What is a domain name?

A domain name is key to doing just about anything on the internet, from setting up a website to sending and receiving an email to building an online shop. Today there are over 280 million registered domain names. The Domain Name System (DNS) which supports these names is the engine that makes the internet simple and accessible for users around the world.

The DNS is not just important to the smooth running of the internet, but it also plays a very important part in everyday life. Visits to the ATM, paying for groceries with your credit card, placing a long-distance telephone call – all would be impossible if the DNS was not functioning. These activities rely on the internet or internet technology, and the DNS is a fundamental part of the internet – without DNS the internet does not work.

The Domain Name System performs the simple, straightforward function of mapping names to Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and back. Every server on the internet has an IP address, represented as a series of four numbers separated by dots (e.g. 78.129.232.34). But, like telephone numbers, these long series of numbers can be difficult to remember. The DNS allows people to use names, instead of numbers, to reach websites and send email messages.

The rightmost label in a domain name (such as .com or .net) is referred to as the top level domain or TLD. There are many TLDs available. The DNS forms a hierarchy – each TLD has many second-level domains (e.g. cfts in www.cfts.co), each second level domain can have many third level domains (e.g. control panel in controlpanel.abcd.com) and so on.

After a user enters a domain name into a web browser, a behind-the-scenes process called resolution uses a global network of name servers to look up the IP address corresponding to the domain name. Web browsers and other applications need IP addresses and not names to contact the appropriate web server and retrieve the right web page. The technology, servers, guidelines and processes that make up these name servers form the backbone of the DNS. The DNS is the low-level protocol that enables communications over the internet for applications like credit card processing, bank transactions and telephony as well as web browsing and email.

How Registration Works:

A user wanting to register a domain name contacts a registrar. Registrars are companies that sell domain names to end users.

Upon receiving a user’s requested domain name, the registrar first verifies that the name is available by checking with the registry that manages the corresponding TLD. If the name is available, the registrar registers the domain name with the registry, which adds the name to its database. Now, no one else can register that domain name during the term of the registration. The owner of the domain is known as the registrant.

on Friday July 20 by Peter Atkin
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