What is a domain name? A domain name is the address of a website that you type into a browser’s URL bar. Domain names are used to access websites, blogs, landing pages, e-commerce stores, applications, and more.
For example, you own the domain name buyhosting.com and have website linked to that domain. When someone types buyhosting.com into the browser’s URL, it will return the homepage for buyhosting.com. Does that make sense?
Why do you need a domain name for your website?
To understand how domain names work, we need to first understand how the internet works. The internet is a giant network of computers connected to one another through a global network of wires.
By connecting your computer to the internet through a WiFi connection, mobile hotspot, or ethernet cable, you are connecting to the global network. You may not realize it, but the entire globe is connected by cables. Some of these cables travel across the ocean. These are known as subsea cables.
In order to communicate, each computer connected to the internet has an assigned IP address. An IP address is simply a string of numbers used to identify a specific computer on the internet.
For example, your IP address might look like this:
Want to know what your IP address is? You can use tools like WhatIsMyIPAddress.com and WhatIsMyIP.com to lookup your IP address. Try it for yourself.
Now, I want you to imagine trying to remember different IP addresses for your favorite websites. Could you do it? If you are like most people, probably not. Domain names were created to make it easier for people to find websites on the internet.
How do domain names work?
Up to this point, we have a simple understanding of how domain names work. However, there are a few more things to know on how they work. Let’s look at happens once you enter a domain name into your browser.
After you enter a domain name into your web browser, the browser sends a request to a global network servers called the Domain Name System (DNS). The DNS servers look up the name servers associated with the domain name and forward all of the searches to the name servers.
What is a name server? A name servers is essentially a directory of computers and the IP addresses attached to them. Typically, name servers refer to a server owned by a website hosting company which is used to manage their customer’s domain names.
For example, your hosting company’s name servers might look like this:
Keep in mind that your hosting company manages their name servers. Once you have pointed your domain name at the name servers, your hosting company will forward your visitors to the server where your website is computer or server. These servers contain web server software such as Apache or Nginx to organize and manage your website code and files, so it displays and functions properly.
Upon successfully locating the associated name serves for your domain, the browser returns and loads your fully functioning website.
Domain names vs. websites and web hosting?
We have covered the basics of what a domain name is and how it works. Now, what makes domain names different from websites and web hosting? The short answer is that all three are needed to have a website on the internet.
A domain name is simply a name that masks an assigned IP address, making it easier for visitors to find your website without memorizing a bunch of numbers.
Website hosting is a computer where you host and store your code and files, aka “web hosting server.”