A domain name is the address, or the URL, of the website. For example, facebook.com and google.com are both domain names. And while both may have their own datacenters filled with web servers that host their website, those web hosts do not have the domain extension of .com or .org. A domain name is simply the address that will be typed into a browser so that it can then look up what site is attached to that domain name and take you to it.
Website owners can use domain names to their advantage because they can choose one that reinforces the brand, allows visitors to know by the name alone what the website is about, and make the address of the website easy to remember. Web hosts can offer domain names as part of their packages but in most cases, it’s best to use a separate registrar and keep everything separate.
A web host is just that – a company or individual that hosts a website. Hosting refers to renting out space on the web host’s web server. A web server holds websites – either just one or several – and connects the website files to the Internet. This server is what actually allows other people to see your website. Web hosts offer many different plans and the one that’s chosen will depend on what’s needed such as how much space the website needs, how many visitors will be going to the site, and the budget restraints, if any, of the website owner.
Those who are new to the world of building and managing a website are often confused as to whether they need to register a domain name or find a web host first. But it doesn’t really matter. A domain name registrar will sell a domain name to anyone as long as that name is not already in use, even if a website is not ready to be found at that domain just yet.
Likewise, if you find a really great web host and just want to start creating your website right away, you can also do that without already having a domain name registered. However, it is most recommended that a domain name is registered before the website is created. Doing so will give the website creator more direction when it comes to layout, design, and even content, as everything can point back towards that name. And, if you have a name in mind, it’s best to register it before someone else does.
The many terms associated with creating a website can be confusing for those who are new to the process. But the terms domain name and web host should never be intimidating or worse, keep someone from creating a website. These two terms serve two very different functions, and neither is difficult to find and use.