A Foolproof Guide to Domains

If you have ever tried to create a website or blog, then I am sure you must have come across the words “domain” or “domain name” or “web hosting for your domain”. It can be quite confusing but this will help to simplify things.

What is a Domain Name?

A domain name is a string of characters used to identify a computer, phone or website’s IP (Internet  Protocol) address. Every device that connects to the Internet has an IP number but the domain name represents these numbers using easy to understand text.

The domain name is also simply called “domain”. The Domain Name System (DNS) creates the rules and procedures by which domain names are fashioned. A domain name must be registered in the DNS.

Domain names usually consist of a series of letters divided by periods (“.”). It may also contain numbers and hyphens.

A typical website address looks like this:


The domain name is Domains4Less. A domain name helps to locate and identify each Internet resource’s (computer, phones, network servers) Internet Protocol (IP) number on the Internet.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is in charge of the DNS. It is a non-profit organisation charged with maintaining and managing the DNS and also establishing policies and regulations to govern the activities of domain registrars.

What are Domain Names Used for?

Domain names carry out specific functions.

  1. Domain names can be used to create a personalised online identity. Organisations, businesses and even individual people can select a domain name that is the same as their name or the name of their business. This makes it easy for Internet users to find them.
  2. Domain names serve as a text label synonymous with the numerical IP address used to identify computers, services, phones and networks servers. This text format is easier to understand and also recognise and remember.
  3. Search Engine Optimisation: a domain name which is unique to your brand or organisation is easier to find when people search for you on the Internet.

Types of Domain Names

Under the Domain Name System (DNS), domain names are classified and distinguished from each other through a set hierarchy. Domains are classified as:

  • Top-Level Domains (TLD)
  • Generic Top Level Domains (gTLD)
  • Country code Top Level Domains (CcTLD)
  • Internationalised country code top-level domains (IDN ccTLD)
  • Second Level Domains (SLD)
  • Third Level Domains (TLD)

Top-Level Domains (TLD)

The Top-Level Domains (TLD) are known as domain extensions. They were distinguished in 1985 by The Internet for Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). They are the highest level in the DNS hierarchy.

These six types are:

.com – originally created for commercial businesses but restrictions on its use was limited. Presently, it is used by a wide variety of people for functions not limited to only business. It is the most popular and widely used top-level domain extension.

.org – this is short for organisation, created specifically for non-profit organisations. As observed with .com and .net, the restrictions were not enforced. Today, it is used by schools, for-profit organisations, non-profit organisations and even semi-government organisations.

.net – originally meant to distinguish network organisations such as ISPS (Internet Service Providers) or Infrastructure companies. It is very widely used today because its restrictions were not adhered to.

.gov – this is another domain name created for the governments of countries. Its use is limited for use by (federal in the USA) governmental agencies and personnel. It is also used by governmental programs, states, towns, cities, counties as well as native American tribes.

.edu – edu stands for education and it was created for educational institutions (universities) worldwide but it mostly used by various educational institutions. Many educational institutions use .edu in addition to their country-level domain.

.mil – this is one top-level domain where the restrictions are enforced. This domain name extension was developed specially for the U.S. military but is now used for the military in all countries.

gTLD – generic Top Level Domain

Generic domain extensions can be used by people, businesses or organisations anywhere in the world for various purposes. Some of them are: .org, .com, .net, and .info.

Under the gTLD, you have the:

  • Generic restricted domains which can only be used for certain purposes. Examples are .name, .biz and .pro.
  • Sponsored gTLDs include: .asia, .edu, .mobi, .int, .jobs, .tel, .cat, and so on. These domains are most often used by businesses or organisations in a particular industry.

ccTLD – country code Top Level Domains

These are domain extensions created for specific geographical locations. They consist of only two letters, for example: Nigeria (.ng), United Kingdom (.uk), New Zealand (.nz), Australia (.au), Canada (.ca). Initially, most countries let only residents or businesses registered in that country use their country code but some countries such as Tuvalu (.tv) allow it to be used world wide.

Internationalised country code top-level domains (IDN ccTLD)

These are domain names used by foreign countries. It makes use of a specially encoded format which allows special characters to be used in the domain name.

Second Level Domains

This type of domain is placed directly under the Top-Level domains in the DNS hierarchy. They refer to the name of the brand or organisation in the domain name. Many times, they are used together with a country code, such as co.nz, .co.uk, au, .com.ng etc.

Third-Level domains

These fall below the Second-level domain in the hierarchy and they are also called subdomains. They are regarded as separate websites by search engines but they are used within a website to identify different sections.

For example, www.hr.mysite.com. HR is the third level domain.

How Much Does a Domain Name Cost?

The price of a domain name can range from anywhere between $15 and about $45 a year. If you are just starting out, you might want to find a domain name for less that offers discounted prices for domain names with plans spanning as long as 10 years and helping you to save money.

7 Simple Tips to Help you Choose a Domain Name

  • Choose a name simple and easy to remember
  • Avoid the use of numbers and hyphens, they make it complex
  • Make it short and easy to pronounce
  • Use your business name as a domain name.
  • Use a domain name generator
  • Use keywords related to the purpose of your business or website.
  • Ensure you use the right domain extension – .com is the most widely used extension but you might consider others depending on the nature of your domain.