12 December 2012 | Stuff Explained

Domain names – the basics and how they work

An introduction to understanding domain names.

What exactly is a domain name?

A domain name is the name of your website. It’s the name people enter into their browsers to go to your website. For example, trademe.co.nz and google.com are domain names.

Essentially, a domain name is the address of a company or person on the Internet. It’s where other people can find you online and it often becomes your online identity. For example, businesses typically register domain names with their company name, and often their product names as well.

But what is a domain name really?

Computers communicate using unique numbers to find, or connect with, each other. These numbers are called IP (Internet Protocol) addresses and they provide a unique way to identify every computer, server or device on the Internet. IP addresses are a string of numbers which could look like this:

If you know the IP address of a website, you can type it directly in your browser. Try typing into a browser.

As numbers aren’t always easy to remember, we use names – the so-called ‘domain names’ – in stead of IP addresses. So, a domain name is simply an alias for an IP address.

What type of domain name can I have?

There are two varieties of domain names available, including those that end with country initials like .nz, .uk and .au; these are called ‘Country Code Top Level Domains’ (ccTLD). Then there are the domain names which end, for example, in .com, .biz, .net or .org; these are known as ‘Generic Top Level Domains’ (gTLD).

Second level domains

Unlike the Generic Top Level Domains, with .nz Country Code Top Level Domain there’s always a group of letters in between as per these examples:


These are the Second Level Domains (2LD). Check out the full list of New Zealand second level domains.

How secure is a domain name?

Upon registering a domain name, the registrant, or person who registers the name, can be supplied with an Authorisation key or a Unique Domain Authentication ID. This key/code is required if you want to transfer your domain name to another registrar.

Read more about UDAI.

Who owns your domain name?

Your domain name must be registered in your name – even if someone registers it on your behalf. This makes you personally the legal owner. Here at Good Websites, we always register a domain name in our client’s name.

Whois Search

You can easily check how your domain is registered using what’s called ‘Whois Search’. For New Zealand domain names this can be done via the DNC’s website. Simply enter your domain name in the ‘Search Domains’ field, select the 2LDs from the dropdown (.co.nz, .net.nz etc.) and hit the ‘Go’ button.

If your domain name is managed by someone on your behalf, their details are likely to show as the ‘Admin and Technical Contacts’. The ‘Registrant Contact’ should always be you.

For Generic Top Level Domains (.com, .net etc.), a similar Whois search can be done via the Domain Tools website.

What’s in the Whois?

All registered domain names have an entry in a central database containing contact information for the domain names’ registrar, registrant, technical and administration contact. These entries are required by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the organisation that controls all domain name registrations.

Registering multiple domain names

It’s a good idea to register multiple domain names to protect your company name or brand. So in stead of just registering goodplumbing.co.nz you can also register goodplumbing.net.nz, goodplumbing.kiwi.nz etc. – assuming those names are still available of course. (Remember, it’s first in-first served).

Why would you do that?

Check out our post at: domain names and how to protect your company name or brand.

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