Why do I need a domain name?

May 7, 2022
Admin

So you have a business and want to have something more than Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. You want to have control over your content and how you communicate with your current customers and future customers.

YOU NEED A WEBSITE

But when you talk to everyone they tell you that in order to have a website you need a domain name.

EXTRA INFO

Technically you don't need a domain name buy trying to communicate with customers and giving them a website address like "45.326.123.241" to enter in their browser would be awkward.

So what is a domain name. If you think of it as a phone book for the internet. I know I am dating myself as a lot of people don't know about phone books. What the domain name does is let people type in a easy to remember name and it is translated to a complicated number. For example if you type in "https://silvercityweb.com" into your browser it will look up the address 207.148.7.161.

Your domain name consists of 2 or more parts. The first part is the root domain. That is the ".com", ".org", ".net", etc. When you register for a domain name you will have to decide what top level domain you want to belong to.

The second part is your unique domain name. It should be something that is easy to remember that describes your company. For example everyone knows "ibm.com". Easy to remember and very short. You will most likely NOT get anything this short anymore. For my company "Silver City Web Services" I used "silvercityweb.com". Why didn't I use "silvercity.com" or "silver.com"? Well they were both already taken. Why didn't I use "silvercitywebservices.com"? Well I did want it to reflect my company name but I also wanted the domain name to be as short as possible.

TIP

It is possible to have multiple domain names going to the same place. For example ravensden.art goes to the same place as ravensden.studio.

The extra parts, those on the left side of your domain name (ex "www.silvercityweb.com" ) are strictly for you and you can use them or not.

So how do I get a domain name?

The root domain name are controlled by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). There are many root domain names available now. If you have a business it is best to use a ".com" but it is not required. For example Raven's Den Art Studio uses a ".art" root domain. You will make the decision on the root domain in the next step.

All domains MUST be registered with the IANA but only a few companies can do the registration. I personally use NameCheap. The initial cost of the domain name is cheap but sometimes the renewal cost can be more. For example click on the link above and enter "mynewdomain" in the search bar. The initial cost, at this time, is $14,995.00. The renewal cost is $13.98. Why the difference? People have registered domain names that they think will be sellable in the future. Personally I try to stay away from buying these domains unless it's absolutely necessary. On the other hand I have many "throw away" domains that I purchase for around a dollar. The price will go up next year but I will just get another cheap domain and let the original expire.

I got my domain name now what do I do?

You should have already setup a server where you will have your website. If you haven't then now is the time to do that. Look for my article on setting up a WordPress server.

When you got your server you should have received a IP address. Remember IP addresses? You can access your server using the IP address but we don't want to do that forever.

At your domain register they will have a couple of servers assigned to your domain name. By default they will point to a default page that they host, we need to change that.

Before we do that we need to understand how the whole domain name system works. When you type in a domain address into your browser, or click on a link, the browser does the following ( I will use https://www.silvercityweb.com as an example ):

  1. Your browser takes the domain name "www.silvercityweb.com" and sends it to your designated DNS servers, called DNS Resolvers. These servers are usually automatically set when you get an IP for your local network.
  2. The DNS Resolver server looks to see if it already has "www.silvercityweb.com" stored in it's cache.
    1. If it has "www.silvercityweb.com" stored in it's cache it returns the IP of the server.
    2. If it doesn't have "www.silvercityweb.com" it then goes out to one of the IANA Root servers, "a-root-servers.net" "b-root-servers.net" through m, and gets the IP of the domain registrar for "silvercityweb.com". Note, the "www" is gone. This is because these servers can't use it.
  3. Using the IP address that was returned above from the IANA Root server the DNS Resolver server will.
    1. Contact the domain registrar server, called the TLD server and ask for the IP address of the name servers for "silvercityweb.com".
    2. The TLD server will return the IP address of the name server called the Authoritative server. In this case there are two "ns1.silvercityweb.com" and "ns2.silvercityweb.com".
  4. Using the IP address returned in step 3 the DNS Resolver server will query the name server and ask for the IP address of "www.silvercityweb.com".
  5. Now the DNS Resolver server will return to your browser the IP address of the server "www.silvercityweb.com".

That was a lot of work behind the scenes. The only place you can make any changes is with the name servers. You can either use the name servers provided by the domain registrar. Typically these servers aren't very fast. You can use your own servers or servers from another service. I use CloudFlare in a lot of cases. They provide fast servers and some additional benefits.

So what are these name servers?

Name servers are the last step for someone to access your website. They can be quite simple or very complicated. Everything to the left of your domain name you control. Example "www.silvercityweb.com", "mail.silvercityweb.com", "mike.silvercityweb.com", etc. The last 2 examples you may not know what they are. "mail.silvercityweb.com" may take you to your webmail server. "mike.silvercityweb.com" may be your personal subsite.

There is only one entry that needs to be made in your name server. That entry type is a "A" record. For the host either leave it blank or use an "@". For the value it MUST be the IP address of your server. The last value is the TTL (Time To Live). If you remember in step 2 the DNS Resolver checked it's cache to see if it had the information needed. The TTL is how long the cash is good. 1 minute, 60 minutes, etc. TTL is specified in seconds and can be from 1 second to 129,540 seconds (35 days, 59 minutes). A good setting is about 1 hour (3600 seconds).

Once you have this one setting you should be able to access your web server using your domain name.