In common terms, a domain name is composed by a name and extension separated by a dot and it is a unique identifier of a web address. Domain names are very similar to phone numbers: a phone number is a unique identification string of numbers and you can use that number to be connected to the other party. A domain name is similar on the internet, it is a string of letters and numbers that connects internet users to websites running under a unique domain name.
By far the most popular domain extension is .com: already more than 100 million domain names having the .com extension are registered. Domains can be registered at domain registrars like GoDaddy or can be bought from their current owner, who most probably list them on different marketplaces. Since there are so many registered .com out there (the .com extension is “saturated”), registering a one English word com or a typical family name or a domain with keywords is almost impossible. Besides the most popular .com, .net and .org and country extensions like .us and .de, many other new extensions are available. There are already more than 1000 domain extensions to choose form and new extensions are released every week. Now one can choose new domain extensions like .xyz, .tips, .guru, .today, .club, .nyc etc. For the full list, check our comprehensive list of all domain extensions or just browse recommended domain extensions.
These new extensions, so called nTLD (new top level domain), are changing the way how we think about the domain extensions, since the name and the extension together can compose some meaningful phrase, e.g.
Registering a domain name is cheap in most cases, about $10 and it is a public information, who owns a domain. Domains have to be renewed every year for about the same price. The very best domain names are not let to expire even if they are not used but listed for sale for sometimes even millions of dollars.
The most straightforward (but not the only) way a domain name can be used is to point it to a website. E.g. everyone knows the social website where you can chat with friends, like posts, etc. It is a software, which is called Facebook and it has a domain name, which can be typed-in to reach the website where this software is running. The domain name of this website is facebook.com. It is the decision of Facebook to use this domain name to reach their website. They could use anything they buy or register if they think it is a good move in their business. E.g. not long ago they bought another domain name, fb.com, which is currently redirected to facebook.com. Maybe once they will change this and their main domain will be fb.com, who knows.
It is not a must, however, to run a website on a domain. It can be parked, hold without any content, redirect to other domain name, etc. Registering, buying and selling domain names is a business, too, and very high percent of the domains are registered for this purpose.
A domain owner can setup so called subdomains and use the domain for multiple purposes. E.g. different Google services use subdomains for many popular services. eg.
The most famous subdomain is “www” which is often used for the website itself but it is starting to be a common practice to redirect www subdomain to the domain name without www.
Please note that domain name is not the same as URL, if you are not aware what is the difference, read our article entitled What is a URL?