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How Website URLs Work

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When it comes to your online presence, few tools are more valuable than your organization’s website. However, in order to have a website, you first need a domain name. There are countless domains available, but did you know that the meaning of these names has changed significantly over the past several years?

Top-level Domains
For example, look at the ending of your business’s URL. Chances are that it’s .com, but we’re sure you’ve encountered others, like .net and .org. These are the highest levels of domain names, and are the most frequently encountered endings of website URLs. Called top-level domains, these endings designate where in the DNS root zone the URL is located in the hierarchical namespace of the Domain Name System (DNS). In English, the domain name example.com, would belong to the top-level domain of .com.

Traditionally, the three aforementioned top-level domains are the most common, and they used to have specific roles:

  • .com was primarily used by commercial, or for-profit websites and organizations.
  • .net was preferred by websites that concentrated on building networks.
  • .org represented non-profit organizations.

Though these domains used to be associated with specific functions, this distinction just pretty much disappeared. Other top-level domains that are frequently used include .edu, .gov, and .mil, but they’re much more difficult to obtain than the others.

Second-level/Lower-level Domains
When looking at a URL, the section of it directly next to the top-level domain is considered the second-level domain. The structure of a URL is that the higher-level domains are to the right, while the lowest-level domains are to the left. Lower-level domains are often either brands, services, or company names.

For instance, the .co in example.co.com would be the second-level domain, and example would be the third-level domain (or subdomain, as they’re often called), and so on. These can also be used to designate servers that are specific to one particular function, such as an email server or a development site.

Special Top-level Domains
Some businesses have trouble finding their preferred domain name due to the domain already being owned by another party. In fact, this issue is so commonplace that you might even have ran into it when setting up your own website. Well, you’ll be happy to hear that several new domains are becoming available for purchase from domain vendors all of the time. You might be able to find one that better suits your organization. For example, you can use the top-level domain, .co, to signify that you’re a company, or .biz for business.

Do you have a story behind why you picked your business’s domain name? Let us know in the comments.

Date: August 14th, 2015, Author: Jorge Rojas

Toronto IT Support  /  Tektonic Blog  /  Miscellaneous  /  How Website URLs Work