Domain Names vs. Domain Registration: What’s the Difference?

What is the difference between domain name and domain registration?

If you’re new to establishing an online presence, the terms “domain name” and “domain registration” are likely to come up often. While they sound similar, these two concepts represent distinct steps in the process of claiming your address on the internet.

Understanding the exact difference between a domain name and domain registration is key to getting started on the right foot when creating a website. This guide will explain what each term means and how they work together to create your unique domain.

Domain Name

A domain name is the readable web address used to access a website or web resource. Some examples include:


A domain name must be unique and is used to identify an internet namespace you control.

Key Attributes

  • Human readable – Uses common words, phrases, or brands.
  • Globally unique – No two are exactly the same.
  • Contains a top-level domain (TLD) – .com, .org, .net, etc.
  • Resolves to website or resource – Links the name to hosting server via DNS.
  • Provides identity – Represents your online brand or persona.

Think of a domain name as the customized license plate for your website, reflecting your online identity in an address people can remember.

Domain Registration

Domain registration is the process of legally acquiring the rights to use a specific domain name. This involves paying a fee to a domain registrar. Some key steps in the registration process include:

  • Checking availability – Verifying the domain name isn’t already registered.
  • Providing registrant info – Submitting your contact details.
  • Choosing a registrar – The company through which you register your domain.
  • Making payment – Paying the registration fee, typically $10-$15 annually.
  • Agreeing to terms – Accepting registrar terms of service and ICANN policies.

Key Attributes

  • Official ownership – Registrant receives legal rights to the domain for commercial use.
  • Enables DNS configuration – Allows mapping domain to hosting server via nameservers.
  • Renewal required – You must periodically renew registration to retain ownership.
  • Recorded in WHOIS – Registration data becomes public in the WHOIS domain database.
  • Regulated by ICANN – Domain registration falls under ICANN’s guidelines and dispute policies.

Domain registration establishes you as the official owner and creates the technical DNS setup that connects your domain name to your website.

How Domain Names and Registration Work Together

While distinct concepts, domain names and domain registration work closely together to create your presence on the web:

  • You pick an available and memorable domain name to represent your site or brand.
  • Registration of that name with a registrar lets you claim it officially and exclusively.
  • The registrar adds your domain name to the DNS system, the phonebook of the internet.
  • This points your domain to the hosting server where your site’s content lives.
  • Visitors enter your domain name in their browser and the DNS lookup directs them to your site.

Domain name + registration = your address on the web!

Key Differences Between Names and Registration

While domain names and registration are complementary parts of owning an internet domain, they have some key differences:

Domain NamesDomain Registration
Human readable labelTechnical process for ownership
Used by people to identify sitesUsed by computers to lookup sites
Chosen based on preferencesMust be available and unique
Can be updated or changedTied to specific domain name
Free to brainstorm ideasRequires a paid fee
Value based on meaning or brandValue based on legal rights conferred

Common Questions About Domain vs Registration

Here are some common questions that highlight the relationship between domain names and registration:

  • Can you have a domain name without registering it? No, you must register a domain to establish official ownership and get technical control to use it. Unregistered domains belong to registries.
  • Does a domain name require renewal? No, just the registration. You keep the same name after renewal. The registration must be periodically renewed.
  • What happens if registration lapses? The domain name eventually becomes available for anyone else to register if not renewed.
  • Who determines domain availability? ICANN establishes the unique naming system. Domain registries maintain lists of unregistered names available for registration.
  • Can a domain be registered to multiple people? No, each domain name can only have one official registrant at a time according to ICANN rules. Disputes may arise over contested names.

Key Takeaways

  • A domain name is a human-readable web address used to identify a site or resource. Domain registration legally establishes ownership of a specific name.
  • Registering a domain enables pointing it to hosting via DNS and confers official usage rights to the registrant.
  • Domain names are chosen based on meaning, while domains can only be registered if available. Renewal maintains registration rights.
  • The two work together, with the name being the label and registration the process making it usable on the web.

Understanding the difference helps avoid confusion when establishing your online presence. A great domain name is worthless without registration – and registration requires picking an available name not already taken.

Hopefully this breakdown clarifies how domain names and domain registration work together to create your address on the web!

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