What is a Domain Name and Why do We Need Them?

Domain names have become part of everyday life. Huge brands such as Google.com, Yahoo.com, Apple.com, Amazon.com, and more, are advertised regularly offline on platforms such as television, newspapers, magazines, and billboards.

They make a point of emphasising their domain name in their advertising material as they know that is how people will find them online.

Most people know that by entering the domain name in an internet browser, they will be taken to the website in question. They also know that domain names are used in email addresses e.g. [email protected] However, most people do not have an understanding of how domain names work and why they are so important.

In this article, I would like to give you an overview of what domain names are and why we need them.

Why Do We Use Domain Names?

Website hosting companies store data for millions of websites around the world. Whenever you visit a website, you are retrieving information from a data centre that either hosts that website or has a copy of it (content delivery networks store copies of websites across the world to improve download speeds).

The server which hosts the data for a website has an IP address. An IP address is a unique numerical number which is assigned to every computing device. Therefore, when you visit a particular page on the internet, you retrieve the website information by using the server's IP address.

The internet allows computers around the world to connect to each other and share information because of this IP address system.

We can visit websites using IP addresses directly too. For example, we can visit Google by entering http://74.125.224.72 in our browser and visit Bing by entering http://204.79.197.200.

Of course, most of us would find it difficult to remember more than a few IP addresses. That is why we use domain names. Domain names help us remember long numerical addresses in a simple format that is easy to remember.

The Domain Name System

All domain names are processed through the Domain Name System (DNS).

The Domain Name System can be viewed as the yellow pages (phone book) of the internet. It acts as a directory for every domain name on the internet and for each domain name it lists multiple IP addresses.

Therefore, when you visit a website such as Google.com, the DNS will send you to the IP address 74.125.224.72.

One of the benefits of this system is that it allows a domain name to change the IP addresses associated with it at any time. So when you move your website from one hosting company to another, you simply update your domain name name servers to point to the IP addresses associated with the server your website is now hosted on.

Imagine the same situation if the Domain Name System was not in place. Every time you changed your hosting company, you would have to tell everyone to visit your website at a different IP address. However, with the Domain Name System, your visitors do not even need to know that you have moved your website data to a new location.

The Importance of a Domain Name

On the internet your domain name is a huge part of your website's identity. Your domain name is used in your website branding and it is how visitors remember your website.

That is why there is a market for domain names and why some companies have been willing to pay millions of dollars to get the domain name they want. To a large multinational company, paying a lot of money for a short brandable domain is worthwhile.

Finding the right domain name for your online project can be difficult, but you should still take the necessary time to find the right domain. If necessary, and if you have the budget for it, you may also consider buying a registered domain from someone else.

Do not underestimate the importance of a good domain name for your project. It can be make a huge difference to how your website is perceived online.