We are often asked by beginners: what is a domain name and how do domains work? If you are a beginner, then you may have heard that you need a domain to make a website.
However, many beginners confuse domain name with a website or website hosting service. If you are just starting out, then all these different terms may sound too technical.
In this beginner’s guide, we will answer what is a domain name and how domains work. The goal is to help you understand and choose the right domain name for your website.
What is a Domain Name?
Domain name is the address of your website that people type in the browser URL bar to visit your website.
In simple terms, if your website was a house, then your domain name will be its address.
A more detailed explanation:
The Internet is a giant network of computers connected to each other through a global network of cables. Each computer on this network can communicate with other computers.
To identify them, each computer is assigned an IP address. It is a series of numbers that identify a particular computer on the internet. A typical IP address looks like this:
Now an IP address like this is quite difficult to remember. Imagine if you had to use such numbers to visit your favorite websites.
Domain names were invented to solve this problem.
Now if you want to visit a website, then you don’t need to enter a long string of numbers. Instead, you can visit it by typing an easy to remember domain name in your browser’s address bar. For example, wpbeginner.com.
How Domain Names Actually Work?
To understand how domain names actually work, we will take a look at what happens when you enter it in your browser.
When you enter a domain name in your web browser, it first sends a request to a global network of servers that form the Domain Name System (DNS).
These servers then look up for the name servers associated with the domain and forward the request to those name servers.
For example, if your website is hosted on Bluehost, then its name server information will be like this:
These name servers are computers managed by your hosting company. Your hosting company will forward your request to the computer where your website is stored.
This computer is called a web server. It has special software installed (Apache, Nginx are two popular web server software). The web server now fetches the web page and pieces of information associated with it.
Finally, it then sends this data back to the browser.