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A Beginner's Introduction to Domain Names

Published on Apr 06 2022

Last updated on Apr 23 2024

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There are countless websites on the internet, but it is not that simple for someone to go to any website. Knowing how domain names and URLs work might help clear up some confusion.


For a website to be accessible on the internet, the website needs to live on a server. Any internet user can access and view the website by going to the IP address of the server the website lives on. An IP address looks somewhat like this:

11.231.445.21 (IPv4) or 2030:0ar8:8c72:0000:0001:9w6t:0260:1272 (IPv6)

It is difficult for human beings to remember such string of random numbers, which is why DNS (Domain Name System) was created—to "transform" such strings into human-readable and memorizable addresses called domain names. For example, when you go to alissanguyen.dev, alissanguyen.dev is a domain name. Domain names are managed by domain name registrars, such as Namecheap, etc. Domain name registrars are companies that manages the reservation of domain names on the internet. So to summarize:

Domain name is a string represents an IP address of a web server on the internet. Domain names are managed by domain name registrars.

You can read more about how DNS works here:

Domain Name System (DNS) and How It Works

Take a look into the phonebook of the internet and how it is one of the most fundamental concepts of web development.

Wait, so domain names are URLs?

Good question! Domain names are a part of URLs. A URL (uniform resource locator) a.k.a a website address, contains the domain name and other information, such as a "path".

For example, https://alissanguyen.dev/blog is a URL, in which alissanguyen.dev is the domain name, https is the protocol, and /blog/ is the path to the blog page on my website.

General Structure of a Domain Name

A domain name typically consists of two to three parts, separated by a dot ("."). When you read a domain name, always read from right to left.

Illustration for Structure of Domain Names
  • Top Level Domain (TLD) — the rightmost part of a domain name, located after the last dot. It is used to describe the general purpose and information of a website. For example, a domain name ends with .gov should tells you that the website is a government website (US), or a domain name ends with .edu will belong to an educational institution. You can trust that this is true because an organization called the "Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers" (ICANN) controls who gets to register a domain under each TLD.

  • Labels — While domain names generally have 2-3 parts, there are no limitation in adding more parts to a domain, so these parts that follow the top level domain are called labels (or components).

    • Domain Name a.k.a Second Level Domain (SLD) — The part comes before the TLD, e.g. the "google" in google.com or the "co" in bbc.co.uk.

    • Subdomain a.k.a Third Level Domain — Comes before the SLD. For example the "bbc" in bbc.co.uk

Purchasing a Domain Name

It is simple to purchase a domain name through registrars such as Namecheap, Cloudflare, GoDaddy, Google Domain, Bluehost, etc. I personally choose Namecheap because they have the most competitive prices compared to other registrars. You can find domain names staring at $8/year and sometimes they can even be cheaper, as low as $2.

Price examples from NamecheapSome domain pricings offered by Namecheap

When buying domain name from a registrar, you should look into their support policy, such as live support, privacy protection, and renewal prices.

Securing your Domain

Generally, you should not worry about the security of your domain as it is taken care of by your registrar when you purchased a domain. However, domain names need to be continually re-registered with your domain name registrar, or you risk losing your domain to another buyer.


Getting your own custom domain has some important advantages to your personal branding. For small businesses, the right domain name provides credibility and increases traffic to your website. For individuals, a well thought-out domain name can be a unique part of your identity on the web. If you plan to have your own website or websites, I suggest looking into getting a domain name unique to you.

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Written by Alissa Nguyen

Alissa Nguyen is a software engineer with main focus is on building better software with latest technologies and frameworks such as Remix, React, and TailwindCSS. She is currently working on some side projects, exploring her hobbies, and living with her two kitties.

Learn more about me

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