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 certainly complex, yet its brilliant organization takes all the bells and whistles out of the picture.
In fact, 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 in order to locate a website. It sounds tedious, doesn’t it? 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 in order to view the site.
Since 1985, domain names have relieved us from 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 in order to call them? Now, as a result of the debut of cell phone contacts, we can barely recall our own numbers, let alone others. In this instance, domain names could be likened to contact names, and IP addresses could be likened 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 long 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 where to find 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, and 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 completely 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 all 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? It was 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!
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 proper domain.
What is DNS?
Déjà vu Alert! We elaborated on the details pertaining to 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 explore the components of DNS further, click the link below to view the rest of that blog piece.
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 so we can 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 is commanding 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 so as to navigate to 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 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 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 tac on the hypothetical subdomain ‘blog’ to your hypothetical domain name ‘myhypotheticaldomainname.com’ and it would appear as:
This is a nice 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 5 subdomains to ‘myhypotheticaldomainname.com’ in order to direct your viewers to different pages on your site.
What is the Difference Between a Subdomain & a Subdirectory?
Once again, an example will provide the best answer:
EXAMPLE OF SUBDOMAIN:
‘blog’ is the subdomain
EXAMPLE OF SUBDIRECTORY:
‘/blog’ is the subdirectory
A subdirectory is essentially a folder within your main 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 basically the 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 exact 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 addon domain is unique to its primary domain, yet hosted under the same account. People generally get addon domains to save themselves money and time. The addon domain is an independent domain in itself, however, it is hosted under the same account as the primary domain. An addon 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 addon 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 addon domains to your primary domain. Typically an addon domain is created within a control panel.
A Word to the Wise: Remember that if you get an addon domain rather than registering for a new domain, you would have to share your web hosting resources between both the domain and addon domain. If both your website and addon 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 addon 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 addon domain entitled ‘addondomain.’
These three domains are generated when you get an addon domain:
When your visitors check out your addon 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 addon 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. DNS, domain names, subdomains, addon domains, and everything in between do, however, 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 transformed the world in a monumental way. 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!