Registering a domain name is a necessary first step in creating a website. But do you know how it really works?
Let’s look at what happens when you register domain names at Namecheap.
Domain Names as Pointers
Every website you visit has an IP address. For example, Namecheap.com’s IP address is 188.8.131.52.
Typing in that IP address every time you wanted to visit the site would be a real pain. Domain names make things easier. Instead of remembering the IP address of the site, you just have to remember the domain name.
When you type in Namecheap.com, your browser goes through a series of steps to determine the IP address of the page you want to visit. (More on that later.)
The benefit of using a domain name instead of an IP address is pretty clear. Now let’s take a look at what makes up a domain name and what happens when we register them.
The Parts of a Domain Name
There are two parts to every domain name: a second level domain and a top level domain (TLD).
The second level domain is the part of the domain name to the left of the dot – the part that you come up with. For example, in Namecheap.com, the second level domain is Namecheap.
The top level domain name is the part to the right of the dot, such as .com, .org, .net, and so forth. There are hundreds of top level domain names you can choose from when creating a domain name. While .com is the most popular TLD, there are also country code domain names like .ca (Canada), .de (Germany), and .uk (United Kingdom); as well as descriptive domains like .money, .blog, and yes, even .pizza!
Registering Domain Names
Domain names are registered through a domain name retailer such as Namecheap. These retailers are called registrars.
Before your domain name can be registered, the registrar must first check with a domain registry to see if the name is available. If registrars are the retailers of domain names, you can think of registries as the wholesalers. There’s a registry for each top level domain name. For example, Verisign is the name of the registry for .com domains.
For example, if you wanted to register the domain mysite.com, Namecheap asks Verisign if that particular second level domain (mysite) is available. If it is, you can register it through Namecheap and Verisign will then mark the domain name as taken so no one else can register it.
Namecheap also lets Verisign know where your domain’s website is hosted and this information is stored in Verisign’s database, which acts as an address book.
Putting the Domain Name to Use
As mentioned above, your domain name needs to point to your IP address in order for anyone to connect to your website.
The process of connecting your domain to an IP address often involves connecting to (or “pinging”) multiple servers.
When a website is requested in a browser, the domain name will be passed to a series of servers until it hits the Top Level Domain server. This server, which is run by the registry for the top level domain, provides the IP address for the name server for your site. That information is used to find the actual IP address for the site, ultimately displaying the page in your browser. This entire query happens in the blink of an eye.
To make things move even quicker, some systems will cache the IP addresses so that the process doesn’t have to be repeated each time you visit a website.
Domain Names Make Things Easier
The point of a domain name is to make things easier for both the website creator and the people trying to find the site. So most of the time you don’t need to understand how everything comes together.
But it’s helpful to understand the role registrars and registries play in this process. With Namecheap, it’s as simple as registering your domain name, setting your hosting nameservers, and then leaving the rest to us.
Why wait? Register your next domain with Namecheap.com today, and get started on your new website in minutes!
Andrew Allemann is editor of Domain Name Wire, the longest-running blog covering the business of domain names. Domain Name Wire has covered the business of domain name investing for over ten years.