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Understanding Domain Names

by Tash Hughes of Word Constructions 

Using the Internet can be a bit daunting at first. There are so many terms and short cuts people talk about, and it can be confusing.

In simpler terms, each web site on the Internet has a name that is used to find that site. That name is called the URL (universal Resource Locator) of the site and usually takes the form of http://www.domainname.extension

Some web sites can be identified without specifying the “http:” so typing www.domainname.extension will be sufficient; other sites don’t include the “www” and will just be http://domainname.extension.

Each site selects its own domain name; ideally, the domain name will give you an indication of the site’s purpose and usefulness to you. It may include the company or organization name, or some other term. Examples of domain names are savetimeonline, wordconstructions, businessmums, IBM, ninemsn and abc.

The extension of a URL is a short abbreviation that can tell you about the site. Some of the most common extensions are listed below with a simple definition of the type.


Abbreviation of

What it refers to



Used by businesses



Used by Service providers initially, now also used by many businesses



Used by non-profit organisations



Used by Universities, schools and related bodies



Used by Government departments and affiliates



Site is designed to provide information rather than sell products or services



Used by Businesses, although less common than alternatives above

Often, you will see more letters after the three letter extension. These are usually an indication of where the site is based; a lack of a country code may represent the USA, but many non USA sites don’t include a country code either as it is not compulsory to do so. Most countries, however, do have regulations in place about who can use their country code.

A three letter code and the country code are both classed as an extension.

Common country codes are as follows:








New Zealand


United Kingdom






USA (not often used)













When computers are looking for the site you request, they read from right to left; it is comparable to a postal service reading an envelope from the bottom up. First step is knowing which country is relevant, second step is the area (of the country or of the internet), and so on.

The right hand extension is known as a first level domain and is the controlling feature. Once a URL includes a country code, other extensions are as specified by that country.

For instance, company xyz could have the url www.xyz.com. If it is a British business, it may become www.xyz.co.uk as this is the standard ending for British businesses.

Once you understand some basics of URL naming, you can interpret differences without too much trouble. A little more knowledge about URLs can save you from looking at irrelevant sites.


Tash Hughes is the owner of Word Constructions and is available to solve all your business writing problems! From letters to policies, newsletters to web content, Word Constructions writes all business documents to your style and satisfaction.


This article is available for free use on your web site or in your newsletter.

It must be acknowledged as written by Tash Hughes of www.wordconstructions.com.au and copyright remains the property of Tash Hughes.

Please notify us of your use of this article or to request information on commissioned articles.



© 2003 - 12, Tash Hughes