This month we’re answering your pressing web questions by releasing a new 60-second video each Wednesday. Last week we covered how servers work. Today we’re tackling domains.
Typing in a domain works like magic. You quickly punch in a few letters on your keyboard and suddenly you’re sucked into the matrix of the internet. But browsing the web isn’t like solving the mystery on Stranger Things. It’s straightforward technology! This video will explain how domains work.
What Is an Internet Protocol (IP) Address?
Before we talk domains, it’s important to understand what an IP address is.
Each computer has a unique IP address, which consists of a set of numbers separated by periods (for example, 22.214.171.1242). This set of numbers is a language that computers use to communicate with each other over a network.
IP addresses allow any number of internet-connected computers to be distinguished from other computers. It’s just like calling someone on the telephone. Everyone in the world has a unique telephone number, and you have to dial someone’s exact number to reach them.
What Is a Domain Name?
So what is a domain name? Let’s continue with the phone analogy. You’ve probably got a long list of contacts saved in your mobile phone. Each contact has a unique phone number. When you want to call someone, you usually click on the contact’s name rather than typing in the full phone number.
Domain names are just like a contact in your phone. Rather than typing a complicated set of numbers (the IP address) into your browser, you type in a domain name. That domain name is human-friendly and much easier to remember than an IP address. All domain names are connected to a unique IP address.
Morphology of a Domain Name
Now that we understand what a domain name is, let’s break it down a bit more. There are three different parts of a domain name that assign meaning to the domain.
- Domain name: Bluehost is the domain name in bluehost.com.
- Top-level domain: This is the suffix at the end of the URL. Examples include .com, .org, or .blog.
- Subdomain: This is a prefix that further classifies a domain, such as subdomain.bluehost.com.
To start a website, you need to buy a domain name, but don’t worry. It’s easy! Bluehost provides you with a free domain name when you purchase hosting. As soon as you select your hosting package, Bluehost will instruct you to choose your domain name. You can select your domain name and your top-level domain.
Related: How to choose a domain name
As long as each part of the domain name is unique, you can pick any domain name you want, and register it with a domain name registry.
So What Happens Next?
When you register your domain, you are registering with a DNS (Domain Name System). A DNS is a database that connects IP addresses with their corresponding domain names. It’s like your phone’s contact list for all domain names.
When you go to your browser and type in a domain name, it will connect with the DNS. The DNS searches through all of the registered IP addresses and connects that domain name with the IP address.
The end result? The server returns a web page back to your browser in less than a second. It’s sorta like magic.