How does a domain name work?

Domain names are one of those interesting beasts in the web design world. You can spend a lot of time trying to figure out how they work and there are multiple ways to get to the same solution. We’ve been building websites for over 15 years and there’s still elements about domains that come along and surprise us!

We’re going to do our best to explain in an easy-to-understand way exactly how domain names work. So strap yourself in.

Elements of a domain name

There’s a couple of important elements that make up a domain name. These make up what everyone would know as a standard domain name.
The first element is the domain name itself. As an example, this is the ‘marketeam’ in:-

The second element is the domain extension. This is the, the or .info etc (there are many different domain extensions to choose from) at the end of your domain name.

Domain names are your address on the web

In the early days of computing if you wanted to connect to another computer you would put in a series of numbers known as an IP address. This is a numerical representation of the physical address of a computer.

Domain names work using the same system, but rather than having a series of numbers to access an address, we have human friendly versions of IP addresses called domain names (much easier to remember and to type!). Every website that has a domain name also has an IP address, however we don’t tend to use the IP address to access sites – domain names are much easier to use.

DNS and Name Servers – the DNA of Domains

Now when you type in a domain name (like your favorite website) your website doesn’t just magically appear, there’s a little more happening in the background to make a website open in a browser when a domain name is typed in. Now we’re going to dive into DNS (Domain Name System) and Name Servers.

DNS or domain name system is like a huge phonebook of website addresses that are connected to domain names.

Name Servers
Name servers are the address of the physical server where your website is hosted.

When you type in a website address or domain name into your favourite browser, the process goes a little like this.

  1. You type in into your browser.
  2. Your computer then searches through the DNS to find out the name server of the domain.
  3. The name servers of the domain are retrieved.
  4. The IP address of the server is retrieved.
  5. Your computer sends a request to that IP along with the page you’re trying to access.
  6. Your browser then renders the domain name and the page you’re trying to look at.

Pretty amazing stuff considering this is done in around 2-3 seconds!

A domain name is the first thing you will need if you’re going to have a website built. If you would like some assistance finding or registering a domain name for a new website project, call us today on (07) 3882 3375.