What is a domain name? Every website begins with a domain, making it part of the very first thing a potential customer interacts with to access your website.
The domain is the address a user types into their browser in order to reach a desired website or part of the web address they’ll click on if they see a search result for your business.
If you are interested in setting up your own website, starting a business or starting a blog, it’s wise to understand what a domain name is, how to choose one and what the best options are for going about obtaining yours.
IN A RUSH?! Click for our <60 second snapshot
What is a Domain Name For?
A domain name represents the main name that identifies the website. When looking at it from a networking side of the internet, a domain name is a title used to communicate with DNS servers.
In a sense, it is a street address for websites. If someone wants to where an address is located, they can open up a GPS system and search the address. A domain name works in a similar way. A user types in the domain name into the URL bar of their browser and the browser, using the domain name, connects with DNS server in order to load the information saved to the site.
The domain name is used for two main purposes. The first is to make it easy for users to remember and know how to locate a given website. Some domain name examples include “Google.com,” “Forbes.com” or “Yahoo.com.” These are domain names (with the abbreviation of “company” on the tail end of it, although there are other abbreviations used, such as “org” for organization or “edu” for education).
What Is An IP Address?
Every website uses what is known as an IP address. This is a long series of numbers, similar to a long distance phone number.
However, as there are billions of different websites and web pages, there too are billions of IP addresses. If a person were to want to visit the website Lifewire, they just need to type in the domain name “Lifewire.com.”
However, if they were to actually type out the identifying IP address, they would need to type in 188.8.131.52 (this is the IP address of Lifewire).
It would be almost impossible for an individual to remember more than one or two IP addresses, which would limit their internet browsing potential. So, instead of needing to type in the series of numbers in order to access a website, a user can instead type in the domain name.
What Was the First Ever Registered Domain Name?
It is possible to trace the origin of the internet back for decades. However, as the internet started as smaller, internal networks within government agencies and schools, these locations did not use specific domain names. Instead, true domain names started registering during the 1980s.
The very first ever registered domain name is Symbolics.com. A computer manufacturer registered the domain on March 15, 1985. In fact, most of the first initial domain names registered were tech based. It is still possible to navigate over to Symbolics.com, but now the website is nothing more than an internet landmark, proclaiming itself the oldest registered website on the Internet.
The second ever registered domain was “dec.com.” This was an IT based company, which Compaq eventually went on to buy out, which was then bought out by HP. For anyone in their late 20s or older, they may remember Compaq computers, which ran the Windows operating system.
When Did Apple Become Registered?
A number of now defunct domain names came about during the same time period. However, Xerox, which is still in use, became the seventh domain name ever registered in January of 1986 (It took 11 months for seven websites to register on the internet). HP went on to become the 9th domain name registered, with IBM, Sun and Intel quickly following behind it as the 11th through 13th domain names registered.
For anyone interested, Apple became the 64th domain registered (Apple.com), opening up shop in February of 1987. Other domain names of note include ATT.com as the 15th oldest domain name, Adobe.com as the 42nd oldest domain and Cisco.com as the 73rd oldest domain.
Google, the world’s busiest website and top search engine, registered the website on September 15, 1997. It is now possible to purchase and register domains directly through Google.
Domain Name Registration
It is possible to register a domain name through a number of different services. Website builders such as Square Space and Wix will automatically register a user’s website when a service is purchased. After filling out basic contact information a user is able to have their website domain registered.
The exact process to register a domain will differ slightly, depending on the service provider someone decides to go with. GoDaddy is one of the most popular as it is relatively inexpensive to register available domains.
When on GoDaddy, a user can type in a desired domain name to see if it is available. If nobody owns it a user can purchase it. If the domain name is owned by another entity, they may be able to purchase it. People do buy domain names and hold the domains if they believe the site is valuable.
Available Domain Names
When using GoDaddy, after an individual finds an available domain name (or purchases one from someone else) they just need to fill in some general information. This includes who to register the website to and some basic contact details. A user is then able to decide how long they want to initially purchase the domain for. Most domains are bought on an annual contract and, if not renewed, will expire.
Other domain registering service providers an individual can take advantage of (if they don’t want to use a Web builder), includes Namecheap, 1&1 Internet and Dotster. All of these service providers not only offer the ability to purchase a .com domain name, but it is possible to obtain a .net, .org, .info, .biz or a number of other names, including international domains (such as .ca or .co.uk).
WordPress Domain Names
WordPress is the world’s largest service provider for building websites. It provides users with a number of available tools to build websites without charging extensive service fees common with other website builders. For those who are interested in starting their own websites but want more control over what they do, WordPress makes it easy. This is also why the service provider makes it possible to purchase domain names directly through the site.
In order to obtain a domain name through WordPress, an individual needs to have an account. This can be accomplished by navigating over to the WordPress.com website and choosing “Sign Up.” From here the user just needs to follow the basic prompts in order to compete the account registration process.
Selecting Your WordPress Domain Name
With an active account, the user needs to log on and then choose the “Domain” page option. The website might then ask if they want to add a blog to the domain. This is done if the user has already started a blog and they want the domain name to attach itself to the blog. If the blog exists through WordPress the user can select the blog from this page. If they want to start a page from scratch this step is not necessary and they can skip over it.
From here, the user needs to type in the desired domain name. If the domain name is available they can then choose the “Add” button (the domain will appear in a green box). If the domain is not available (the domain will appear in a red box) the user needs to continue searching until they find an available domain.
Public Vs Private
After the user selects “Add” then need to check off if they would like to add an email address to the created domain or not (this can be done later if new or additional email addresses are desired later on).
Now, a user is able to determine if they want their contact information to be public or private. In many cases (especially when creating a website) it is desirable to have the content be private.
If the content is left public, the attached phone number, mailing address and other personal information is left in the open and anyone can search it out. There are reasons why someone might want to leave this information public, but in general, it is recommended to mark it as private.
Purchasing The Domain
Now, with all of this information checked off and finished, the user is able to enter in their payment information in order to purchase the domain and pay the registration fee. They can then check off a WordPress.com plan if they would like one and submit the purchase.
This will complete the domain name registration process for their website through the service provider.
It is important to note there are two domain options available through WordPress. One is a free service and the other is a pay option. The pay option is a unique domain name, such as “uniquedomain.com.”
The free option attaches itself to the WordPress and becomes an extension of the site (such as “uniquedomain.wordpress.com”).
For a business looking to stand out or for an individual that wants to boost the search engine optimization of the site, it is highly recommended to go with the paid service in order to cut the umbilical cord of the WordPress domain.
Summary: New Business? Start With A Domain Name
A website domain name is the name of the website. This is what someone must type into the URL bar of an browser in order to reach a desired website. As long as the domain name is available and not in use, obtaining the domain name is straight forward.
With the help of a domain registering service provider (ranging anywhere form GoDaddy to WordPress and Square Space), it’s possible to purchase the rights to the domain and then, from there, build the desired website.
Most of all: for any business looking to move forward with the products and services it offers, it is vital to have a domain name up and running by the time the business opens.
Our QUICK READ What Is? series… YouTube | UX Design | Online Advertising | Leadership | Google Sheets | Advanced Image Search | Corporate Strategy | Video Marketing | Corporate Strategy | SEO Audit | Domain Authority