What is a Web Domain? - Definition & Explanation

Instructor: Kent Beckert

Kent is an adjunct faculty member for the College of Business at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and has a Master's degree in Technical Management.

During this lesson we will learn what a web domain is and the significant role the domain name plays in attracting customers. We will also discuss the Domain Name System (DNS), and we will identify and describe the eight top-level domains (TLDs). Last but not least, we will discuss the syntax rules applicable to domain name construction.

What is a Web Domain?

A web domain is an actual presence on the Internet, such as a web page. A web domain name is a substitute that replaces the Internet Protocol (IP) address. For example, we can replace the IP address with a domain name such as www.study.com.

Making the translation from an IP address to a domain name is accomplished through the Domain Name System (DNS). Using our previous example, you can see that it is much easier to remember the domain name than the IP address.

Let's look at our domain name a little closer. Our domain name is www.study.com. The www is a third-level domain, informing your browser to look for the domain name on the web. The second portion, 'study,' is unique and is considered the second-level domain name, and the .com portion represents the top-level domain, or TLD. A domain name breakdown is illustrated below.

Domain name breakdown
Domain Name Breakdown

What is the Purpose of a Domain Name?

The primary purpose of a domain name is to help visitors locate your web site with minimal effort. Your web domain name is your identity on the Internet and should be distinctive enough to set you apart from your competition while being descriptive enough to impart important information about you or your organization. In other words, a web site with a quality domain name creates a picture of what is inside, similar to a business having unique and fashionable storefront windows. By looking into the windows (your domain), prospective customers are able to get a good glimpse of what your web site is about. One additional note: You can incorporate your domain name as part of multiple email addresses, enabling you to maintain separation between departments and services.

How Does a Domain Name Work?

The DNS works by translating the assigned IP address into an easier to remember and equally viable name created by you. Both the domain name and its related IP address are unique, and a duplication cannot be used. Non-duplication guarantees that emails are received by the intended recipient and that customers reach the desired web site after entering a valid domain name. As an added benefit, your domain name remains unchanged even if you change the server hosting your web site. The only thing required on your part is to notify the DNS about your new server. In other words, if you move from Detroit, Michigan, to Los Angeles, California, your domain name remains the same; all you need to do is contact the post office advising them of your new address.

What is a Top-Level Domain (TLD)?

According to Verisign Inc., as of the fourth quarter of 2013, there were a total of 271 million domain name registrations completed. Every domain name features a two or three letter suffix that identifies it as a TLD. Of the 271 million registrations, the majority were associated with eight of the 24 currently available TLDs. The eight most commonly used TLDs are listed in alphabetical order and described in the table below.

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