A domain name is a textual name that defines a numeric location of a computer on the Internet. Instead of referring to a domain with some cryptic number, you just type in an easy-to-remember textual name instead.
Levels of Domains
A domain name is divided up into portions or sections – and confusingly, these sections are called domains. (Nerds, gotta love ’em). The portions of the domain name are separated by dots. Here are examples of 2 typical names with their domains identified:
Sometimes you will hear about ‘top-level domains’, sometimes called TLD’s. The TLD (or sometimes referred to as the ‘parent’ domain) is merely the .com, .net, or .org portion of the domain name. While .com, .net, and .org are the most common top-level domain, there are many others, like .biz and .info. Non-US top-level domains may be .au (Australia), .ca (Canada), or.de (Germany).
Mid-level domains are the rest of the name. For the example above, the word Yahoo in the yahoo.com name is the mid level domain. In the japantimes.co.jp domain name, there are two mid-level domains – the smaller mid-level domain is ‘japantimes’ and the larger mid-level portion is the ‘co’. The relative importance of each of the segments increases as you move to the right.
Who Controls All Of This?
These names are like street addresses on the Internet, so by design, only one entity can own a domain name. The names are controlled by an organization called ICANN, which stands for the catchy title of ‘Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’. (No doubt their Christmas party is a blast). This group keeps track of everyone’s ownership of registered names, so when you buy a one, no one else can use it. They set up contracts with retail domain registries like Namecheap who actually sell you the domain name and provide you with a web site to manage it.