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What is a domain name: A complete guide

Do you consider starting an e-commerce shop or creating a website to establish your business’s online presence? Well, you will need a domain to build a website. But if you’re new to this, you might wonder: what is a domain name, and how does it work?

It is common for beginners to associate domains with website hosting services, but don’t worry! You’re in the right place.

In this comprehensive guide, we explain the definition of a domain name and dive into the fundamentals. We uncover the structure, registration process, and much more.

Domain name: The basics

A domain name serves as the unique identifier for a particular website on the Internet. Keep in mind that it’s common to hear the terms “domain” and “domain name” used interchangeably.

Domain names generally consist of a website name and a domain extension. For instance, “” is a domain name example.

A well-chosen custom domain strengthens your brand identity and helps your target audience find your website on search engines like Google. They are divided into two or three parts and separated by a dot. All parts put together make a fully qualified domain. 

The domain name hierarchy starts with the part to the right of the last dot, known as the top-level domain (TLD) or domain extension. Common TLDs include “.com”, “.net,” or “.org”, which are also referred to as generic top-level domains. Alternatively, they can be country-specific like “.uk” or sponsored like “.edu” and “.gov”.

On the left of the TLD is the second-level domain (2LD). Anything further to the left is the third-level domain (3LD) or subdomain. 

A subdomain is also occasionally called a hostname, though they are different. The “www” part in most URLs serves as a hostname, which means that a website is part of the World Wide Web

Here’s an example to illustrate how it works:

  • In “”:
    • “www” is the hostname;
    • “.com” is the TDL;
    • “myPOS” is the 2LD.
  • In “”:
    • “www” is the hostname;
    • “.com” is the TDL;
    • “myPOS” is the 2LD;
    • “Help” is the 3LD.

Domains are registered through a domain name registrar, which requires registrants to pay a fee and renew their ownership periodically.

The subdomain is a separate division from the parent domain on the same web server. This means you don’t need to register a subdomain if you own a domain.

What is a domain name server, and what is its purpose?

The Domain Name System (DNS), sometimes called a domain name server, is a specialised computer server that functions like a large directory. Its primary purpose is to convert domain names into IP addresses, a series of numbers and sometimes letters that identify the physical location of a device on the Internet network. 

While people identify websites by domain names, web browsers communicate through Internet Protocol (IP) addresses

When you enter a valid domain name into a web browser, the DNS swiftly translates it into the corresponding IP address. It lets your device connect to the correct web server and promptly display the requested webpage. This process is known as a DNS lookup and is facilitated by DNS records, which are sets of instructions stored on DNS servers.

The importance of a DNS server lies in its ability to eliminate the need for humans to memorise complex IP addresses. Instead, Internet users only have to remember the web address of the particular website to access it.

DNS hierarchy

DNS simplifies communication across the global network using a hierarchical naming structure.

At the top of this hierarchy is the Root domain, which serves as the parent node for every Internet domain name. Beneath the Root domain lie multiple TLDs, each with its unique identifier. All they indicate a geographic or target community, such as a nation or commercial business

Directly below that are the 2LDs, each associated with a specific TLD. For example, “” is located within the “.com” TLD. A second-level domain can also include subdomains, as in “”.

How DNS works

When you enter, for example, “” into your browser’s location bar, your computer first checks if it already recognises the specified IP address through a local DNS cache. The name is swiftly translated to the IP address if found, and the browser reconciles the content with the web server.

If your computer doesn’t have the necessary information, it sends a DNS server request. It matches the typed domain name with its corresponding IP address. Once found, your browser can proceed as usual. 

A person may not always remember the complete web address. Depending on the website, once they start type it in the location bar, the computer might recognise it and suggest the specific page.

How DNS works

How to choose a domain name for your website

Millions of domain names have already been registered, with new ones launched daily. That means that it can be challenging to find an available one.

Website owners use their registered business name as their 2LD. It is a good idea because it’s convenient for the client. However, it is not always simple to do so. The name you want to claim might have already been taken.

Luckily, online tools are there to help you. Domain registrar sites use the WHOIS database, a public listing of web addresses and the people or organisations associated with each. When you visit such a website, you can check if someone uses the same domain name or if it is free to claim.

But how do you choose the perfect domain name?

To help you, we’ve compiled a few tips to remember:

  • Opt for generic top-level domains, such as “.com”, “.net”, or “.org” – they’re well-known and easy to remember.
  • Keep your 2LD or 3LD (the most specific part of your website name) short, clear, and simple to spell.
  • Avoid to use symbols and punctuation, such as numbers and hyphens, to keep it simple and memorable.

If you’re stuck, try online domain generators for custom domain names. These tools can help you discover a free domain name or inspire you to develop your unique idea. 

And remember, prioritising simplicity and choosing an explicit name is essential to ensure a positive user experience on your website.

How to get a domain name

The process of obtaining a domain name is quite straightforward. That means you can establish your online presence in just a few easy steps. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Select a domain name for your business website that reflects your brand identity. Check whether your desired domain name is available from a domain registrar.
  2. Do some research and choose a trustworthy registrar. Common platforms for domain name registration include Namecheap, Hostinger, and GoDaddy.
  3. Follow the registrar’s instructions to complete the domain registration process. You must provide contact information and payment details to secure ownership and become the administrative contact.
  4. Once registered, configure your DNS settings. They allow you to point to your hosting provider or other associated services, such as email servers.

