What Is an IP Address?
An IP address is a specially formatted set of four numbers used to identify each networking device that is connected to the Internet. This includes computers, printers, routers, etc. Each of the four numbers is in the range 0–255, and is separated from its neighboring numbers by a dot. For example, an IP address often used for a router in a local area network (LAN) is 188.8.131.52.
However, as you can probably imagine, referring to every website location by a number string would be not only tedious but impossible for most people because its far more difficult to remember numbers than words. Domain names is the answer to this problem.
Parts of a Domain Name
A domain name has two parts with a dot separating them. The first part of the name you choose freely from the realm of domain names that are not already registered (unless the domain name is being sold). The second is a top-level domain (TLD) that must be chosen from a small set that are offered, with the most common being .com, .net, and .org.
Pricing of Domain Names
To someone who is not familiar with the business of domain names, it may be surprising to learn that some best domain names are extremely valuable commodities which people register as an investment. People may also be surprised at the first-come-first-served rule for domain names because it makes sense that if your name is Herkimer Jones and you want to register the domain name herkimerjones.com, someone else whose name is Donald Smith or Daisy Brown shouldn't be able to register that domain name and then, if you want it, be able to set any price they like for it. But, for better or worse, that is how the domain name system works.
If a domain name hasn't yet been registered, you may be able to register it for a reasonable price, but do keep in mind that domain name registration, unless otherwise stated, is for a year, and then the registration will need to be renewed. In November, 2008, there were domain name registrations being offered for prices from $5.95 to $9.99, but you will find differences in price, often with special TLDs like .me, .tv, and sometimes .com being priced higher than other TLDs. The sale price may or may not include an Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) fee that is attached to certain TLDs.
Uses of a Domain Name
Domain names are used by people who want to build a website, and often there's a strong, direct link between the domain name and the thrust or focus of the site. People also register a domain name to protect their trademark and avoid a situation like that of poor Herkimer Jones mentioned above.
Domain names can also be used in order to have personalized email (Herkimer might construct his as email@example.com, if only he could afford to purchase it). And still others register domains to engage in a practice called "domain parking" in which a webpage with the domain is build and used for advertising. Another practice is to purchase domain names in order to auction or resell them for a profit.
Domain names have leaped the barrier from the virtual world to the real world with some businesses being known and recognized by their domain name, which is what they use as their business name. Perhaps one of the most famous of these is amazon.com. Domain names have become part of advertising that is heard on the radio and seen on billboards, in magazines, and on television advertisements.
How One Obtains a Domain Name
Domain names are available from several different types of sources, but domain name registrars, as they are called, must be authorized in order to legitimately sell them. Different domain name registrars offer different prices and features (for example, free web hosting with registration of a domain name). Someone domain names are sold directly, and some are sold through an auction. It would likely be to your benefit to check reviews of a domain name registrar before doing business with it.Related article: Subdomains vs Subfolders