In the world of website design and website development, there are a lot of terms that one needs to know and understand when they want to make their website go live on the Internet. Sometimes people are forced to understand these terms especially when they plan to move their websites from one company to another or maybe when they want to register a whole new website. Any confusion of these terms means your website will not be served right and probably will not be accessible on the Internet.
So, let's clear this confusion by learning exactly what these terms are and what are their differences.
Our first term is domain name. What exactly is a domain name? In simple terms, a domain name is the name of a website. Google.com, facebook.com, youtube.com are all website names and hence they are also domain names.
That was easy, right?
Now, how does one get a domain name or a website name? You get a domain name just like how you acquire most stuff in life - by buying them. You have this new business idea and you want to get a website for your business, the first thing you will need to do to get that website is by buying a domain name. Let's say I have a brand new business that sells new toys...I may decide to get a domain name newtoys.com or I can choose any other name for that matter, for instance I may use my formal business name as the name of my website e.g. mybusiness.com
You get the point.
If you still have the question of where exactly you can buy a domain name, there is something called a domain registrar. A domain registrar is a company that sells domain names. You may have heard about a few of these domain registrars. For example, GoDaddy, Namecheap and Cloudflare are among many domain registrars out there.
So if you wanna buy a domain name go to one of those websites, type the domain name you want and voila! The process of you acquiring your new domain name will start.
Again, a domain name is a website name...just that! And like you saw above, a domain name normally ends with something like .com or .edu or .io or .gov etc. About those endings, that will be a discussion for some other time.
Now to the hard stuff. IP Address. What exactly is an IP Address? The first thing you should know is that IP stands for Internet Protocol. So, IP Address full name is Internet Protocol Address. But in short, I will just keep referring to it as an IP Address.
An IP Address is a set of numbers that is used to identify a computer on a network. Easy, right?
Yes, absolutely no complications in that simple definition.
So let us take a look at a few sets of numbers.
You see those set of numbers above? Those are IP addresses. We have two IP addresses over there. One thing you have to know is that IP addresses are unique. So, each computer that is on a network has a unique IP address.
Domain Name vs IP Address
Now to the more interesting part. We already know what a domain name is and also, we just saw what an IP Address is. So, what's the relationship between a domain name and an IP address.
You see, unlike humans, computers communicate using a special language called numbers. That's all they do. While humans communicate using our own kind of languages, for example in this blog post, me and you are communicating via the written text using the English Language.
When humans want to communicate with computers, they have to be on the same page so they can understand each other. BUT computers don't understand human language and humans don't talk in computer language. So how can we make this communication possible? Anything ringing a bell?
Yes, maybe a translator. We need someone or something to be in the middle to either translate human language to computer language or vice versa.
Now, when it comes to websites, we humans use our own language to refer to websites such as google.com or facebook.com. It turns out computers don't understand what exactly google.com is or facebook.com is.
How can we make computers understand those domain names?
You guessed it...
A special system was created to make sure that each domain name (website name) has an accompanying IP address. Today we're not going to talk much about that system, we will only touch on the relationship between a domain name and an IP address.
This special system has a way of assigning these websites' names to specific IP addresses. For example, the website google.com has been assigned an IP address of 220.127.116.11 and a website like facebook.com has been assigned an IP address of 18.104.22.168
Now you can try this today, if you would like to visit Google's website, you can either enter google.com on the address bar OR you can decide to enter 22.214.171.124
Did you try doing that?
Which one was easier? Typing google.com or typing 126.96.36.199
You get the point?
Now that's the reason we have both domain names and IP addresses. A domain name is a simple-to-remember name that we can easily type on the address bar of a web browser to reach a specific website. We can easily communicate with each other and even share those website names without ever having to remember the IP addresses. The system I mentioned previously handles the job of translating those domain names, so our computers can understand exactly what we are talking about when we type google.com or facebook.com
Domain Name Without an IP address?
You may ask yourself is it possible to have a domain name without an accompanying IP address. And the answer is YES!
Remember in the beginning when I touched on how to buy a domain name? It turns out when you buy a domain name you can either get a temporary IP address or you may not get one altogether. That mostly depends on where you bought the domain name.
Most people buy domain names with the aim of building a website. Now, knowing this some domain registrars may give you a temporary IP address so that when someone type your brand new domain name on the address bar, they see something nice AS OPPOSED to nothing at all or getting error messages.
I am sure you have visited a website before and see something like this:
Now if you're wondering, I just typed website11111.com on my address bar knowing no such a site exist.
If your domain registrar doesn't provide you with a temporary IP address, you will also see something like that when you type your new domain name on the address bar.
However, if your domain name is kind enough to provide you with a temporary IP address, you will see something like this:
So that is it, if you see an already made page that is not an error message just know that your domain registrar has displayed that page for you, and you may have a temporary IP address.
Now it's important to remember that this blog post only touched on domain names and IP addresses. We also touched a bit on how to buy a domain name. We didn't touch on web hosting or buying web hosting. It's good to remember that, because a few things I have shared above are a bit different when you buy both a domain name and web hosting. Next, we will learn about what exactly web hosting is and how does it relate with both domain names and Ip addresses.