What Is a Domain Name

A domain name is a text-based representation (in other words, a recognizable name) of the numerical address that computers use to locate each other on the Internet. In short, it's an easy way for people to remember where you are. It can also be the basis of your Web site marketing campaign.

Domain Name Basics
In order to assist network communication between computers, each one is given a unique identifier known as an IP (Internet Protocol) address. An IP address is composed of four sets of numbers separated by a dot: 218.15.73.106, for example. Although this system provides billions of possible combinations, it is already being replaced by a new system that can provide an almost limitless number of combinations.

Think of an IP address as a phone number for your PC. Now, imagine that the phonebook was made up only of phone numbers. How would you find someone's number? How would you remember all of the numbers in your cell phone if they didn't have names attached? Domain names solve these issues by allowing us to deal with names composed of words and letters.

How Domain Names Work
Domain names are handled by the Domain Name System (DNS). The DNS is a database stored on computers worldwide that matches domain names to IP addresses. When you type "thatwebsite.com" into your browser, the application makes a request to a DNS computer. The DNS responds with the IP address that your browser uses to make the connection to the computer that serves the Web site.

Like IP addresses, every domain name must be unique, otherwise the DNS server wouldn't know where to go. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) manages the DNS network. ICANN is an international corporation that administers the DNS and the assignment of new names. ICANN has handed off the process of distributing names to companies called domain name registrars. A registrar company is your point of contact when you set out to purchase a domain name for your Web site.

When you're setting up your Web site, it's important to remember the role that a good domain name can play. You want something that's easy to type and remember, and something that speaks to the content of your site or your target audience. You should also buy common misspellings of your domain name, as well as .net and .org extenstions if you're registering a .com. This will ensure that you, rather than a competitor, get all the traffic from people looking for your site.

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Owning a domain name carries a number of advantages including portability, credibility and enhanced search-engine exposure.

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