Domain is a term used to describe the set of characters, words, or symbols in which something exists. Domain is also a business that offers domain names for sale and registration.
The term domain was first used in the computer field during the 1980s, but it has since been expanded widely. The meaning of the word has changed over time from being restricted to a single computer network of computers to being interpreted as an entire ecosystem into which everything fits; that includes both online and offline worlds. For example, we can refer to “the banking industry” as “the banking domain. “Another common meaning refers to a particular field of interest, or activity. For example, “the art world” refers to the world of artists and painters.
The term domain can be applied in many different contexts and settings. Domain name registrars and registries regulate the names that are registered by individuals and companies, respectively. These organizations make sure that each individual or company has only one registered name per category they register under (e.g., .com, .net, .org). Registrars or registries may decide which domain names are most desirable and also sell them, both directly to the public and indirectly through wholesalers, including resellers.
Domain names are registered with a top-level domain (TLD), such as a .com or .org. The registration of domain names residing on the right-hand side of the dot is administered by organizations called “registries”, while those on the left-hand side are managed by registrars. Most off-the-shelf web platforms use a combination of open source software and proprietary code to facilitate management of domains, hosting, billing, etc.
The domain registration market is a close-knit community, largely because of the competition between registrars to offer the best price and service. The industry is fiercely competitive, with registrars offering lower prices when compared to their competitors. Even though there are more registrations than available domain name spaces, the system is often able to accommodate these requests by creating new domains for each registered domain. To distinguish a new domain from a duplicate one, a unique ID called the “dnssec resource record” (RR) is created over the existing registration (usually in a file called dnssec-trigger.txt). If the RR already exists, it is updated. Some registrars offer an “idn” service which adds internationalized domain names (IDNs), such as german. Lookup of these can be done in any of the top-level domains, for example: “sqdnr.de” for a Germany-based company.
Domain names have traditionally been registered by individuals or companies, on a first-come, first-served basis. However, many of the “premium” TLDs are restricted to certain categories of entities (e.g., .com for commercial entities; .net for networking; .edu for educational institutions). Some TLDs have different categories of registration; e.g., .gov is reserved for governmental domains, and there is a special category called “.mil” reserved for military domains that require the CAC card (i.e., “Common Access Card”) as proof of identity when registering.
Most nations provide their own local top-level domain (such as .it for Italy). Registration of a domain name in a different top-level domain is possible, but may require the purchase of a separate registration (“naming right”) for each TLD within that domain.
Domain names are also issued and managed by third parties who provide services for registration and maintenance of domains. These agencies deal with registering new domains, approving registrations through the oversight of the registrar or registry, as well as responding to problems such as cybersquatting. They may also provide authentication services typically needed to use an online service that requires a domain name (such as a webmail service requiring the user to log in before accessing their mail).
State and provincial governments license these agencies to offer domain name registration services for their residents. These agencies are known as domain registries (or sometimes, whois record registries).
The concept of a “domain” being associated with businesses is not a new one, and indeed many businesses have registered their business names as TLDs at some point in time. This can be seen in the example of .abc, which originally belonged to the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) programming division. In some countries, this is still permitted. While legal ownership of a domain name may be transferred by contract between individuals or corporations, it cannot generally be transferred to another entity (although there are cases of .coop transfers between nonprofit entities).
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