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How Internet Domain Names Work

Ah! Domain Names. Where do we start? Imagine you were to ask a guys name and like Finn in the movie Star Wars Episode 8: The Force Awakens you get the answer FN-2187. That would be really awkward. Take another scenario where you flag down a cab and when the driver asks for the directions you spew out a 16 digit number at best. This would get really complicated for both of you.

Domain Names tend to make this sort of situation more palatable when it comes to finding resources, services and so on over the internet based networks.

In a Nutshell, What is a Domain Name?

A domain name is an string of human readable character that is used to define a region of administrative autonomy, authority or control within the Internet and registered in the Domain Name System (DNS). Domain names are formed by the rules and procedures of these Domain Name Systems.

Domain names are usually managed by administrative bodies. One such body is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) which manages what we call top-level domain. To understand what top-level domains are we have to understand what these levels are.

What are Domain Levels?

Level domains can also be termed as Sub-domains when you start linking other parts within the domain name syntax. Domain names can contain one or more sections separated by a dot. These sections are also called labels. So example.com is a domain name with two sections. The rightmost section (com) is what can be described as the top-level domain. It is this top level domain the ICANN administers.

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Types of Domain Names

There are several groups of a top-level domain which are further managed by different bodies under ICANN. To mention them we have infrastructure top-level domain (ARPA) managed by IANA. Then there are the generic top-level domains (gTLD) which are top-level domains with three or more characters such as gov, edu, com, mil, org, info and net among others.

Then there are restricted generic top-level domains (gTLD)which are managed by official ICANN accredited registrars. Sponsored top-level domains (sTLD) are managed, proposed and sponsored by private agencies or organizations. They are managed by official ICANN accredited registrars.

Country-code top-level domains (ccTLD) are two-letter domains set up for countries or territories. In most cases, these domains share the same two-letter ISO 3166 code for that country or territory.

Internationalized country code top-level domains (IDN ccTLD)are domains set up in non-Latin character sets such as Arabic, Chinese, and Hebrew among others. Finally, Test top-level domains (TLD) are domains set up under .test for testing purposes and are generally not available to the general public just yet.

Again some domain names are reserved and cannot be used. These are example which is reserved for use in examples. invalid is reserved for use in invalid domain names. We then have localhost which is reserved to avoid conflict with the traditional use of localhost the hostname. Finally test is reserved for use in test scenarios.

You can find a list of the top level domains here. Now to understand how domain names actually work to get you to the website you are looking for you can visit this article which talks more about the Domain Name System it in detail.

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