What Is A Domain Name And How Does It Work?

Understanding domain names and how they operate can be overwhelming to beginners, especially since they are easy to confuse with hosting and various other internet buzzwords you have undoubtedly heard.  In actuality, what they are and how they function is easy to understand if you start from the ground up. The process of obtaining a domain and visiting websites takes place countless times a day. But just what is a domain name and how does it work?

What Is A Domain?

The simplest way to understand a domain name is to think of it as your virtual address.  It is the location through the endless amount of websites on the world wide web that is specific to you.  Domain names are also referred to as URLs, and it is vital to understand that no two are exactly the same.  While you will frequently see similar sounding domains, URLs are like fingerprints in that they are each unique and can never be replicated.  Typically if you come across similarly worded domain names, their address is distinguishable in one way or another, be it spelling or the type of URL it is.  Web addresses have extensions on the end of them, with .com being the most prominent. Two domains may have the exact same words, but an alternative extension will render it unique to differentiate it from the pack.  Some other common URL extensions include: .net, .org, .info, .io.

Domain names are a cog in the system of how the internet functions.  The browser is the tool you are currently utilizing to read this information.  In the bar at the top of the browser is the address/URL/domain name that notifies web users where they are on the world wide web, and where content can be found.  This content can be in many forms, such as text, video, photos and more.

How Do Domains Work?

The world wide web is a tool that is ‘open’ to the public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year through millions of computers communicating with one another.  This ‘dialogue’ is through number sequences, known as an IP address. Each computer has its own IP address, giving it a clear and defined place in a very crowded information system.  Domains ‘clean up’ IP addresses by allowing web surfers to remember names as opposed to numbers. It is a matter of convenience and practicality.

How Domains Differ From Hosting

Because domains and hosting have a codependent relationship with one another, many people get lost as to what each one does.  It is a misconception that a domain is where content is held. A domain name merely serves as the place, or ‘address’ to find what you are looking for.  The actual multimedia you are seeking is stored through the domain’s host. A host communicates to your computer, and the internet itself, through their own servers.  Servers are each host’s connection to the entire network of computers. These servers allow people to visit your domain (which is being hosted) from anywhere in the world, regardless of time or resources.

It is important to note that a domain name without hosting is merely an address with nothing on it.  Hosting is essential because it not only holds the content you are sharing with the world, its servers are your connection to it as well.  People similarly make the mistake in assuming that a domain name and host have to be purchased from the same company. When you put oil in your car, it does not need to be from the manufacturer to run.  The same is true of domains and hosting. Purchasing a domain name from one company while hosting with another company is a frequent practice that is carried out daily.

So How Does It All Work?

When you enter a domain name you wish to visit in the address bar in your browser, the global network of servers are alerted to your request, and forward it to the servers attached to that specific domain’s host.  Servers are like traffic cops that direct inquiries where they need to go. In simpler terms, entering a URL places the ball in the court of global servers, who in turn, pass it to the servers associated with the domain you are seeking to get to.  The server then virtually ‘grabs’ the website you want to view, and sends it back to the browser with which you performed the search. It is essentially a game of telephone and typically takes a matter of seconds to execute flawlessly.

What Is A Domain Name Used For?

There are a myriad of reasons domain names are utilized on the internet, and they go far beyond just being your signature in a digital space.  First and foremost, domain names serve as your voice to the outside world, whatever your purpose may be. Like inhabiting a vacant lot, it is the space reserved for you, that no one else can occupy.  Purchasing a domain name gives you complete ownership of that ‘address,’ just like buying a house. However, it can not be owned permanently and must be renewed to keep ownership of.

Domain names are also a means to display what your website is about.  Of course there are exceptions to this principle, as some companies and individuals choose to emphasize a creative name over a practical one, but for all intensive purposes most domains directly relate in some form or another to what information will populate the page.

Domains strive to be easy to remember and educate the person who comes across it.  Some of the biggest companies in the world have succinct, flashy domain names that are catchy and hard to forget.  Even if you are not aiming to achieve gathering a global audience with your website, domain names should be chosen with a level of strategy and common sense in mind.  They serve as a bridge to those potentially interested in what you have to offer before even landing on your page.


Harnessing the power and creativity of domain names in accordance with hosting and content is one of the most immersive and rewarding experiences on the internet.  With an open mind and attention to detail, even beginners can put them to use with ease and earn additional income online. To learn more about my strategy for buying and selling domain names online check out my course.