Most people rarely take the time to learn precisely the difference between a website and a domain name because everything comes readily available through their web browser. It’s all relatively simple. You launch your browser, enter the website’s name in the search bar, or input a few keywords in mind, and voila, that’s pretty much enough to get you where you need to be.
Everyone doesn’t have to know this, but a domain name, website, and URL are not the same. The typical end-user needs to know how to access and use their web browser to make the most out of their internet browsing experience. When one decides that they’d like to start an online project, this, however, changes!
If you’ve never owned a website before, figuring these all out can be more than a little confusing. Don’t worry, though, ‘What’s the difference between a website, a domain name, and a URL?’ is a common starting question, and we are here to answer that for you.
What is a website?
A website’s composed of a score of files, folders, data, and to view that website, the information has to be hosted on a server (a computer) which its visitors can access freely. That is where companies like HostArmada, which offer web hosting services, come to play their part on the internet. The web server is somewhat similar to a home computer, but it is actively maintained and built with the idea of storing web content. It’s always on and connected to the internet continuously 24/7!
To create a website, you need a few things:
- A domain name (such as hostarmada.com)
- A domain registrar or domain provider (such as HostArmada)
A server or a web hosting provider (such as HostArmada)
- Digital content—the text, images, videos, and other media that visitors will see when they come to your site. A web designer often develops these for you, though with the accessibility and ease of use that many website building applications have, the need for one isn’t always prevalent.
Let’s finish off with an example so that we are sure that you’ve gotten the picture!
Please imagine, if you will, the website as a physical document file that comprises various papers, images, and folders holding it all together. This file, more often than not, gets stored within a filing cabinet. In this scenario, the filing cabinet is akin to a web hosting server, which likewise stores a website the same way that a cabinet stores a physical file.
Of course, that’s just an example, and the reality is a bit more complicated than that. Your website is more like a living being—the relationship between your site files, your web host, and your domain name is crucial for its healthy function. If any of these three isn’t working as intended, your website won’t show up on the browser!
Makes sense? Let’s move on.
What is a domain name?
Earlier, we talked about how websites are similar to a physical file stored in a filing cabinet to make the example a little less dry than it could have been. While we could continue with that scenario, it’s best to shake things up slightly with another allusion for variety’s sake. Let’s pretend for a second that a website server is like a house and the website itself is everything inside the house that makes it liveable. And then that leaves out the domain name. What do you imagine it could be? It’s nothing more than the address of that house.
When one computer communicates with another computer, it does so in a much similar manner to how we as human beings travel from place to place. We start at a beginning point, then follow the roads and directions to that final destination. Computers act the same. To reach that desired endpoint, they require an address system to distinguish one computer or server from another.
While we use street and city names to navigate the world, computers use what is called an IP address, which looks something like this: 126.96.36.199
Computers have no issues with identifying and remembering the numbers that make up an IP address. However, humans encounter much frustration in this process, and it’s almost impossible to do so. Can you imagine if you had to keep a document with the IP addresses of all the websites that you frequent just so that you would be able to visit them? It’s a logistics nightmare to even think about, but what is funnier to note is that it is precisely how things started for the internet!
Eventually, due to human ingenuity, inspired either by efficiency or laziness, akin to many of humanity’s innovations created in the past, the internet transformed, and the DNS system got introduced successfully. Now nobody needs to remember IP addresses to get to the websites they want. Instead of that archaic method, nowadays, we are using the DNS system. Computers translate IP addresses into domain names, providing a more user-friendly version of an IP address behind the scenes.
Some examples of domain names are:
A domain name comprises three primary parts: the root domain, the top-level domain, and the second-level domain.
Allow us to explain these very crucial parts for you:
The root domain is the main web address as a whole. (i.e: hostarmada.com)
The top-level domain, also known as the TLD, is the suffix or extension tied to a website. (i.e: .com, .org, .net and so forth.)
The second-level domain is the site name (i.e: hostarmada) before the TLD extension (i.e. .com)
It is essential to keep the TLD in mind when registering your domain name to serve your purposes better.
There are over one thousand TLDs, but most people are only familiar with the most common ones. Mainly, the mass majority of TLDs are in use by less than 0.1% of all websites. There are different classifications of TLDs. For instance, some are country-specific such as .us (for the United States). Region-related extensions end up classified country code top-level domains (ccTLDs). And there are even some TLDs that indicate a website’s content, such as .casino or .apartments. The nonprofit organization, ICANN, regulates which new TLDs get added to the market.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, it’s time to talk about one final thing!
What is a URL?
A URL (aka Universal Resource Locator) is a complete web address used to find a particular web page. While the domain is the website’s name, a URL will lead to any website’s page that makes up the website. Every URL contains a domain name and other necessary components needed to locate the specific page or piece of content that a person is looking to find.
Whenever you visit a page on the web, your computer uses the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) to download that page from another computer somewhere on the Internet. Casual users rarely notice them, but HTTP (or, http://) and HTTPS (https://) are both options for starting a URL. If you take a look at most URLs, you’ll see that every one of them has either HTTP or HTTPS at the start. Whether the URL uses HTTP or HTTPS, it is a signal to the browser that it needs to use HTTP/S to fetch that URL’s website.
HTTP was invented alongside HTML to create the first interactive, text-based web browser: the original World Wide Web. Today, the protocol remains one of the primary means of using the Internet. We wouldn’t be anywhere without it!
HTTPS (also called HTTP over TLS, HTTP over SSL, and HTTP Secure) is a secure communication protocol that finds excellent use. HTTPS consists of communication over HTTP within a connection encrypted by Transport Layer Security (TLS), or its predecessor, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). The primary motivation for HTTPS is to authenticate the visited website and protect the exchanged data’s privacy and integrity.
Although we could talk more about this topic, why not look at our existing HostArmada article regarding HTTPS and SSL, which you can find right here if you are curious to learn more!
Here are some examples of URLs:
When you have a specific URL, you can use it to immediately get to where you want instead of navigating the webpage from the start. You can also provide a direct link to an image or video or anything similar.
There isn’t much more to say when we get down to it about URLs. Still, we figured that it was necessary to mention them either way so that our clients could be better informed about the differences and navigate the internet and web hosting much more comfortably.
You’ve stayed with us on this article till the end, and we congratulate you on that. Reading it should have helped clear up any confusion previously had and provided much-needed information. Although, if you still have issues with understanding the differences, we’ll be glad to help you out further. You just need to contact our support team, and one of our agents will be there to assist. You can do this at any time as we are 24/7!