What Is A Domain Name?

Registering a domain name is the first step to getting online, but what is a domain name? And why do you need one?
If you or your business have a website, or if you have plans to set one up at any time in the future, you need a domain name. With so many websites currently hosted on the internet, finding the perfect domain name for you may seem like an impossible task.
We can assure you that you will always find a domain name that works for you.
So what is a domain name?
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s first outline exactly what a domain name is and why you need one.
A domain name is the name linked to a website. Each domain name is a textual representation of an IP address, which tells your web browser (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, etc) where the site data is physically located (this is where web hosting comes in). If we didn’t have domain names, we’d have to remember long strings of numbers every time we wanted to visit a website.
The entire process of how domain names are linked to IP addresses is called the Domain Name System (DNS). Thanks to this complex system, when you type in a web address your device knows exactly where to retrieve your data from.
A domain name example is westhost.com. The ‘westhost’ part is what differentiates the name from millions of others, but the ‘.com’ part is just as important. If you just type ‘westhost’ into your address bar, you will not arrive at the correct website.
The part of the domain name that comes to the right of the ‘dot’ is called a Top-Level Domain (or TLD for short). This portion of the domain name is crucial for your browser to locate the site. Common TLDs are .com, .net, .org and .edu, but new TLDs are being released every month (more on that later).
How do I get a domain name?
Registering a domain name is easy. You can register a domain name through an accredited registrar (like WestHost), which makes sure that once you register your domain name, the rights stay with you. Each domain name is unique, meaning that once someone has the name no one else can use it.
You can register a domain name for anywhere between one and ten years, depending on how long you think you’ll be using it. All of this is managed by an organization called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (or ICANN).
WestHost is an example of an accredited domain name registrar. You can register a domain name through us and then point the domain name to your website. We suggest registering a domain name as soon as you know which one you want, as there’s always a risk of it being snapped up by a competitor or individual.
What are gTLDs?
Over the last couple of years there has been a lot of talk about new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs). As we mentioned previously, TLDs are the ending portion of the domain name, such as .com. In 2013, ICANN began rolling out alternative gTLDs, which are new Top-Level Domains.
Some of the new gTLDs are:

These new gTLDs open up entirely new options for anyone wanting to register a domain name. Since only one person or organization has the rights to each domain name, new gTLDs provide additional choices for those wanting a similar domain name.
For example, if you wanted example.com and it was already registered by someone else, you could try and obtain example.ninja or example.photography.
Many of the new gTLDs are industry specific, such as .plumbing or .auto, although there are more ambiguous options such as .xyz or .discount. Click here for ICANN’s complete list of new gTLDs.
These new gTLDs have proven to be well accepted throughout the world. As even more websites are created, the implementation of new gTLDs accounts for the internet’s astounding growth rate.
Which domain name should I choose?
Domain names aren’t just a signpost to your website. They are a vital marketing technique that can be the difference between a successful startup and just another unknown website floating around the web.
A domain name should tell your customers about your business or blog. It’s best practice to register a domain name that is exactly the same as your business’s name where possible. People are generally confused when a domain name isn’t even related to the name of the business.
Do some research to find out exactly which domain names are available. If you’re trying to register a common domain name, you may have to get creative and alter it just a bit. Using a new gTLD is a great way to do this.
One way to know if a domain name is available is by using our domain name search tool. We will let you know if the domain you’re looking for is available, and if it’s not we’ll provide you with relevant available domains.
You can also use ICANN’s WHOIS search to find which domain names you can register. WHOIS will even tell you who owns the domain name, if it is already taken.
Having the right domain name can make or break your business. Be sure to pick the right one for you!

WestHost strives to help you get the domain name you want, hassle free. Contact our 24×7 support if you have any questions along the way!