What is a domain?

December 22, 2018 (Sat). Even though domain was invented some 30 years ago, its concept is still not generally understood, so today I'll try to explain it in a simple way.

A domain is essentially an address in the digital world. This is where you can set up a store and sell to the whole world. Since you can choose your digital address, you want to use an address which can be easily remembered by consumers. Some clarification first. Within the domain industry, both "domains" and "domain names" are used to describe digital addresses. For simplicity, however, I prefer to use "domains" in my writing.

In its simplest form, a domain consists of three parts: a name, a dot, and an extension. Some examples are,, and How long can the name part be? Officially, the limit is 63 characters and below is an example.

The name part may also be a number or a mix of letters and numbers. For example, Qihoo 360 uses to indicate its "full and comprehensive" security services, and top Chinese media company 21CN is located at

A domain may contain one or more dots. An additional dot indicates a subdomain, which enables a large company to accommodate its various business divisions. For example, Chinese media group Leshi uses as its corporate domain but also subdivides it into,, and for use by its group members.

The extension part has two or more characters. 2-character extensions are reserved for countries, such as .cn for China and .jp for Japan. They are controlled by the respective national governments, so it may be risky to run your business on another country's extension. For example, American art startup Artsy saw its domain shut down by the Syrian government during its civil war several years ago. The following extensions are popular among startups, but be aware of their country risks.

.ai (Anguilla)
.io (British Indian Ocean Territory)
.co (Columbia)
.me (Montenegro)
.tv (Tuvalu)

A domain can be written in both uppercase and lowercase. For example, all of the following styles work:,,, AIRbnb.COM, and AiRbNb.cOm. Therefore, you can use this feature creatively when incorporating your domain in advertising.

Finally, note that technically all domains function in the same way as digital addresses. This means I can run my business equally well from,, or The difference is perception. Because .com is used by most major brands in the world, it gives you an image of being "global, credible, big". If you aspire to become a global player, .com is recommended. Afterall, .com means COMmerce.

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