A domain name is the address of a website. It's the name you type into a web browser to access that specific website. For example, the domain name for freeCodeCamp is freecodecamp.org.

Domain names are important because they make it easy for people to remember the address of your website.

Imagine what would happen if you had to remember the IP address for every website you wanted to visit. It would be a real pain to get around the web.

What Characters Can Go in a Domain Name?

A domain name can be any combination of English alphabet letters (A-Z)  and numbers (0-9).

You can also use the dash character. For example, Class Central's domain was originally class-central.com, but they were able to buy classcentral.com without the dash, which looks more official, and is easier to type.

You can use these names in combination with various domain name extensions, such as .com, .net, and .org. These extensions are also called Top Level Domains or TLD's for short.

What is a TLD? Top-Level Domain Meaning and Examples

TLD stands for Top Level Domain. When the Domain Name System (DNS) first came online back in the 1980s, there were only a few TLDs: .com, .org, and .net.

In the US, there were also three TLDs that were heavily restricted and still are:

  • .edu domains are only for accredited universities
  • .gov is only for US government organizations
  • .mil is only for the US military

Many countries have their own TLDs. For example, the UK has .uk and .co.uk. You may have seen the .io TLD before – it is reserved for the British Indian Ocean Territory, but is popular with tech companies because the io is similar to I/O, or Input Output.

Other popular TLDs are .co (which is like .com, but for startups).

Note that .org is one of the original TLDs, and is designed for nonprofits. But in practice, anyone can register a .org domain. For example, Craigslist.org is a for-profit.

So be careful: just because a company is using a .org domain does not mean they are a tax-exempt nonprofit. (By the way, if you're wondering, freeCodeCamp is a tax-exempt nonprofit.)

How do you register a domain name?

When you register a domain name, you are essentially reserving that name for your own use. No one else can use that domain name as long as you continue to renew it.

And you will have to renew it each year with a domain registrar service. The annual fees for doing this can be anywhere from $12 for a .com domain to hundreds of dollars for some specialty domain names.

Domain names are typically registered through domain name registrars, such as Google Domains, Name.com, or Namecheap. The process is usually pretty simple and straightforward.

Once you've registered a domain name, you'll need to point it to your web hosting provider or your own servers. This will tell the domain name where to find your website.

Now you know the basics of how domain names work.

I hope you've found this helpful. If you want to learn more about programming and technology, try freeCodeCamp's core coding curriculum. It's free.