What Is A Domain Name?

Michael Gargiulo
4 min readJun 9, 2021


Domain names are growing more present in the public consciousness, as more people start websites and as investing in them becomes more popular. However, it may not be immediately clear just what these important digital addresses do, what they are, and why some are so valuable. If you’re wondering, “What is a domain name?” and how they work, you’re in the right place.

What is a Domain Name?

A domain name is fundamentally something akin to a digital address. All websites exist on some sort of physical storage location, and their server addresses are extremely long, complex, and technical. When you connect a website with a domain name, searchers are able to look for a concise, memorable name instead of needing to memorize the server address. In this regard, all domain names function in the same way.

Parts of a Domain Name

Every domain name boils down into two components; the top-level domain and the second-level domain. When you look at the suffix of a domain such as .com, .co, or .net, that’s the top-level domain. Within one TLD, you can find a vast number of second-level domains that it shares with other domains. For instance, you might look at website.net as well as website.com. In this case, “website” is the second-level domain.

On a technical level, all TLD and SLDs work identically and there’s no innate difference between them. However, that doesn’t mean that all domain names are equal. Some domain names accomplish the goal of assisting users in finding your website much better than others. The key factors are that it’s correctly spelled, creates a positive first impression on viewers, and is easy to remember.

How a Domain Name Works

When you input a domain name into your search engine, your search engine sends a request to the global Domain Name System (DNS). It consists of countless servers all around the world, which hold the nearly-1.2 billion websites that exist as of April 2021.

An automatic search process scans the DNS until it finds the location of the website, which exists on the physical storage of a hosting company or private server. At the end of this process, the server sends the data back to your computer, which is how you browse websites by using the DNS.

What is DNS

The domain system is a vast, complex industry that includes a dynamic industry for buying, selling, and investing in domains. At the heart of it all, you’ll find that the core of the system organizes itself from a central regulatory corporation down to end users like you. Your first term to know is ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.


ICANN is a multistakeholder nonprofit that governs the international domain name system. In theory, it’s responsible for managing the billions of different domain names that exist. This includes record-keeping and other elements of management, but also extends to considerable regulatory powers. In cases of foul play, ICANN is capable of returning domain names to their rightful owner.

However, the task of organizing internet domain names is too great for any single company. For this reason, ICANN enlists the help of registries and registrars to serve end-users, the registrants.

Registries, Registrars, and Registrants

Registries are companies that own the physical storage resources where you’ll find the domain names that are in use. They provide the technical backbone of the DNS, while they rely on a network of private registrars to work with customers and market domain services. These registrars include GoDaddy, Bluehost, and the other companies that provide leases to domain names.

When you pay for a domain name, you’re effectively leasing that address. It’s never possible to truly buy and own a domain, although some registrars allow users to take out leases for multiple years, decades, or even a century. Registrars make their money and provide for the physical upkeep of the DNS through a combination of these leases and value-added services, such as SSL certificates and privacy features.

The Domain Aftermarket

However, that’s not all there is to the domain name industry. Investors often buy and hold good, brandable domain names and offer to resell their leases to interested buyers. While maintaining the lease once you buy it will cost as little as a few dollars per month, you might pay tens of thousands of dollars up-front to buy the lease from the current registrant.

Domain investors are able to charge such costs precisely because that’s what a good domain name is worth. A domain name has a powerful effect on the impression you make upon consumers, with people holding greater trust in respectable TLDs such as .com and .net. Conversely, people will often mistrust a company that uses a cut-rate domain name from a TLD that they perceive as shady, ala .biz.

Furthermore, your domain name only does you any good if it actually helps people find your website. There’s a finite number of domains with a memorable name that’s easy to spell, and holding onto one can be a boon for your web presence. If you find that someone already owns your desired domain name, don’t settle for an altered version; let us help you find your perfect domain name.

Find the Perfect Aftermarket Domain Name

A quality domain name makes all the difference for your website, whether you operate a blog, a service-oriented business, or an ambitious new startup. At VPN.com, we’re well versed in finding domain names on the aftermarket and securing the best deals on them; our million-dollar domain is proof of this.

If you want to get the best deal on premium domain names or learn more about the internet and technology, VPN.com can help.



Michael Gargiulo

CEO at VPN.com | Internet & Domain Name Expert | Forbes Council | CliffCo Leader & Host | Atlanta’s Top Tech Entrepreneur