Keep in mind that domain names are valid for a specific period, generally one year or longer. Make sure to keep track of the expiration date. You must renew it before it expires to maintain ownership and prevent it from becoming available to others.

Where to buy a domain name?

You can purchase domain names from domain name registrars.

There are numerous reputable platforms to choose from, including:

  • Namecheap;
  • Hostinger;
  • GoDaddy;
  • Google Domains;
  • Bluehost;
  • Hover.

These registrars offer various services and pricing options, so comparing features and costs is essential to find the best fit for you. A web hosting company can also offer domain registration services as part of its package.

Where to buy a domain name?

The difference between domain registries and registrars

Domain name registries allow the sale of domains to registrars. They are organisations that manage TLDs and maintain the records of which domain belongs to which person and entity. If the registry is the manufacturer, the registrar is the reseller.

Domain registries are managed by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). It is a department within the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a global organisation that coordinates several processes and databases to support the Internet infrastructure.

myPOS domain registration

With the myPOS website-hosting service, myPOS Online, you can choose your custom domain at a competitive price. You can personalise the name of your online shop, and myPOS will handle everything else, including the reservation process. Alternatively, you can opt for the free domain registration using the myPOS domain “”. 

For those who already have a domain, all they have to do is link it to their new myPOS Online website through their myPOS account. 

Furthermore, myPOS offers free privacy protection. SSL certificate encryption ensures the security of sensitive data on your business website.

How much does a domain name cost?

The cost can vary in the UK based on several factors, including the domain registrar you choose, the domain extension (.com, .uk,, etc.), the registration period, and any additional services you require.

On average, registering a standard name with a generic TDL like “.com” or “.uk” ranges from around £5 to £15 per year. Premium domain names or those with specific extensions may incur higher fees.

It’s important to note that some registrars offer promotional pricing for the first year, which could be lower than the standard renewal price. When you set up a budget for a website, it’s essential to consider renewal costs as well.

Additionally, some registrars provide bundled services or discounts for purchasing multiple domains. Make sure you do your research and compare all available options.

Domain name privacy

When reserving a TLD name, domain owners must fill out WHOIS information. This information includes their name, email address, physical address, and phone number.

To safeguard personal information, many registrars offer a service known as Domain Privacy. This add-on option, available for a small fee, allows registrants to obscure their details with proxy information displayed instead. Under this arrangement, the registrar’s information is listed in the WHOIS database as a proxy for the registrant.

However, it’s important to note that the security of private registration depends on the reliability of the registrar. Therefore, make sure to choose a reputable and trustworthy registrar to ensure the confidentiality of your information.

With your choice of domain privacy, you can prevent unauthorised access to your details. Even if someone attempts to use the WHOIS database to identify the owner of your domain, they will only see the proxy information provided by your chosen registrar.

Domain name information

Key takeaways

A domain name is a unique address that identifies a particular website on the Internet. It is structured hierarchically and divided into two or three parts. The parts are separated by dots, with the top-level domain (TLD) on the right, followed by the second-level domain (2LD), and sometimes the third-level domain (3LD) to the left.

Common TLDs include “.com”, “.org”, “.net”, and country-specific TLDs like “.uk”. 2LDs often represent the unique name chosen by the owner of the website. 3LDs, if present, are further to the left and allow for additional subdivision.

To reserve a domain name, you must check its availability through a reputable domain name registrar. If free, you can purchase it through the same registrar or a web hosting provider. Prices range from £5 to £15 per year, depending on the registration platform and the chosen domain extension. 

After the domain expires, you must pay a fee to renew it. The cost varies depending on your plan. Note that if not resubmitted, the domain becomes available to the public.

Frequently asked questions

Domains are unique names used to access websites. On the other hand, URLs are the full web addresses of web pages. They contain not only the domain name, but also different information. Each URL includes the Internet protocol, most commonly hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP) or hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS). URLs can also help point browsers to a specific file or folder that is hosted on a web server.

For some time, “.com” was considered the most suitable choice for businesses that look to convey professionalism. However, experts predict a shift in perception as the availability of “.com” domains diminishes and newer TLDs gain traction. For instance, if you are searching for the best domain for an e-commerce website, TLDs such as “.ecom”, “.shop”, “.store”, “.gifts”, and “.luxury” can do the perfect job. While they may not be as common as other generic top-level domains, they offer unique branding opportunities.

Many registrars send email notifications to notify domain owners about the impending expiration date. These reminders often start a few months before the expiry date. To check when your domain is about to expire, you can also log in to your account on your registrar’s website. You can view the expiration date, any upcoming renewals, and other related information there. Another way is to visit a domain registrar site and run your domain name through the WHOIS database. This service gives information about the domain owner and the expiration date.

You can apply for renewal, but the process depends on the registrar’s policies and the expiration duration. Most registrars offer a grace period following the expiration date, during which the registrant can renew the domain without penalty. The length of this period varies from a few days to a few weeks. If the domain is still not updated, it enters a redemption period when inactive. This period can last several weeks and incurs an additional fee. If the domain remains unrenewed, it becomes available to the public.

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