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Domain Names on the Internet Explained

Apr 9, 2008
The term "domain names" is more Internet jargon that's very simple in concept and a little difficult to grasp in actuality. Often misused and misunderstood, domain names probably aren't what you think they are.

What Are Domain Names?

You open up your browser, click on the text bar near the top, and type in a Web address. In all cases, you'll be typing in some sort of domain name. In some cases, this domain name isn't the entire Web address - though many Internet users believe the domain name and Web address are one in the same. They are not.

There are quite a few Web sites out there which provide a very intriguing link: Get Your Own Free Web Site! This is known as Web hosting, and it works quite simply. One Web site with a lot of space offers to let everyday uses create their own pages on the existing Web site. One prime example of this practice is Lycos mail. Those who have an email address with Lycos always have the option of using a Lycos site, Tripod, to create their own site. If I created a site through Lycos, my Web address would be something like myname.examplesite.com. This would be a Web address, not a domain name. You may own the Web site on the domain name, but the domain name itself reaps the rewards of that site. You've seen how it works: you create a free page, they put their ads all over it. They get the ad revenue, you get a free site.

Domain names are something a little different. The domain of the above Web site - myname.examplesite.com - isn't 'myname' but Tripod. Tripod owns the domain. Amazon, eBay, PayPal - these are all examples of domain names. To have a domain name, you have to purchase the one you want from a domain name registrar, a Web site which offers domain names to users. When you own your own domain name, you get to decide where the content goes - and, who if anyone gets the benefit of advertising on your website.

Choosing the Right Domain Name for a Site

It is very important to choose the right domain name before purchase. Consider what the site on the domain name will be, what information the site will offer. If the site is going to revolve around a business, the domain name should be similar to the business name. It's also important to choose a domain name that's easy for Internet users to remember. This will increase your chances of getting return visitors and will make it easier for word of mouth on the site to spread - two things you definitely want. If unsure what to do always consult with a professional website developer.

The domain name should also be easy to spell. Internet users are used to quick-click, instant satisfaction. They aren't going to spend a lot of time typing a long and cumbersome domain name just to get to their favorite site - they'd rather just get a new favorite site. Choose a domain name that can be easily and quickly spelled without too much thought or room for error. You'll have much better odds of getting loads of traffic.

Domain Name Extensions

No matter what Web address you're typing into your browser, it always has to be followed by one last detail - the extension. Common extensions include .com, .net, .org, .gov, and various country extensions like .jp (Japan), .fr (France) and .au (Australia). They vary from site to site, but what do they all mean?

In the earlier days of the Internet, the three main extensions (.com, .net and .org) all represented something different. The .com extension most commonly stood for company or commercial, while .org was reserved for non-profit organizations. These days, all of these extensions are available to the public at large, though .com is probably the most common extension on the Web. The .gov extension is reserved for government Web sites, and these are not open to the general public.

Different countries add their own extensions. British sites, for example, generally carry a .uk extension. Often, it's easy to tell when a site belongs to a country different from your own - the language will be foreign. But many sites offer translated pages which let you view sites from foreign countries while still being able to read and digest the information. It is much more common to simply surf Web sites which were created in one's own country, however, and many sites create completely separate sites for different countries to appeal to more visitors. If you expect to do a great deal of business with a particular country or expect to get a great deal of Web traffic from residents of another country, it might be prudent to create a site of the appropriate country extension. This will help you appeal to persons from that country on their own level.

Professional Web designers can offer advice on choosing a domain name, and on whether or not it's necessary to purchase a domain name or use Web hosting. These designers can also help you create foreign-language Web sites to appeal to a broader base of customers.
About the Author
Ratu Lewis is one of Australia's most respected Internet solutions consultants to Australian businesses. Director of Margin Media Ratu and his talented staff can create a valuable online presence for any business. Visit http://www.marginmedia.com.au for more information.
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