The practice of using a simple memorable abstraction of a host's numerical address on a computer network dates back to the ARPANET era, before the advent of today's commercial Internet. In the early network, each computer on the network retrieved the hosts file host. It authorizes domain name registrars , through which domain names may be registered and reassigned.
The domain name space consists of a tree of domain names. Each node in the tree holds information associated with the domain name. The tree sub-divides into zones beginning at the DNS root zone.
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A domain name consists of one or more parts, technically called labels , that are conventionally concatenated, and delimited by dots, such as example. The top-level domains TLDs such as com, net and org are the highest level of domain names of the Internet.
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Every domain name ends with a top-level domain label. When the Domain Name System was devised in the s, the domain name space was divided into two main groups of domains. In addition, a group of seven generic top-level domains gTLD was implemented which represented a set of categories of names and multi-organizations.
During the growth of the Internet, it became desirable to create additional generic top-level domains. As of October , 21 generic top-level domains and two-letter country-code top-level domains existed. For special purposes, such as network testing, documentation, and other applications, IANA also reserves a set of special-use domain names. Other top-level domain names containing trade marks are registered for corporate use.
Below the top-level domains in the domain name hierarchy are the second-level domain SLD names. These are the names directly to the left of. As an example, in the domain example. Next are third-level domains, which are written immediately to the left of a second-level domain. There can be fourth- and fifth-level domains, and so on, with virtually no limitation. An example of an operational domain name with four levels of domain labels is sos. Each label is separated by a full stop dot. In general, subdomains are domains subordinate to their parent domain.
Second-level or lower-level, depending on the established parent hierarchy domain names are often created based on the name of a company e. Below these levels, the next domain name component has been used to designate a particular host server. Therefore, ftp. Modern technology allows multiple physical servers with either different cf. The latter is very popular in Web hosting service centers, where service providers host the websites of many organizations on just a few servers. The hierarchical DNS labels or components of domain names are separated in a fully qualified name by the full stop dot,.
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The character set allowed in the Domain Name System is based on ASCII and does not allow the representation of names and words of many languages in their native scripts or alphabets. Many registries have adopted IDNA. The first commercial Internet domain name, in the TLD com , was registered on 15 March in the name symbolics. In the first quarter of , million domain names had been registered.
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The right to use a domain name is delegated by domain name registrars , which are accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ICANN , the organization charged with overseeing the name and number systems of the Internet. A registry is responsible for maintaining the database of names registered within the TLD it administers. The registry receives registration information from each domain name registrar authorized to assign names in the corresponding TLD and publishes the information using a special service, the WHOIS protocol.
Registries and registrars usually charge an annual fee for the service of delegating a domain name to a user and providing a default set of name servers. Often, this transaction is termed a sale or lease of the domain name, and the registrant may sometimes be called an "owner", but no such legal relationship is actually associated with the transaction, only the exclusive right to use the domain name. More correctly, authorized users are known as "registrants" or as "domain holders".
Registrant information associated with domain names is maintained in an online database accessible with the WHOIS protocol. Some domain name registries, often called network information centers NIC , also function as registrars to end-users. The major generic top-level domain registries, such as for the com , net , org , info domains and others, use a registry-registrar model consisting of hundreds of domain name registrars see lists at ICANN  or VeriSign.
The registrants users of a domain name are customers of the registrar, in some cases through additional layers of resellers. There are also a few other alternative DNS root providers that tries to compete or complement ICANN's role of domain name administration, however, most of them failed to receive wide recognition, and thus domain names offered by those alternative roots cannot be used universally on most other internet-connecting machines without additional dedicated configurations.
In the process of registering a domain name and maintaining authority over the new name space created, registrars use several key pieces of information connected with a domain:. A domain name consists of one or more labels, each of which is formed from the set of ASCII letters, digits, and hyphens a-z, A-Z, , - , but not starting or ending with a hyphen.
In the textual representation of a domain name, the labels are separated by a full stop period. Domain names are often seen in analogy to real estate in that domain names are foundations on which a website can be built, and the highest quality domain names, like sought-after real estate, tend to carry significant value, usually due to their online brand-building potential, use in advertising, search engine optimization , and many other criteria. A few companies have offered low-cost, below-cost or even free domain registration with a variety of models adopted to recoup the costs to the provider.
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