As virtually everyone has an online presence now – museums, senior living facilities, supermarkets, college students, fashion houses – domain names play as crucial a role as phone numbers and other means of identification without which no website can be readily found on the internet. Beyond that, the wrong domain name includes consequences like alienating an entire audience and brand reputation damage.
How does it work? A domain name is composed of multiple elements that work together to create a different online identity every time. Here are three essential elements of domain names explained.
Top Level Domain
The Top Level Domain (TLD) is the most popular part of the domain name; the final section of text so that in the name example.com “.com” is the TLD.
Also known as a domain extension the function of the TLD is to identify a website into categories like purpose, owner, or geographical location. The Top Level Domain is further divided into categories including generic top-level domains (gTLDs), sponsored top-level domains (sTLDs) supervised by private organizations, country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) for specific countries or territories, and unofficial top-level domains not regulated by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and instead there to accommodate Web3 and blockchain technology.
Thus, some examples of TLDs are:
- .com – commercial site
- .org – organization
- .net – network
- .info – information platform
- .edu – educational institution
- .gov – governmental agencies
- .eth – Ethereum ecosystem
Second Level Domain
The Second Level Domain (SLD) is the section of a domain name text that comes before the TLD so that in the name example.com “example” is the second level domain.
Also known as the domain prefix, it’s typically the name of the website, business, or organization and what people type into search engines to locate a site. Besides the three SLDs reserved by The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) – example.org, example.net, example.com – pretty much any appropriate name can be chosen as long as it’s available; and because it’s the most memorable part of any domain name, it’s chosen quite seriously by virtually every business, organization, or individual.
For example, before Amazon.com was settled on, the corporation was known as Cadabra, Inc. However, after a lawyer misheard Cadabra as “cadaver” over a phone call, Jeff Bezos, knowing the function of a SLD, changed names.
As the name implies, the subdomain is the optional section of a domain name typically appearing before the SLD and TLD so that in the name members.example.com “members” is the subdomain.
The function of a subdomain is to separate sections or subdirectories in a website so that the purpose of members.example.com as a subdomain of example.com is access to a members-only section.
Other examples of subdomains are:
- blog.example.com – blog section
- shop.example.com – store section
- support.example.com – customer support section
- mobile.example.com – mobile version section
- community.example.com – forum section
Domain names are a key part of any online presence so understanding its elements and how it all works is a good idea.