Domain Names

A domain name is the key portion of a website’s internet address. Examples include microsoft.com, wikipedia.org, and subway.ie. As with trade marks, a good domain name will be memorable and drive significantly more customers to your business’s doorstep. But unlike trade marks, where two different companies can use the same brand for different types of goods or services, domain names are unique. This is why some domain names have been bought and sold for millions of dollars.

When choosing, registering and maintaining a domain name, you will come across certain technical terms such as “URL”, “top-level domain”, and “IP address” for which it is good to have a basic understanding.

The URL, or uniform resource locator, is the full address for a particular resource on the Internet. For example, http://www.enodare.ie is a URL. Depending on its specificity, a URL can lead you to either the home page of a website or other content located on the website. Every web page you open will have its own URL, so a website with many pages will have one domain name but many different URLs.

The domain name is the section of the URL that identifies a particular website. So in the above example, “enodare.ie” is the domain name. The URL can be further broken down into the:
  • top-level domain (“TLD”), which is the “.com” portion and can also be .org, .net, .ie, etc.,
  • second-level domain (“SLD”), which is the “enodare” portion
  • sub-domain, which is the portion to the left of the SLD where “www” most often appears,
  • path, which is the information to the right of the TLD that identifies specific content files on the website, and
  • protocol, which most often appears as “http” and tells your computer what language to use when communicating with the website.

Matched with the domain name for every website is an IP address. This is a numeric, computer friendly address signifying the same Internet location as the domain name.

TLDs are sometimes referred to as “domain extensions”. The most common TLDs are the “generic” domain extensions, which include .com, .org, and .net. There is also country code TLDs such as .ie and .uk, as well as sponsored TLDs for specific associations. Every domain name must be registered and have a TLD, and there are different registrars for the different types of TLDs.

The SLD can be between 2-63 characters long and can contain only English letters, numbers, and hyphens. There is no prohibition against generic or descriptive SLDs as there are with trade marks. If you are in the business of selling elephants, and the domain name elephants.com is available, it can be registered and used. However, if you choose a generic or descriptive SLD, you may not be able to trade mark your domain name, which is otherwise possible.

Although “www” (standing for World Wide Web) is by far the most common sub domain, any other letter and/or number combinations can be used as well. Sub domains are often used to organize a large group of websites under a common domain name. For example, the Microsoft family of websites is broken down into office.microsoft.com, windows.microsoft.com, support.microsoft.com, etc.

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