Have you ever asked yourself, "What is a domain, anyway?" Well, take a look up there at the top of the screen. See that part at the top of your browser window in the URL bar? It's the part that starts with "http://" in the address bar. The second part of the URL is the domain. In our case, it's namecheap.com.

Let's take a look at what goes on behind that domain.

Every website is identified by a unique series of numbers called an IP address. This numeric set is what your computer uses to connect to the server where the website data lives.

IP address of a website in browser address bar

Numbers are great for a computer, but it's easier for hedgehogs (and people) to use words they can remember. The words used to identify a website are known as the domain or URL, and like the IP address, they're unique to each website. Think of it like a mobile phone: you want to call your mother, so you simply click on your contact "Mom" and your phone dials your mother's phone number. Domains are connected to IP addresses in much the same way.

What are the parts of a domain?

Domains, like most brilliant ideas, work on more than one level. They include both a top level domain and a second level domain. And, like brilliant ideas, they also center around a single point—or in this case, a dot.

While the top level domain is essential for a domain to function, it's also less exciting than the second level domain. Which is probably why it's sometimes referred to as the "parent" domain.

The exciting thing about domains is that you can choose almost any name you want as your second level domain. And sure, you can go with .com for your top level domain, but who doesn't want a cool "parent"? Options like .club, .store, even .pizza are just a few ways you can boost your top level domain game.

What's the purpose of a domain?

At some point someone probably said, "Hey, you ought to register a domain." And you might have replied, "Okay... but why?"

The truth is that if you have a website, it needs to have an address, and that address needs to have a name.

But there are other good reasons to register a domain too.

Registering a domain reserves it so no one else can register it. So it might be smart to snatch up a domain now—your personal name, company name, or other things you're involved with, like a book title, band name, or hobby—just to take it "off the market".

In my case, I might not need the domain CosmoHedgehog.rocks today, but I'll definitely want to own it once I become super famous.

There's also custom email.

Want an email address like me@cosmohedgehog.rocks? To get such a slick, personalized address, you'll need to reserve the domain first, then attach it to email hosting. This is a smart move especially if you're running a business site. That way, your customers can easily remember info@mybusiness as easily as they remember your domain itself.

Don't have a website?
No problem!

You can point your domain to your Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or other social media account. I don't know about you, but I'd much rather tell people to friend me at CosmoHedgehog.rocks than give out some long, convoluted URL. That reminds me, I should really register that domain now.

What's the difference between a domain and hosting?

To have a website, you need both a domain and hosting. Your domain gives people a way to find your website, and your hosting is space on a server (a remote computer) where all of your website content resides.

Think of a domain like it's your website's street address, and hosting is like the website's house. You can have your address before you build your house, but to show off all your photos on your website, you'll need a place to put them.

What you need to get your domain

Are you ready to learn more about domains?

If you liked this tour and want to learn more, we have more pages that get into some of the nitty gritty details. Check them out in our Knowledgebase.

Visit our Knowledgebase

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