What is a domain name? How domain names work? What’s the life cycle of a domain name? How to perform a domain check? What’s the cost for renewing expired domains? These are just some of the common questions we answer here, as domain names are an integral part of the Internet and therefore understanding exactly how they work is essential. A lot of people mix up domain names with web hosting and tend to think they are identical, when in fact these are two completely separate services.

Wikipediadomain name is an identification string that defines a realm of administrative autonomy, authority or control within the Internet. Domain names are formed by the rules and procedures of the Domain Name System (DNS). Any name registered in the DNS is a domain name.

If you are confused by this definition, don’t worry. It got us confused too. In simple terms, a domain name is the human-readable address of your website. Your website is hosted on a server, which has an IP address. Domain names are converted into IP addresses, and in that way your web browser understands just which server it has to connect to, in order to retrieve the contents of the site you are looking to visit. 

The conversion from a domain name to the corresponding IP address is performed by a DNS server. For example, when you enter “https://icdsoft.com” in your web browser, your operating system’s DNS client will check for the IP in its local cache. If the requested address is not there, it will query the DNS server of your local area network. If the DNS server of your LAN contains the IP of icdsoft.com, it returns it back to your computer. In case it does not, it checks with the DNS cache server of your ISP, which in turns maintains its address table from a list of “authoritative DNS servers.”

The Domain Name Syntax

Domain names consist of two or more parts, called labels. The part to the left of the dot is known as the “second level domain”. You could call that part the name of the website. The second part after the dot is known as the “TLD”. TLD stands for Top Level Domain. For example, in the case of icdsoft.com, the TLD is .com. In other words, every domain name ends with a TLD. The most popular TLDs include .com, .net., .org, .info. You could also have subdomains, which are domains part of the main domain. An example of that would be en.wikipedia.org, where “en” is a subdomain of wikipedia.org.

Domain Name Rules and Regulations

Domain name registrations are controlled by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). ICANN is a non-profit organization that develops policies for the global Domain Name System, introduces new TLDs, maintains the operation of the root name servers, and provides accreditation to companies to become actual domain registrars. Thus, you cannot register a domain name directly via ICANN. 

You can register a domain through an ICANN-accredited registrar company or a reseller that has a business relationship with an actual registrar. Domain names are unique, so whenever you wish to register a given domain, you should use a domain checker to inquire about its availability. Basically, a domain checker performs a WHOIS lookup to find out whether a given domain is already taken. If the domain is already registered, the WHOIS lookup will show you the contact details of the domain, its creation and expiration dates, its status, and the nameservers associated with it. We offer a free domain checker at https://suresupport.com/whois.

The minimum registration period for a domain is one year, while the maximum depends on the TLD.

Generic TLDs

Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) are actually called generic for purely historic reasons. They were created in the initial stages of development of the domain name system and were designed for specific purposes and organizations. At first, the gTLDs were – .com (for commercial entities), .org (for organizations), .net (for network infrastructures), .edu (for US colleges and universities), .gov (governmental use), .mil (military use). Nowadays, anyone can register a .com, .net, and .org domain as their use is no longer restricted. In fact, the definition of gTLDs has evolved over time, and now they refer to domains that do not have a geographic or country designation (see ccTLDs below). ICANN is constantly expanding the list of gTLDs and nowadays there are more than 1,000 generic top-level domains (gTLDs). The .com TLD is the most popular by far as it contains over 115 million domains.

Country Code TLDs

There are TLDs that are specific to a particular country – .US, .EU, .DE, .HK. These are known as country code top-level domains, or commonly referred to as ccTLDs. They can be defined as two-letter extensions corresponding to countries or particular territories around the world. Some of these ccTLDs have specific requirements as to who can register them and what documents must be provided.

Reviewing the Life Cycle of Expired Domains

Domain names have a “Creation Date” and a “Registry Expiry Date“. As previously noted, the minimum registration period is one year while the maximum depends on the actual TLD. For example, the maximum registration period for .com domains is ten years. In other words, if you have registered your domain for one year, you cannot renew it for more than nine. The point here is that you cannot register a domain forever. Regardless of the TLD or the registrar company, your domain will have a certain expiration date, and if you want to keep it, then you have to make sure you don’t let it expire. 

When a domain name expires, it follows the cycle below:

  1. Stage I (Length: 1-42 days) – Registrant may still renew domain, but services (like email and hosted DNS) will stop working during this stage.
  2. Stage II (Length: 30 days) – Domain is held in RGP (Redemption Grace Period) for 30 days. WHOIS info will be deleted, and the domain will remain inactive. The domain can still technically be renewed by the registrant, but the fee may be rather high (up to a few hundred dollars).
  3. Stage III (Length: 5 days) – The domain will be deleted from the registry in 5 days.

How to Transfer a Domain Name

Domain transfer refers to the procedure whereby the registrar company of a domain name is changed. Upon successful completion, the registration period of the domain is extended with another year. The transfer procedure is quite straightforward and can take up to five business days to complete. However, a domain cannot be transferred within 60 days of initial registration and within 60 days of a previous transfer, as per ICANN regulations.  

The standard steps to prepare the domain for transfer at the current registrar are:

  • unlock the domain for transfer;
  • obtain the domain’s EPP authorization code.

You will have to contact the current service provider in order to fulfill these requirements. Once you have done that, you should provide the EPP code to the  gaining registrar (the one you are moving it to), so the transfer procedure can be initiated. 

The Global WHOIS Database

WHOIS is a TCP-based protocol used for accessing databases containing assignees of an Internet resource, such as domain names and IP addresses. Whenever you wish to obtain detailed information about a given domain name or even an IP address, you can perform a WHOIS lookup on it. The WHOIS will show you whether a domain is registered or not, and in case it is, you will see information such as its creation and expiration dates, associated name servers, registrar company.

You can use our WHOIS tool at https://suresupport.com/whois to perform a domain check. This tool can be quite useful whenever you are troubleshooting a problem with your website. For example, if your website is down, the first thing we usually do is perform a WHOIS check on the domain to find more information about its status. If there are no issues with the domain, its Domain Status as shown in the WHOIS, should be “ok”. A clientHold status means that the domain is unpaid, or there is some other issue with the domain name registration, and the registrar should be contacted for additional assistance.

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