What is a domain name?
Domain names have been called many things over the years. Domain, domain name, URL, web address all refer to the same thing. Your domain is your web address, and your web address is a URL (uniform resource locator).
Simply put, a domain name is a URL that you enter into a browser to access a website.
To Be More Technically Accurate
A domain name is the pretty version of your website’s server IP address. To be online, your website must first be hosted on a web server. That web server identifies your group of content (your website) using an IP address.
However, since humans are not computers, we need something a little easier to remember than a group of numbers and letters that change frequently. That’s where the DNS comes in.
What Is DNS?
Domain Name System, or DNS, is a naming system for computers. It takes those IP addresses and assigns easy to remember domain names. More accurately, it takes the domain names that you enter and translates them to the IP addresses the computers (servers) use to identify your website.
You may own a website and a domain and have never once touched the DNS – and that’s fine! In most cases, you don’t need to. The DNS is where you set up things like email MX records, subdomains (like mail.example.com, or calendar.example.com), and authentication TXT records for services like Google. If all that sounds way too technical, that’s okay. Just know that the DNS is the go-between for humans and servers when it comes to websites.
The ICANN Can!
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is the United States-owned, nonprofit organization responsible for handing out those domain names.
Whenever you buy a domain name from, say, SiteGround, they first have to check with ICANN to make sure the domain is available. If available, they register it with ICANN and assign you ownership. Once you own the domain, you’re able to point it to whatever you like!
.com, .net, .org? What else?
In 2019, vanity extensions blew up in popularity! You can get all sorts of extensions outside of the traditional .com, .net, or .org!
In 2020, the number of these vanity domain extensions will continue to grow. In the near future, I expect to see some major popular websites using extensions other than .com.
Why Do I Need A Domain Name?
I’m not sure who needs to hear this, but if you’re planning on having a website, you absolutely need a domain name. It’s really not optional. A domain like JoesTireShop.Wix.Com just isn’t going to cut it. (Sorry if that’s actually a domain, imaginary Joe. But, your domain sucks!).
If you intend to grow your business online, step 1 is registering that domain name. But there are multiple ways to do that. My suggestion is to pick it up while you’re purchasing hosting.
Where Do I Get A Domain Name?
Buying your domain is a major milestone in the process of getting yourself online. Although you can purchase a domain without hosting from some providers including Google and GoDaddy, most people, just buy them while buying hosting.
How To Buy A Domain When Setting Up Hosting
Since you can’t do a whole lot with a domain without hosting of some sort, then it just stands to reason that hosting accounts offer the registration and purchase of domains during their checkout process. Every credible hosting platform that I’ve seen, from SiteGround, to GoDaddy, to even Shopify and Wix; they all provide a way to purchase a domain through their service. Since SiteGround is quite simply the best WordPress hosting for nearly every scenario, I’ll explain how to buy a domain through their service.
When buying hosting, step 1 is Choose a Plan.
Once you’ve chosen that plan, step 2 is Choose Domain.
Step 3: fill in your important information and checkout.
It is truly that easy with SiteGround.
I hope this cleared up some confusion about what a domain is and how it ties in with hosting. If you want more information on what web hosting is, check out my blog post about that here. If you think I missed something important, let me know in the comments below!