The anatomy of a domain and url

It is incredibly common to own at least one domain name nowadays, as they have become somewhat of a necessity when applying for certain job roles, and making yourself known to the online world. When you set out to buy a domain name, you probably already have the name in mind, whether it is to do with your own personal name, a blog or a business – that part is pretty straight forward.

However, some aspects of buying a domain name can sound really confusing. Things like top level domain, third level domain and uniform resource locator all sound like internet jargon that only a professional programmer would understand. It’s important to get to grips with some of these phrases, and if you don’t know what this technological jargon means, then look no further. This article will help you understand domain names in their entirety.

To start with the basics, a web address or domain name is split into three parts, which are separated by dots. You have before the first dot, in-between the dots, and after the second dot. The third part is mostly associated with being either .com or .org – this is called the top level domain. Most of these top level domains have something to do with the content itself, as .co.uk is normally a website from the UK and .gov tends to have something to do with the government.

The most important part however is the middle part, called the domain. There are many rules that apply here when creating your domain name, but they are all pretty straightforward.

  • You are not allowed spaces between words.
  • They are not case sensitive.
  • You are allowed to have dashes between words.
  • Special characters are not allowed.
  • Numbers are permitted.
  • Domains can be as long as 63 characters.

The top level domain and domain go hand in hand to create a website address. However, there is the before the dot part to consider too. This is called the sub-domain. You will mostly see the sub-domain as a www. (world-wide web), however you can have other sub-domains such as ’blog’ and ’mail’.

Other handy information to know when choosing a domain name to buy is what everybody means when they say URL. URL stands for the Uniform Resource Locator. It has an incredibly important role within the internet as it is what takes us to specific websites, hence the locator part of the name. This refers to how in some website addresses, you can see a lot of forward-slashes and numbers after the third level domain. This is the part that is taking you to a specific page of whichever website you have chosen.

By looking at the below example, you can begin to familiarize yourself with some more key terms:

The anatomy of a domain and url
http://www.domainname.com:80/contact?docid=-782468276383&hl=en#00h02m30s

1. Protocol

When browsing the internet, you have probably noticed the letters ‘http’ sitting near the web address. These letters stand for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol. In technical terms, communication is needed between the web server and your browser when sending and displaying the website – this communication is achieved by the protocol. You may also see the letters ’https’, with the ‘s’ standing for Secure. This is normally used when private information is being shared, such as when you are doing online banking.

2. Path

A port is the part after the top level domain, normally in a numeric format. This number (80) is used for the protocol. It is called the path because it is the directory to receive specific data that you want to view.

3. Fragment

The letters and numbers displayed like those after the hashtag in the above example are called a fragment. This is the section that contains a webpage, taking you directly to a specific part of a website.

4. Query and Parameters

A query is the part after the question mark in the above example. It represents a request to a website. The large string of numbers after the first equals sign is called the parameter, and is defined as a piece of information found in the query.

The domain name and URL work together to bring the browser a specific part of the website that they wish to view. By learning this, and what makes a domain and URL, you will have better understanding when purchasing your own website.

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