names were invented to avoid having to remember a string of numbers
when we want to go to a
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What is a domain name?
Domain names were invented to avoid having to remember a string of numbers when we want to go to a web site or email someone. Names are much easier to remember than numbers.
Most computers connected to the Internet are identified by a unique number called an IP address (for instance, 126.96.36.199 - that's our current IP address). IP addresses are neither intuitive (they don't correspond to a geographical location) nor easy to remember (you can prove that by glancing away from this page and then trying to quote the example IP address above!)
If you type the IP address into the URL bar of your browser you will be taken to the web site it relates to. As well as being hard to remember, however, IP addresses are also FIXED (i.e. if you change web hosting companies you'll need to get a new IP address for your site).
Domain names offer a more intuitive way to name and find a website. Each domain name replaces a string of meaningless numbers (an IP address) with a simple word or expression. That's the theory - in practice, domain names can be pretty obscure too.
The Structure of a Domain Name
Let's look in more detail at a domain name, using our parent site's domain name as an example. That site's domain name is tka.co.uk.
.uk is the top domain under which our domain name is registered. This is a country-specific top-level part of the domain name, and it refers, of course, to the United Kingdom. The only country that currently doesn't have its own country-specific top-level domain name is the United States of America.
.co is the 2nd level of our domain name, and, in the UK, it refers to a company site. There's also .org.uk, .gov.uk, .edu.uk - all describing different types of domain name owners in the UK. In the USA, the commercial organisations have .com to describe commercial organisations.
tka is the sub-domain of our domain name. This is the part of the domain name that we were able to choose - we made it up (well, used our company initials) when we registered it.
These three parts together make up what people call a domain name. If you asked us what that site's domain was, we would reply "tka.co.uk"
One of the best things about domain names is that they are unique. We can relax in the knowledge that there is nobody else out there who owns the domain name "tka.co.uk". This is because all domain names are recorded in a central database, and each record in the database must be unique. This is also what makes some domain names quite valuable.