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Square One Fundamentals: Domains, Subdomains, Addon Domains, & More

by: Hostwinds Team  /  October 19, 2019


The adage goes, "Home is where the heart is."

This philosophy is neither ornate nor extravagant, yet it hits the point home impeccably well. Believe it or not, such a concept brings to mind the process by which typing a simple string of characters into an internet search bar instantly generates a website. Don't get us wrong. This system is undoubtedly complex. Yet, its brilliant organization takes all the bells and whistles out of the picture.

The bits and pieces that come together to ensure a domain name accurately directs you to the right website aren't fancy at all. They are pretty straightforward when it comes down to it.

Domain names have been around for a long time now, and thank goodness. Why thank goodness, you ask? Imagine if each unique domain name was replaced by a series of numbers that you had to recall to locate a website. It sounds tedious. This is actually how the internet functioned back in the day when it was young. Each website was associated with an IP address that people had to keep track of to view the site.

Since 1985, domain names have relieved us of the burden of recording or remembering an outlandish amount of information. Every website's IP address is now associated with a domain name.

Think about it this way: Do you remember the days before cell phones existed when you had to remember someone's number to call them? As a result of the debut of cell phone contacts, we can barely recall our numbers, let alone others. In this instance, domain names could be likened to contact terms, and IP addresses could be compared to phone numbers.

The benefits offered by domain names are clear. That said, what exactly are domain names? You might be surprised to find out.

What is a Domain?

Technically, the IP address connected to your website establishes the latter's location on the internet. However, the domain name is sort of like a nickname for the IP. This is exceedingly helpful for those of us who don't feel like remembering the extended IP address of every single site we want to visit. In other words, this is exceedingly helpful for literally everyone who uses the internet.

RECAP: Each website has an IP associated with it, and each IP address has a domain name associated with it.

NOTE: No two domain names are the same.

What is the Difference Between a Domain Name and a URL?

The URL is everything you see when you look at a web address in the browser search bar. Each URL provides instructions about finding the file containing the address to the domain, subdomain, etc.

A URL includes:

The transfer protocol(that 'https://' part at the beginning of the URL).

  • The domain name.
  • The subdirectories following the domain name.

An Example to Help Us Make Sense of This URL Enigma:

'hostwinds.com' is Hostwinds' domain name.

https://www.hostwinds.com/hosting/shared is the URL for Hostwinds' Shared Hosting web page.

The URL narrows down which specific web page or file to point to. It deciphers which of the files within your primary domain's directory to go to when, for example, your viewer clicks on a specific web page or a specific video on your website.

P.S. Fun Fact: URL stands for Universal Resource Locator.

Registering a Domain Name

Registering for your site's domain name is paramount. If you'd like to get a domain name, you have two options:

1. Register a new domain name that is entirely original.

2. Buy an already-created domain name.

NOTE: Even if you purchase a previously owned domain name, you must still register it.

Registering a domain name is easy, and it is handled through ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). A domain registrar will assist you in registering a domain name with ICANN.

That's how you preserve your website's home address. Once you register for a domain name, you would sign up for a hosting plan like(, just as an example) one of Hostwinds unbelievably inexpensive and reliable Shared Web Hosting plans! What's that? Was it clear that was a shameless plug on our part?

How observant you are, and while we're on this topic, we may as well show you this:

Shared Hosting plans start at just $3.29 per month!

Hostwinds' Shared Web Hosting Plans

https://www.hostwinds.com/hosting/shared

After you've signed up for your domain and hosting account, you have full reign to exhibit a website on the internet.

You might be asking yourself, "How does this whole IP address, domain name, website hosting arrangement work exactly?" Great question.

DNS is how it works. DNS (Domain Name System) is the protocol that accounts for associating each IP address with the correct domain.

What is DNS?

Déjà vu Alert! We elaborated on the details of the magical DNS formula in a previous blog post!

Excerpt From that Blog Post: "DNS is a vast, virtual database full of web domains and the critical information associated with each domain."

More Shameless Plugging: If you would like to further explore the components of DNS, click the link below to view the rest of that blog piece.

Everything Awesome About DNS & Hostwinds' DNS Management Solution

More DNS Facts: Did you know the backbone of the internet is a countless amount of IP addresses? IP addresses are how domain name servers talk with one another. Over a million domain name servers communicate with each other over the internet to conveniently find a website. These servers are the crux of the internet's functionality.

Domain name servers search for an IP address using a hierarchical system. Part of the DNS protocol commands the domain name servers to always read the domain name from right to left. The server first looks for the Top-Level Domain, then the Second-Level Domain, then the Third-Level Domain to navigate the proper IP address.

What are Top-Level Domains (TLDs)?

You know that piece of the domain at the very end, such as '.com' or '.org?' That is called a domain name extension. That domain name extension is the Top-Level Domain or TLD.

You could probably guess that the most frequently used TLD is '.com,'; however, a couple of other examples include '.net' and '.gov.'

What are Second-Level Domains (SLDs)?

Second-Level Domains are the section of the URL that is just to the left of the Top-Level Domains.

