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  • Larry Mabena
  • Feb 22, 2021

What Is A Domain Name Anyway

    “What on earth is this domain name anyway?…Can we not do without it, why should we register it and keep paying for it every year..?” These are some of the most frequent questions that come up whenever there is a mention of domain registration. In this article I attempt to simply outline what a domain name is, how it works and why everyone must understand its importance in relation to the web and the internet.

    Computers and human beings

    First of all, we would do well to mention that every device or entity that connects to the internet has to be assigned a unique ID called an IP (Internet Protocol) address. Computers identify each other and communicate on the internet using these numbers. We however are not digital beings but we are human beings and we do not communicate using digits, we use human readable names. When we get to the browser we do not enter the IP address for us to access Facebook but we type in because that is what we can easily relate to, that is human readable, we can always remember Facebook by name and not its IP address. We do not need to remember all these digits for every website, we just need the name, that name is called the domain name.

    Domain- "Marking some territory"

    Technically a domain refers to a group of resources within the same administrative control, that is where we get the word ‘domain name’. Generally, a domain is an area or territory under the control of an organisation or individual. So in relation to the internet (global network of networks), a domain is a portion of the internet which is under the control of an organisation or individual. The name given to this portion is the domain name. Resources on the internet (websites, emails etc.) are stored in computers called servers. The storing of such files is called hosting. This service is usually provided by hosting companies which rent out space in their servers for individuals or organisations to keep (host) their resources at a fee. This means that for a website or email to work there is need for these basic items; a home (web server), an address (IP address) and a unique domain name to associate with the address.

    DNS- The Giant "Phonebook" of the internet

    The home (webserver) and the address (IP address) of a website can change at any time due to reasons like changing from one hosting company to another. Website visitors do not get to know of these changes, they just type in the same domain name as usual and they are able to access the website thanks to the Domain Name System (DNS).

    The Domain Name System works more like the phonebook in our cell phones. When we make a call we search for the contact by name and dial without having to memorise the phone number because the phonebook associates names with numbers. So when we type a domain name on our computers or smartphone’s browser we are requesting for a particular page to be loaded to our browsers. This request is forwarded to a network of servers called the Domain Name System which look up the hosting company that is associated with the domain. The DNS does this through identifying the hosting company’s name servers and sends the request to them. The name servers in turn locate the actual webserver that houses the requested website and the webserver then responds to the browser with the requested page.All this happens in seconds in the background as we browse from website to website without any difficulties.


    What would we do without the Domain Naming System. It has made it possible for our customers and audiences to recognise us in the digital space and interact with us without any doubt that they have come to us.

About the author

Larry Mabena

Larry Mabena

Larry Mabena is an experienced, multiskilled ICT Consultant, focusing on solutions that range from web development and design, data analysis and visualisation, digital branding to other allied solutions.He holds a BSc Hons in Informatics from the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo,Zimbabwe and has a passion for Geographic Information Systems and other geospatial technologies.