrieve the info for the name you entered.
  3. The first DNS server that has your domain name cached will look up the associated IP address, and return this info to your device. This is Google Maps retrieving the address and sending it to your phone.
  4. Lastly your browser will send a request to the IP address that has been found, to retrieve the site from the web server. This finalizes your Google Maps query, showing you where the fancy restaurant is.

These DNS servers are called Name Servers, in a future article we’ll go into what these exactly are and how they work.

How do you buy a domain name?

Domain names can be bought with Domain Name Registrars. These are services that have received a license from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (or ICANN).

These are many registrars, offering domains for around 15 dollars a year or less. In this article we go over what registrars we recommend. In our opinion Namecheap is always a good choice.

Keep in mind that a domain doesn’t mean you also have web hosting. You will have to buy this separately, something you can do from us for just 2,50 a month. If you are curious to find out more about our offerings, you can do so here.

After having purchased a domain and hosting, you will have to link your domain to your hosting nameservers. This is something we explained in detail in this post.

Closing words

With that you’ve come to the end of our quick overview of what a domain name is. Hopefully you now have a decent understanding of what a domain is, and how they work.

There is a lot to consider when buying your domain, and if you have any questions you can always ask us. Feel free to comment on this post, send a support ticket or contact us on Twitter

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