Recent estimates state that we exceeded one billion websites worldwide sometime in 2014. Without exception, every website that exists today has two things in common: They ALL need a domain name and they ALL need hosting. What’s that mean, anyway? This article breaks it down into simple terms that will help you make sense of the basic building blocks of any web site: The Domain Name and it’s relationship to the Hosting Account.
Think of Domain Names This Way:
A Web Address (URL) is to a web browser what a Street Address is to a GPS Unit. Once you put in the information, both of them should take you somewhere.
A domain name is part of a web address kind of like a street name is part of a street address. The street address can take you to a specific place on the street (for example 12351 Green Forest Road) but what if there was nothing there but an uncleared rural lot.
It’s exactly as if you had typed a web address (URL – otherwise knownas Uniform Resource Locator) into your browser and the domain name had not yet been assigned to (linked to) a hosting account. The web address would lead nowhere. Depending on which web browser you use, and how your ISP (Internet Service Provider) handles requests like this, you might get a message something like this one, which I received using the Sarari browser for Windows when intentionally typing in a URL I know is not in use:
Continuing that thought, if someone constructed a building at 12351 Green Forest Road but no tenants had moved in and the building had nothing in it, there would be no reason to go to that empty building. (Unless, of course, you are real estate agent showing it to a potential client looking to lease space or you’re the prospective tenant or buyer.)
In the same way, a domain name can be registered, a hosting account can be purchased, and the domain can be pointed to the hosting account, but if no website has been built it’s just like an empty building – you either get a “coming soon” message or something like this “Parked Domain” page.
The Missing Piece – A Website to View
So, as you can see, it’s possible to have a domain name and a hosting account, but no website. In order for you to navigate to a website, the web address needs to take you to a place where the information that comprises the website is stored. This is what a hosting account does: It provides a place on a web server (a computer connected to the Internet that houses the software that “serves up” web pages) where files and data are uploaded so that they can be viewed on demand by everyone following the web address to it. It’s entirely possible to set up a hosting account and even build a website, but if you don’t have a URL (Web Address) to link it to, there will be no way for anyone to find the site except those who know the “staging URL” to the site or the exact IP address (if you’re using a dedicated IP only). So that’s why we say that EVERY website needs a domain name and hosting at a minimum in order for people to get access to the content you want your potential customers (or viewers, subscribers, clients, visitors – whatever you want to call them) to see.
Earlier I mentioned that three years ago the world reached one billion websites. How all these websites can exist and are easily located is dependent on a complex system called the Domain Name System or DNS. This system takes all the IP Addresses (numerical names for server locations) and masks them with friendly, easy to spell and remember names which frequently identify a brand or a company or a person to whom they belong. The domain name is combined with the machine name (like “www”) and the top-level domain (like “.com”) to form the web address. Some examples of well-known web addresses with unforgettable domain names might be www.coca-cola.com (IP address 126.96.36.199) or www.nike.com (IP address 188.8.131.52) or www.apple.com (IP address 184.108.40.206). As you can probably tell, Domain Names are far simpler to remember than the IP Addresses they mask.
When this system was created, top level domains like .com, .net and .org were the only ones available to the general public and .gov, .edu and .mil were reserved for government and educational organizations. Over the years top level domains like .biz, .me, .info, .us, .tv and .online were added. Now generic top level domains (gTLD’s) can be almost anything like .guru, .club and .xyz. Here’s a partial list of other gTLD’s that have recently been released:
.pro .vip .love .company .ninja .guru .tips .solutions .rocks .center .news .photography .store .global .space .directory .today .golf .email .education .fit .tips .zone .fitness
And there are most likely hundreds more! Why? It’s all about branding! These gTLD’s not only provide a way to expand the number of available domains, but produce an extension for URL’s that help tell the story of the company they are tied to.
Have some fun and check it out! Go to http://studio902.net and in the “search” field where it says “Start your domain search here…“, type in your domain followed by one of these gTLD’s and see what happens. See a fit that’s available? Buy it now!