The Anatomy of a Web Site Domain Name - dummies

By Sue Jenkins

Simply put, a domain name is a name that is used to identify an address on the Internet for a particular website and any e-mail addresses configured for that site. For instance, if your company is called Clean For Dreams, your domain name might be, and your e-mail address could be The web address itself is composed of four distinct parts:

  • Protocol: The first part of a web address, http://, is the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP), which identifies the protocol that allows a computer to browse the web by getting information from a remote server.

    Secure access to the Internet (that is, anytime a domain has an SSL [Secure Sockets Layer] certificate installed on the host server for encrypting private data) requires the use of the https:// (note the s for secure) protocol.

  • www: The second part refers to the World Wide web and identifies the type of page that will be delivered in a browser window. Another type of web address includes domains where the www. is omitted, such as in This type of address refers to a subsite or subdomain that resides on the main domain’s servers but is separate from it.

  • Domain name: The third part identifies the unique name of the website as registered by the owner of the site. Domain names may contain any combination of uppercase and lowercase letters and numbers. In addition, though less often used, domain names may also include hyphens but no other special characters, as in

  • Extension: The fourth part identifies the type of site visitors should expect to see at the address, such as .com for commercial business sites, .org for nonprofit organizations, and .edu for educational sites.


Although several unrestricted top level domain (TDL) extensions are in use by all kinds of businesses around the world, the most familiar extensions should really be used as they were intended. For example, the .org extension should be used for nonprofit organizations, and the .gov extension should be used exclusively for government agencies. There are other common extensions around the world.

Extension Usage
.com Commercial, but is commonly used for just about any kind of
.net Internet administrative site, but is also commonly used for
other types of sites
.org Organization, most often used by nonprofit groups and trade
.info Information, the fourth most popular extension
.biz Business
.us United States
.name Personal websites
.at Austria
.be Belgium
.bz Belize
.cc Cocos (Keeling) Islands
.cn China
.de Germany
.eu European Union
.gs South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
.ms Montserrat
.mx Mexico
.nz New Zealand
.tc Turks and Caicos Islands
.tv Tuvalu, but often used for television
.tw Taiwan
.uk United Kingdom
.vg British Virgin Islands
.ws Western Samoa, but is often used for websites

For a complete listing and description of all the domain name extensions available to you and your clients, visit Network Solutions.

In addition, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is currently developing several new extensions slated for public use sometime in 2013. Many of the new extensions are industry related as well as geo/cultural, such as .law, .futbol, and .solar. You can view a complete listing at New gTLDs.