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Definition

domain name

A domain name locates an organization or other entity on the Internet. For example, the domain name

www.totalbaseball.com

locates an Internet address for "totalbaseball.com" at Internet point 199.0.0.2 and a particular host server named "www." The "com" part of the domain name reflects the purpose of the organization or entity (in this example, "commercial") and is called the top-level domain name. The "totalbaseball" part of the domain name defines the organization or entity and together with the top-level is called the second-level domain name. The second-level domain name maps to and can be thought of as the "readable" version of the Internet address.

A third level can be defined to identify a particular host server at the Internet address. In our example, "www" is the name of the server that handles Internet requests. (A second server might be called "www2.") A third level of domain name is not required. For example, the fully-qualified domain name could have been "totalbaseball.com" and the server assumed.

Subdomain levels can be used. For example, you could have "www.nyyankees.totalbaseball.com." Together, "www.totalbaseball.com" constitutes a fully-qualified domain name.

Second-level domain names must be unique on the Internet and registered with one of the ICANN-accredited registrars for the COM, NET, and ORG top-level domains. Where appropriate, a top-level domain name can be geographic. (Currently, most non-U.S. domain names use a top-level domain name based on the country the server is in.) To register a U. S. geographic domain name or a domain name under a country code, see an appropriate registrar.

On the Web, the domain name is that part of the Uniform Resource Locator(URL) that tells a domain name server using the domain name system (DNS) whether and where to forward a request for a Web page. The domain name is mapped to an IP address (which represents a physical point on the Internet).

More than one domain name can be mapped to the same Internet address. This allows multiple individuals, businesses, and organizations to have separate Internet identities while sharing the same Internet server.

To see the IP address for a domain name, (Ping).

It may be worth noting that the domain name system contains an even higher level of domain than the top-level domain. The highest level is the root domain, which would be represented by a single dot (just as in many hierarchical file systems, a root directory is represented by a "/" ) if it were ever used. If the dot for the root domain were shown in the URL, it would be to the right of the top-level domain name. However, the dot is assumed to be there, but never shown.

This was last updated in March 2010

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