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Domain Names

A domain name is a business's or organisation's name on the Internet. It is the part of the email address after the "@" sign or part of the web address after the www.  For example, mweb.co.za is the domain name of MWEB’s customer portal.

In South Africa, domain names ending in .co.za are registered by Uniforum (http://co.za/)

Once a domain name is registered, it is pointed to (i.e. physically associated with) a specific server. That server then serves Web pages, files, e-mails, etc. for that domain.

To point a domain name to a specific server, you must know the name servers of the host, i.e. the company that will maintain your web site and email.

The host maintains a DNS server, or "domain name server". This server runs all the time, answering calls for your domain (and others) that are pointed to that server and directing the requests and inbound data to different facilities of the host's server. You can think of a DNS server as a table that helps the server route traffic to different IP addresses.

So why do domain names have to have an IP anyway?

An IP address looks like 201.517.635.124, which is hard to remember. That IP address has a letter equivalent, one that humans can easily recall. Therefore the domain name system is designed to say:

  • which server will answer requests for which domain name, i.e. which server is "authoritative" for which domain name
  • which IP addresses "resolve" to which domain names. In other words, which IP addresses (numbers) are linked to which domains (words)

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