If you’re here, chances are you know loosely what a domain is: people often refer to them as URLs, web addresses or even websites – but these terms aren’t quite accurate.

A domain is a standardized, memorable name for users to connect to websites or other network resources. Each domain is unique – this prevents any confusion for visitors and users.

Domain Structure

Domains typically contain the letters A-Z, number 0-9, and hyphens (-). A recent development has allowed for certain domains to use internationalized domain names (IDN): non-Latin characters such as Cyrillic, Arabic, Chinese, and more. Typically, domains cannot exceed 63 characters in length.

The segments of a domain name, which are separated by a period (.), are best understood from right to left. At the highest level is the top-level-domain (TLD), such as .CA or .COM: these are the broadest level, and are managed by the registry. In some cases, there may be a second-level or lower domains, such as .CO.UK, or .COM.AU. The next level is the actual registered domain string: in the case of “Google.com”, “Google” is the registered domain with the “.com” TLD. Domain registrants can create further divisions or segments, called sub-domains, which are left of the domain (such as WWW.google.com or BLOG.mysite.com).

Registering a domain requires you to provide specific contact information, which becomes a record with the domain called WHOIS. This information is accessible by any interested parties who may need to contact the registrant of a domain – for offers of purchase, legal inquiries, communication and as a matter of public record. You can run a WHOIS query on any domain by using our WHOIS lookup.

Domain Processes

The process of acquiring a domain is called a registration. Registrars, such as Rebel.com facilitate this process. As such, we also provide the interface for you to use and manage the domain – in our case, through the Domain Manager. Registrars also manage the transfer of domains between each other, at the user’s request – a process which you can control through the Transfer Manager.

Domains are controlled at the highest level by organizations called registries, such as CIRA for .CA domain names or VeriSign for .COM. The user of the domain is called a registrant: registrants control the use of the domain, but do not technically “own” the domain (it is the property of the registry). By registering the domain and renewing it regularly, the registrant has indefinite control and use of the domain (like a lease).

Domain policy is regulated by a number of organizations, largely ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). As a multi-stakeholder organization, ICANN guides domain policy by consulting with registries, registrants, businesses, governments and other organizations. When you register any domain, you become a stakeholder with the registry, and ultimately with ICANN – so you should always feel that you can share any feedback with us (your registrar), the registry or ICANN.

Learning More About Domains

Domains may seem very complex at first, but as you use them, you’ll quickly learn how they work. If you’d like to learn more, you can register new domains, or dig deeper into your existing domains.