Day: 8 May 2024

How Domains Really Work

At its core, a domain name is a string of characters that serves as a human-readable alias for an IP address. It provides a user-friendly way to access resources on the internet. For instance, the domain name corresponds to the IP address where the associated web server is hosted. More casually, think of a domain name as the virtual equivalent of a street address. It’s the keyword that users type into their web browsers to navigate to a specific website. 

Currently, there are three widely recognized types of domain extensions, also known as top-level domains (TLDs):

  • gTLD (Generic Top Level Domain): These represent the original five TLDs introduced to the public: .COM, .NET, .ORG, .INFO, .BIZ. It’s worth noting that the first TLD created was technically .arpa, but it was reserved for technical infrastructure and not utilized by the general public.
  • ccTLD (Country Code Top Level Domain): These TLDs indicate specific geographical locations, such as .UK for the United Kingdom, .DE for Germany, and .BE for Belgium. Their purpose is to enhance the connection with local audiences. Importantly, the use of ccTLDs does not restrict international users from accessing the associated websites.
  • New gTLD (New Generic Top Level Domain): These are essentially extensions of the gTLD category, sharing the same registration, management, and administrative rules. However, new gTLDs often feature innovative and specialized extensions like .BET, .CASINO, and .GAMES, catering to specific industries or interests.
Here’s the important part

It’s important to understand that domain names come on a first-come, first-served basis and are never truly owned. When you register a domain, you effectively become its caretaker for a specific period, usually marked by expiration dates. 

Once that time runs out, the domain name expires (usually, it comes with the domain’s disconnection from the connected services, such as DNS, email, web hosting server, etc.). If the registrant does not renew the domain by paying the renewal fee, it will eventually be deleted by the Registry and released into the public pool for new registrations. 

In the domain industry, domain registries and domain registrars are the primary facilitators of domain usage for the general public. Despite their interconnected roles, they differ significantly, each contributing distinct functionalities to the domain ecosystem. 

Let’s examine their roles individually.

Domain registries (architects of the DNS hierarchy)

They wield authority over specific top-level domains (TLDs) within the Domain Name System (DNS) hierarchy. They operate under the rules & policies of organizations like ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), overseeing the management and governance of TLDs.

Behind the scenes, domain registries maintain master databases containing authoritative records of all registered domain names within their area of responsibility. These databases adhere to the DNS protocol, facilitating the resolution of domain names to their corresponding IP addresses. Domain registries execute essential functions, including domain name registration, renewal, deletion, and maintenance of WHOIS data. However, domain registries don’t interact directly with individual website owners. Instead, they work through intermediaries known as domain registrars.

Domain registrar (the person in the middle)

Domain registrars serve as intermediaries between domain registries and domain holders, enabling domain registration and management services. Accredited by domain registries, registrars operate in the domain resale market, offering a suite of services to individuals and organizations seeking to acquire and maintain domain names.

Here’s how it works: You search for an available domain name using a registrar’s website, select the desired TLD, and proceed with registration. The registrar then submits your registration request to the corresponding domain registry. Once approved, your chosen domain name becomes officially registered to you, provided you fulfill any registration requirements and pay the associated fees.

Registrars offer a range of additional services, such as domain privacy protection, DNS management, and email hosting, to enhance the domain ownership experience. They also handle domain renewals, transfers, and other administrative tasks throughout the lifespan of your domain.

Last but not least, the domain registrant

They can be called different names: holder, owner, etc., so it could be you if you read this.
But in essence, the domain registrant is a person (or company) who registers and manages the domain name through a registrar company. 

As we conclude our exploration of how domains really work, it becomes evident that domain names are not just strings of characters but essential components of the Internet’s infrastructure. They serve as virtual addresses, guiding users to their desired destinations with ease.

In a world driven by connectivity and innovation, mastering the nuances of domain management opens doors to endless possibilities, shaping the online experiences of millions worldwide. So whether you are a seasoned IT veteran or a curious new user, it is crucial to remember that domains are not just about navigating the web but navigating the future of digital interaction 


Oleksii Haltsev is an experienced IT services industry professional and holds a Master’s degree in International Economics from the International Slavonic University in Kharkiv. Oleksii is our lead product owner at Okens Domains.