On March 15, 1985 the first domain: symbolics.com was registered. A year later all of 10 more domains had been registered. Now there are over 100 million of them. The idea caught on.
They say all the really good domains are taken – and I had the chance to get some great ones. I tell myself there are still plenty of perfectly fine domains to be had, that the domain does not play a big role in SEO, that too much emphasis is placed on getting the perfect domain; and it's all true, but if only...
Let take a look at a couple of examples.
- Great ecommerce site. It feels clean and secure. The owner of that domain just sits back and watches the commissions roll in.
- This guy has both money and taste – probably drives a Lamborghini. But what a spectacular site! Nothing gets in the way of you searching for a home.
While having great domains definitely doesn't hurt, they are not the only – or even principal – reason those sites are successful. I have repeated throughout this tutorial is that the best website in the world is worthless without traffic. The same holds true for domains.
Take a look at sunglass.com. It too is a well designed ecommerce site. However it doesn't show up in the search engines; bad SEO. Google "sunglasses" and what comes up on top is sunglasshut.com – not as good a domain, but a much better business.
Getting a good domain is important, but it's just one part of the process. Find a domain that is easy to remember and descriptive. Do the best you can, but there is not much gain in fretting if it isn't ideal. Focus on SEO and good clean design – things you can control.
So what is a domain? What we think of as a domain is actually a combination of a middle (or second) level domain, eg. "HTML-5-tutorial" and a top level domain (TLD), "com".
The most common top level domain names are com, org and net.
- .com is for commercial sites.
- .net is for internet related sites.
- .org is for non-profit organizations.
However, there are many other top level domains. Countries have country code top level domains. For example India has .in and Brazil, .br. Certain industries have their own top level domain like .travel for the travel industry. *
Like a telephone, every computer connected to the internet has a unique number. Both the computer in front of you and my server have Internet Protocol or IP numbers, called an IP address.
- Your computer's IP address is: 188.8.131.52
- My server's IP address is: 184.108.40.206
As IP addresses are difficult to remember, a system was created to give IPs names, called domains. Why the powers that be decided to call them "domains" rather than just "names", I have no idea. Domains are something kings rule ...I feel a rant coming on, but I will resist.
The system that manages domains is the Domain Name System or more commonly, DNS. **
The Domain Name System is a database with domains in one column and their associated IP addresses in the other. It is nothing more than an enormous electronic "telephone" book stored in DNS servers around the globe.
To display a website your browser first needs to look up the domain's IP address; in computer science terms, it needs to resolve the domain. Why "resolve" instead of "find" or "look up"? Again, I have no idea...
To resolve the domain the browser requests a DNS lookup from a DNS server. The DNS server replies with the IP address and the browser then downloads the HTML, CSS, image etc. files from the server with that IP address.
Keeping track of tens of millions of domain names and delivering their IP address to hundreds of millions of computers around the globe in a tiny fraction of a second is no mean feat. The DNS's speed and accuracy is the result of some extraordinary technology, but what it actually does is quite simple – indeed, elegantly so.
So how do you go about getting a domain? Domains, like IPs, must be unique, so the first thing you need to do is find a domain that isn't already taken. When I started in web design in the late 1990s, to see if a domain was available I went to Internic "Whois" to see who is the owner of a domain. If whatever domain was not taken it responded with: No match for domain "example.com". I still go there to see who owns a particular domain because I know no one is going to pull a fast one on me. ***
When I am looking to reserve a new domain I go to bluehost, where this site is hosted. I know I am going to get a sales pitch, but I can trust them. ****
If you want see if a domain is available go to: bluehost, click "Sign Up Now" ***** and enter the domain you would like in the box under "I Need a Domain Name". You can continue checking new possibilities until you find a name you like. Once you do, leave that page open, come back here and learn about servers.
Registering a domain requires an associated IP which, in turn, requires having a server – and that you do need to sign up, and pay for. There is an annual fee to register a domain, but with bluehost, and almost all hosting companies I know of, your first domain is included.******
So now the question becomes, how do you get a server? That comes next.
* For a complete list of top level domains go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Internet_top-level_domains. To find out where to register a country code top level domain go to http://www.iana.org/domains/root/db/.
** The organization in charge of the Domain Names System is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, better known as ICANN. For more information on domain names download ICANN's guide: domain-names-beginners-guide-06dec10-en.pdf. In their defence it wasn't their idea to use the words "domain" or "resolve". They inherited them from INTERNIC, an agency under the US Department of Commerce, that originally ran the Domain Name System. American bureaucrats are not known for their simple clear English.
*** I once googled "whois", clicked a link at random, and started looking for a domain. Strangely, every name I checked was taken – but for a nominal fee they could get it for me. I later realized they were simply temporarily reserving the domains for themselves as I was searching.
**** I go into detail about my relation with bluehost on the following page.
***** Note: You do not have to sign up for anything yet. If fact, hold off for the moment. Learn about servers first.
****** You can host multiple domains on your server. Additional domains are called "addon" domains. I added www.howimakeawebsite.com to my HTML-5-tutorial.com account.
A domain name is an identification string that defines a realm of administrative autonomy, authority, or control on the Internet.
Internet Protocol or IP
The Internet Protocol (IP) is the method or protocol by which data is sent from one computer to another on the Internet.