For instance, let's look at https://www.hostwinds.com/.

'.com' is the Top-Level Domain.

'hostwinds' is the Second-Level Domain.

NOTE: A domain name is only valid if it contains both a TLD and an SLD.

What are Third-Level Domains?

A Third-Level Domain would be something like a subdomain. Another example might make it easier to understand this part:

Let's say your company website's URL is https://www.mydomain.com

Let's say your company has a mail service similar to that of Yahoo Mail.

Your company's URL for the mail service could be https://www.mail.mydomain.com.

The 'mail' part and the 'www' preceding it would be considered a Third-Level Domain. The 'mail' section itself could also be considered a subdomain.

What is a Subdomain?

Subdomains are a means to clean up your site URL by adding a prefix to your domain name. For instance, you could tack on the hypothetical subdomain 'blog' to your theoretical domain name 'myhypotheticaldomainname.com,' and it would appear as:

blog.myhypotheticaldomainname.com

This is an excellent way to organize your URL if you have various web pages within your site.

NOTE: You are limitless in terms of how many different subdomains your domain name can have.

As illustrated below, you could add five subdomains to 'myhypotheticaldomainname.com' to direct your viewers to other pages on your site.

tutorials.myhypotheticaldomainname.com

images.myhypotheticaldomainname.com

store.myhypotheticaldomainname.com

admin.myhypotheticaldomainname.com

careers.myhypotheticaldomainname.com

What is the Difference Between a Subdomain & a Subdirectory?

Once again, an example will provide the best answer:

EXAMPLE OF SUBDOMAIN:

blog.thisisanexampledomain.com

'blog' is the subdomain

EXAMPLE OF SUBDIRECTORY:

thisisanexampledomain.com/blog

'/blog' is the subdirectory

A subdirectory is essentially a folder within your primary domain name folder. It is just another way to organize the navigation path to a specific web page or file within your site.

What is the Difference Between a Subdomain & a Parked Domain?

A subdomain is a domain for a completely new website, but you don't need to register for the subdomain.

Conversely, a parked domain is another name for your domain name. Regardless of whether your visitor types in your primary domain or parked domain, they will view the same website.

Parked domains have to be registered, and they can't be disassociated from their respective primary domains.

An example of a parked domain is as follows:

PRIMARY DOMAIN: domainname.com

PARKED DOMAIN: domainname.edu

Another example might be:

PRIMARY DOMAIN: supposedly.com

PARKED DOMAIN: supposably.com

If your domain name has a word in it that people often misspell, you may consider getting a parked domain.

What is an Addon Domain?

Definition of Addon Domain: An add-on domain is unique to its primary domain yet hosted under the same account. People generally get add-on domains to save themselves money and time. The add-on domain is independent in itself. However, it is hosted under the same account as the primary domain. An add-on domain does need to be registered, but it is under the primary domain's hosting account.

Let's use yet another hypothetical example to illustrate why one might get an add-on domain:

Say you own a yoga studio that has 3 locations. Rather than paying for three web hosting accounts for each location's website, you can pay for one hosting account and attach add-on domains to your primary domain. Typically an add-on domain is created within a control panel.

A Word to the Wise: Remember that if you get an add-on domain rather than registering for a new domain, you would have to share your web hosting resources between both the domain and add-on domain. If both your website and add-on domain site experience a lot of traffic collectively, make sure to monitor how that might impact your resource usage. Possibly look into upgrading to a higher tier web hosting plan if that makes sense financially.

Here's What Happens When You Get an Addon Domain:

First off, a folder pops up in your primary domain's directory entitled 'public_html.'

A subdomain appears in that folder.

The domain name you gave your add-on domain links to that subdomain we just mentioned.

Another Example to Help Us Out Here:

Let's say your domain name is 'domain.com,' and you'd like to create an add-on domain entitled 'add-on domain.'

These three domains are generated when you get an add-on domain:

domain.com/addondomain

addondomain.domain.com

addondomain.com

When your visitors check out your add-on site, they will only see addondomain.com. For all your viewers know, addondomain.com is the only website, and domain.com/addondomain, for instance, doesn't exist. As far as your site users are concerned, your add-on domain is the primary domain.

Now that we've covered a fair amount of domain name fundamentals, who's ready for another hearty dose of philosophical reflection? What's that? A unanimous and enthusiastic "I am" from the entire audience? It's time to drive this blog post home, folks.

Finding Your Way Back Home

The boundless realm that we call cyberspace can seem like a cold place sometimes. However, DNS, domain names, subdomains, add-on domains, and everything in-between do seem to turn potential chaos into harmony within this ubiquitous space. Something about harmony makes the internet a little warmer.

After all, the internet has provided homes for each of our treasured websites, and it has irrefutably monumentally transformed the world. The World Wide Web has, in a sense, become our home in this day and age, and there truly is no place like home.

Register a domain name today to give your website a wonderful virtual home! By the way, if you need hosting, you know who to call (888-404-1279). Have a harmonious rest of the week, folks!

Written by Hostwinds Team  /  October 19, 2019

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