What Are Domain Names?
When you want to reach a destination on the internet you use a domain name to tell the browser which website to open. People like to communicate using domain names like example.com. But computers like to communicate with IP addresses like 188.8.131.52.
Domain names are human readable names that link to IP addresses. When you type a domain name into your browser, a Domain Name Server (DNS) looks up its IP address and routes the request to the web server assigned to the IP address.
Did you know you can open a website by typing an IP address into the browser instead of a domain name? If you want to try this, you can use a DNS Lookup tool to find the IP address associated to a domain name then enter the IP address into the browser and see what happens.
Note: This only works when a website has a unique IP address. Websites using shared web hosting share an IP address so this would not work.
Top Level Domain Names (TDLs)
When you register your domain name with a registrar, you’re choosing a top level domain name and a second level domain name. Top level domain names or TDLs are what comes after right most dot in your domain name.
In example.com, the .com would be the top-level domain name. The secondary level domain name would be “example”.
There are over 1500 different top level domain names. Some of the more popular ones include .com, .org, .net and .gov. Popular generic ones include .xyz, .biz, .info and .tech.
The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority maintains a full list of TDLs you can use to help aid your next domain name search.
While there’s over 1500 different top level domain names, that doesn’t mean every registrar offers every single one of them.
Different registrars offer different TDLs at different price points. Every reputable domain registrar will have a list of TDLs and their prices. Here’s an example of Namecheap’s TDLs and prices.
Subdomains are used to create separate websites under the same domain name. Search engines view subdomains as separate websites.
You use subdomains when you want to separate content but keep it under the same top level domain name. If your domain name is example.com, your subdomain would look like sub.example.com.
Visa.com is a good example of how subdomains are used. They’re a global company with different offers in different regions of the world. It’s not practical for them to have one website for the entire world so they separate their content into subdomains.
If you go to visa.com it will resolve to a subdomain in your region of the world. When I go to visa.com it resolves to usa.visa.com.
If you’re just starting a website, you’re probably not going to use subdomains. If they are of interest to you, most web hosting companies offer them with their plans. Many times, you can create unlimited subdomains from your hosting account for no additional charge.
Do You Need a Domain Name for a Website?
You’ll need to have a domain name to put your website on the internet. Without a domain name there’s no way for people to get to your website. It’s like trying to mail a letter to a location that doesn’t have an address.
You don’t necessarily have to register your own domain name. Most companies that will host your website will let you create accounts without having your own domain name. They just setup a subdomain so you can view your website online.
What Are the Benefits of Having a Domain Name?
There are a lot of benefits to having your own domain name. The first is that it just looks more professional. Could you image if amazon.com was on a subdomain of a web host? Probably not.
But you could probably see a small retail ecommerce site doing this on a WIX subdomain. It doesn’t look very professional, build trust, or create a very good brand for any website.
By registering your own domain name, you control which name servers your domain name points too. If you had a domain name registered with Namecheap and your web hosting company is A2 Hosting, you’d point your domain name to A2 hosting’s name servers and that’s where your traffic will go.
If you have a problem with A2 Hosting, you don’t have to worry, just setup your website on another web host and point your name servers to the new web host.
If you don’t own your own domain name you can’t do this. You’re stuck. And if the company revokes your subdomain for whatever reason, you can’t do anything about it. You’ll lose any organic traffic you’ve built up for that subdomain name.
If you’re interested in registering your own domain name, there are a few things you should know. To learn more, read how to find and register a great domain name.
How Can I Get a Free Domain Name Without Paying?
In most cases, you can register a domain name for less than $10 a year and get domain privacy for free. That’s not a lot to pay for peace of mind. But there might be times when getting a free domain name is a better option for you. These are the three ways you can get a domain name for free:
Some website builders like WIX and WordPress.com offer free accounts where you can create a website without paying. When you sign up for an account, you’ll get a free subdomain that ends in either WIX.com or WordPress.com.
It’s common for web hosting companies to do this as well. When you sign up for hosting services, if you don’t have your own domain name, they’ll create a subdomain name you can use for free.
Free Domain with Web Hosting
Another way to get a free domain name is to sign up for a web hosting account. Many web hosts will offer a free domain name for a year when you purchase a yearly hosting plan.
To find a web good web hosting service that offers a free domain name take a look at The 12 Best Web Hosting Services. Many of them come with a free domain name for the first year.
Absolutely Free Domain Names
Let’s say you want an absolutely free domain name without signing up for any other services. In that case you would get a domain name through Freenom.com. Freenom offers free top level domain names that end in: .TK / .ML / .GA / .CF / .GQ.
The only exception is you can’t register Special domains for free. Special domains are domain names that are common dictionary keywords or domains that are 1, 2, or 3 characters long.
Other than that, you can register a domain name completely free without entering any credit card information through Freenom.