What is a domain name? Domain name is a string used to identify a resource on the Internet. Domain names follow the rules and specifications laid down by the domain name system. Any name with an entry in the domain name system is a domain name.

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Why are domain names used?

Domain names are strings of text that are human readable. They are easier to remember than the machine-understandable IP addresses. DNS servers translate domain names into their corresponding IP addresses which are 32-bit numbers or 128-bit numbers depending on the protocol used for addressing.

IPV4 uses a 32-bit address whereas IPV6 used a 128-bit address.  Many businesses use a catchy name as the domain name to attract more customers.

Using a catchy domain name also helps in remembering the website, which aids in retaining customers for the business.

Hierarchy of the Domain Name

Domain names have many subdomains organised in a hierarchical system, from right to left.

  • At the absolute top is the DNS root domain which is nameless.
  • The first-level set of domain names is called top-level domain name (TLD). This includes both generic top-level domain name (gTLDs) such as com, org, gov, info, net, edu, etc. and country code top-level domain name (ccTLD) such as ca, jp, in, etc.
  • The second-level domain name is open to the public for customisation. For example, Stemjar, Microsoft, Google, Walmart, etc.
  • Some domain names also have a third-level domain name. Similar to the second level domain name, these names are also open for customisation. For instance, in the domain name – en.wikipedia.org, ‘en’ is the third level domain name. Another example is flights.google.com (as described in the hierarchy chart below)

When all the names above are combined, they form a fully qualified domain name. Note that most of the American servers use a three letter TLD name such as .com or .edu.

Most of the other countries either use two-letter TLD name or a combination of two-letter TLD. Some examples are .ca, .in, .co.jp, .ru, etc.

hierarchy in a fully qualified domain name

The hierarchy of a fully qualified domain is shown as labels. Red boxes indicate the hierarchy for flights.google.com

Examples of domain name

  • stemjar.com
  • google.com
  • healthnutnutrition.ca
  • walmart.com
  • harvard.edu
  • nasa.gov
  • spain.info
  • irctc.co.in
  • jreast.co.jp
  • pass.rzd.ru
  • en.wikipedia.org
  • navy.mil

Each of the above domain names will have an entry in the domain name system. Every time you enter one of these names in your browser, your computer communicates with DNS server to obtain the corresponding IP address and load the webpage.

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Is domain name the same as URL?

URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. The domain name of a website is not the same as its URL but a part of it. A URL is a more elaborate version that specifies the location of a file on the host computer along with the protocol used.

An example of a URL with the embedded domain name (in bold) is ‘https://www.stemjar.com/flush-dns-cache/’

Issues with domain names

You are trying to visit a website, but it is not loading.  If your internet connection is working and you can open other websites, then you can troubleshoot if there is a problem with the domain by considering the following issues:

Misspelt domain name

There is a chance that you are misspelling the domain. Please check the spelling and re-enter the URL.

Problems with DNS Server

There is a chance that your DNS Server is down or your DNS server doesn’t have an entry associated with the domain you are trying to visit. To troubleshoot this issue, try using a publicly available DNS server such as one provided by Google.

Website is down

If none of the above solutions resolves the problem, it is very likely that the website’s server is down. You can check if this is the case using sites such as https://downforeveryoneorjustme.com/.

Submit the URL, which is giving you an error loading, on this website, and it will tell you the status of the domain. If the site is down, you have to wait till the servers start working again.

Domain name is a string used to identify a resource on the Internet. Domain names are strings of text that are human readable. They are easier to remember than IP addresses. DNS servers translate domain names into their corresponding IP addresses which are 32-bit numbers or 128-bit numbers