About Domain Names...

A domain name is a unique address that directs a user’s web browser to the location where your website is hosted. Some examples are “google.com” and “pbs.org.”

What is the Difference Between a Domain Name and Web Hosting?

It is important to recognize the distinction between domain names and web hosting. A domain name is simply that—a name—that serves as an easy way for people to remember how to locate your website and/or send you e-mail. However, it alone does not provide you with the ability to maintain a website. For that, you need web hosting, where you receive an allotted amount of space on a web server that is always connected to the Internet in exchange for a monthly fee (or “rent”).

What Kinds of Domain Names Are Available?
A domain name is comprised of two parts—the unique name (i.e. “google”), and the TLD ending (i.e. “.com”). The combination of the unique name and TLD ending that you want must not already be owned by anyone else in order for you to purchase it.

The most common TLDs (top level domains) are “.com,” “.net,” and “.org.” You cannot make up your own TLD; you must select one from the list of approved current extensions. The range of TLDs is expanding all the time.

How Do I Know If the Name I Want is Available?
A WHOIS engine search will show you the status of a given domain name, i.e. whether it is available for purchase, or currently owned.

If a domain is currently owned, you still may be able to obtain it. Look for the expiration date. If it has passed, the domain is expired; if the current owner does not renew the name within 60-90 days, the name will become available for purchase. Keep checking back.

Even if the domain is currently owned and not expired, its owner may be willing to sell it to you. First, type the domain name into an Internet browser and see if there is an active site at that address. If there is not, there is a chance the owner is not using it. Look for the administrative contact e-mail address in the WHOIS search results, and send them an e-mail letting them know you are interested.

Once I Own a Domain Name, Is It Mine Forever?
In short, no. Domain names need to be renewed before they expire for one or multiple years. Reminder e-mails are sent before a name expires so you have an opportunity to renew it.

Do I Need To Type “WWW.”? What is a Subdomain?
A subdomain is a word (or words) preceding a domain name in a URL. Although you see “www” in most web addresses, this part is actually a subdomain, and not a section of the actual domain name.

A given domain name can have as many subdomains as its web hosting provider allows. Each subdomain can point to a different section of the same website, using the same domain name; in this case, “www” is generally set to point to the same place as the domain name by itself points.

The following is a list of subdomain variations on the same domain name that each point to a different section of the same website:


Can I Access My Website Without a Domain Name?
If you have web hosting, but not a domain name, you can still access your website with what’s known as an IP address. This is particularly useful if your domain name has expired but you still need to access your files.

If you have a dedicated IP address, the address to use looks something like http://123.45.678.910. If you have a shared IP address, you will need to use an Instant Access Alias, which is considerably longer and may include both letters and numbers. Your specific information can be provided by your web host.

As you can tell, a domain name is considerably easier to remember than a sequence of random numbers and/or letters. It is strongly recommended that you maintain both a domain name and web hosting simultaneously.