Domains: Your Friendly Address on the Internet

By: James Monahan

Would you believe that there was a time that the internet didn’t have any domain names? During those days the internet was very much like a telephone network. If you wanted to visit a site, you would have to type that site IP address. And without domain names, visiting other websites became a chore.

In the olden days of computing, websites went by their IP address. So a particular site might be accessed by typing its IP address on the browser like so: “” If you miss a number, and fail to notice it, you could get connected to a totally different machine.

The beauty of domain names is this: it allows the user to use a language friendly text address instead of complicated numbers. This text address is called the domain name. Computers need to communicate using these numbers.

But these numbers are confusing to humans because we don’t talk that way. A system called the DNS (Domain Name System) takes the domain name you type in the browser and looks up the corresponding IP address for that domain name.

Domain names usually have two or more parts, or labels, which are separated by dots. The rightmost part of the domain name is the TLD top level domain. This is symbolized by a 3 letter marker: ‘com’ for companies, ‘net’ for networks, ‘org’ for organizations, ‘edu’ for educational institutions, ‘mil’ for military, and ‘gov’ for governments.

Lately there have been additions to the top level domains; the most notable among them is the ‘biz’ top level domain. Sometimes a CLD or country level domain is added further right to the top level domain. These domains are a two letter representation of the country the site represents. For example:

The .com is the top level domain; the .au means that the site is Australian. The xxxxx is the domain name, or subdomain name, depending on whether there are other non-TLD and non-CLD labels on the domain name.

Domain names do not belong to anyone, except for the NIC or Network Information Centre. In theory, anyone could use a domain name. However, you would still have to pay for the handling of the domain name registration. Domain names are not sold, they are leased. After the lease is over, other people interested in that domain name may apply for its lease too.


It was the ARPAnet (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) that developed the idea of using a more human-legible address for sites over the internet as opposed to machine IP number.

Originally, each computer on the network would download a file called hosts.txt. This file would help the computer map domain names against their actual IP addresses. This system, fact is still used in network systems such as the Windows OS.

As time passed by, the networking world reached a consensus that an international organization to maintain and monitor these maps. In 1983 Paul Mockapetris invented the DNS. This is the same system we use today.

Domain names have made surfing the World Wide Web easier. It has been said in many academic circles that the DNS is responsible for making the internet user-friendly and accessible to everyone.

This lead to the dramatic explosion in popularity of the internet. Now everybody can use the internet without having to be a rocket scientist or a genius.

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James Monahan is the owner and Senior Editor of and writes expert articles about domains.

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