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DNS diagram. Source Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domain_name

This is an article for the technically challenged individual who nevertheless has a healthy curiosity about the internet. This is a very simplistic way of describing domain names. But at the end of the day you probably don’t need to know more than this.

A domain name is an identifyer. It’s like a postal address of where something sits on the internet. Of course that in itself is misleading because most of us don’t know where our or somebody else’s websites may be sitting.  Physically that is. The machine part of it.

But you don’t really need to know where the server sits that’s hosting a domain name. You just need to understand that no matter where the machine is, your computer or clever smart gadget will find it when you type your request into a search space.

For instance Yeah Can’s website is at home on a server based in Florida, United States. The studio itself is in Spain. Our domain name is a .com even though the business is not based in the USA or owned by American citizens. See more about this further on in the article.

Some big companies who have a lot of information on their web sites might have more than one server mirroring the information on their sites. That’s just in case something goes wrong in the one place. You would probably find that your bank is doing that. Relief I know.

But let’s have a closer look at domain names. And I’m just talking about a domain name you might want to decide on when choosing a new name for your business. Like most people you will probably consider looking for a .com name. So if your business is Pink Wonder Makeup, you might want to see if www.pinkwondermakeup.com is available.

Domain names are organised in subordinate levels (subdomains) of the Domain Name System root domain. DNS is just a fancy word for the overall system of names. This very root, or starting point in a way, is nameless.

Off this is the first-level set of domain names. Think of it as a tree with the base being a root and trunk and now you get the branches. The main branches are called top-level domains (TLDs). Logical. Sort of.

You know these top level domains already. You just didn’t know that they were called TLDs. They are .com, .net and .org. Most often people think of the .com as meaning a domain name based in the USA. But that is not so. There are many domain names that have the Top Level Domain of .com but are not based in the USA or even represent businesses or individuals living in the USA.

In a way, none of the TLDs have to be in the USA or any country in order for folk to be able to register them and use them. Just to clarify a small point though. You never get to actually own your domain name. When you pay for a domain name you are only paying for the right to use it. And you have to renew the usage whenever the money runs out. So if you have only paid for one year, then that’s all the time you have to use that domain name.

Of course you may renew it. And best you do that on time because somebody can snap the name up from under your nose if you delay past the renewal date. That is if you have a name that somebody else wants. In fact there are organisations out there who will book a name you want that somebody else has. And if that name is not renewed, or at least the rental on it, those organisations snap them up and sell them on for higher prices. It’s therefore quite a good idea to renew your domain name on time.

A further word on this first bunch of big branches or TLDs is that the extension .org had originally been reserved for the use of non-profit organisations. However, as this was a kind of unwritten rule many people have chosen to use this extension even though their business might be for profit. It doesn’t really matter. Only the purists roll their eyes. If you can get your chosen name with a .org extension then you can go for it.

As the internet grew, the bunch of folk at ICANN which stands for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Number, have added more TLDs. More about this in the next blog post. Can’t wait? Read about it on Wikipedia.