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What is a domain name?

A domain name can be thought of as the address of a web site. Every computer that is connected to the Internet is identified by its own unique string of twelve numbers, for example 216.109.112.135. However names are easier for people to remember than a random string of numbers, and so the domain name system was invented. For example, a person wanting to visit yahoo.com just needs to type that into his web browser, instead of having to remember that 216.109.112.135 stands for yahoo.com. The web browser will access a special computer that is called a domain name server, where yahoo.com is translated to 216.109.112.135, and then the web browser will be able to access yahoo.com.

Let’s take a look at how a domain name is put together. The first part may be a word, company name, or abbreviation or a combination of letters and numbers. This is followed by a period, or “dot”, and finally a two or three letter combination. This last part is called a Top Level Domain (TLD), which may be used to identify the type of organization owning the site and often the country in which it is located.

There are many Top Level Domains on the Internet. The best known is the .com TLD, which normally means that the site is owned by a company. Some other well known ones are .edu, used by educational organizations, normally within the United States, and .org, originally meant for use by non-profit groups though this is changing. You may also see .net for Internet Service Providers, or .gov which is used by federal, state and local government entities in the United States.

With the phenomenal growth of the Internet in the last few years, it became obvious that the existing domain name system could not cope with the demand for new names, and so a several new TLDs were created. The .com TLD was becoming overloaded and so the .biz TLD was introduced to spread the load. Also new were .tv, intended for television companies, and .name which was meant for individuals to use. This last is actually interesting in the way it will be used. The format will be “christianname.surname.name”, for example fred.smith.com. This will allow other people named Smith to also use the .name TLD, maybe john.smith.name.

At the same time, country-specific TLDs were introduced. This meant that a company operating in, say the United Kingdom would be able to use .co.uk, indicating that the company operates mainly in that country. This also meant that companies operating in many countries would be able to have country-specific sites, so for instance we can visit amazon.com in the United States, amazon.co.uk in Great Britain, amazon.de in Germany and amazon.co.jp in Japan.

Despite all this, the .com TLD is still the most desired by companies, and .biz seen as somehow less professional. However, finding a .com name that is short, easy to remember and unique is all but impossible. As more and more companies start to use the .biz TLD this belief should disappear, and eventually they will be seen to be equal.

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