About the Domain Name System

Each website on the Internet has a unique name. You’ve probably seen these names in people’s email addresses, FTP sites, etc. They are called Domain Names, and they are managed by a massive database called the Domain Name System (DNS).

For example, Southwest Cyberport’s domain name is swcp.com. Individual servers on SWCP’s network have names within that domain, such as news.swcp.com and www.swcp.com.  See below for more details.

Domain names are registered to an individual or an organization on a lease-like basis. You must pay a domain registry every year to keep the right to use your domain name. Domain name servers resolve domain names into actual Internet addresses. These DNS servers are distributed all across the Internet, and are used to find where the services associated with a domain name are actually located on the Internet. Southwest Cyberport operates DNS servers that serve up the addresses associated with our customers’ domain names.

The Organization of DNS

Full domain names (like “www.swcp.com”) are divided into parts separated by periods. The last part (“com” in our example) is called the Top-Level Domain (TLD). These can denote the organizational type or geographical area. The next to last part (“swcp”) is called the Second-Level Domain (SLD) which refers to the actual entity. The first part of the name (“news” or “www”) is for a Subdomain; a part of that domain used for that purpose (like a news or web server).

In the United States, the DNS was originally divided into seven TLDs:

US Top-Level Domains

.com .edu .org .gov .mil .net .us
Commercial organizations Educational institutions Non-profit organizations Government agencies Military installations Large networks United States geographical domain

The first six domains indicate organizational boundaries. On the other hand, the .us domain is used to indicate geographical boundaries. For example, the geographical domain for Albuquerque, NM is abq.nm.us.

Foreign Domain Names

Outside the US, domains were indicated with the two-letter international abbreviation for the country in which the system resides (for example, uk for England and jp for Japan). The discrepancy between the US and international naming conventions is a side effect of the way the Internet developed over the years. It was born in the US, and had a US-centric attitude for many years (considering that it grew out of US Defense Department projects, that is hardly surprising).

These country-code top-level domains (aka CCTLDs) are often further divided for organizational boundaries like in the US. For example, Britain (.uk) puts commercial domains in “.co.uk”.

Generic Domain Names

Starting in 2015, ICANN (the international organization that oversees the entire domain registration system) opened up the system to allow thousands of new “generic” TLDs (gTLDs). The gTLDs are many and varied, catering to every market segment you can imagine. Some examples are .photo, .cars, .doctor, .construction, .blog, .green, and many more. There is often duplication (or some might call it competition) among the gTLDs, such as .car and .cars, or .photo and .photos.

Some brands have also registered their own TLDs, so we may see websites named love.coke or drink.pepsi someday soon.

Some crusty old-timers may think the new gTLDs are silly, reduce clarity, and are a thinly disguised cash-grab by a few savvy marketing companies. Regardless, they are here to stay and will likely proliferate.

SWCP can register a wide and growing number of domain names. Prices and conditions differ widely from one TLD to another. For example, you have to be a medical doctor to register a .doctor domain. Our domain registration agreement includes by reference all of the requirements of the different domain registries which are in charge of individual TLDs. If you have a question about specific requirements, you can generally find the answer in the domain registration agreement.

See our Domain Pricing page for prices, restrictions and the full list of available TLDs.

Do I Need DNS?

All computers on the Internet are accessed by their unique numerical IP address. When you access a machine by name (by sending email or browsing a WWW site for example) you’re using DNS to translate from that name to the unique number. The DNS lookup functions are built in to all the programs you use so that you never have to consciously think about the work that DNS does.

The question now is whether you need a domain name registration of your own. Individuals rarely need their own DNS registration. On the other hand, it is very common for a company or organization (even a one-person shop) to get its own domain name. The primary benefit of having your own domain name is that it gives you your own network identity. When you give your email address to customers, suppliers, or business associates you are giving them a name that they can relate directly to you. It’s like telling them to send correspondence to your own building (e.g. The Acme Building) as opposed to a suite number in someone else’s building (e.g. Acme Co., First Bank Building, Suite 9102).

Having your own domain name can also help in the creation of your company’s virtual presence on the World Wide Web. Having your own domain name is the difference between having a Home Page URL of http://www.yourbiz.com/ instead of https://www.swcp.com/yourbiz/home.html. Again, it reinforces the impression that your business is On The Net.

An additional advantage of having your own domain name is portability. This gives you the option to change ISPs without having your email address or website change names. You simply transfer the hosting of your domain name to a different ISP and your email and website follow along. The machine that handles your email or web site may change, but your website or email address won’t have to change. It is also possible to have your email go to your local ISP and have your web site hosted somewhere else.

How to Select a Domain Name

There are no hard and fast rules for picking a domain name to represent yourself, your business, or other organization other than it has to be unique. Ideally it will be memorable, pronounceable, short, clever, easily spelled, and suggests the nature of your business. It also must be comprised of only letters, numbers, and the hyphen. No other special characters can be used. While it can be as long as 64 of these characters, generally, the shorter the better.

One thing you need to be aware of is the relationship between trademarks and domain names. Trademarks are means of identifying sources of products and services, and are therefore legally protected. Domain names themselves can be considered trademarks. To prevent confusion and getting a nasty letter from a lawyer due to infringement, it is best to choose names dissimilar to those of competitors or their products.

Be sure to do your research. You can find what trademarks are registered or in process at the US Patent and Trademark Office. Find out if the domain name you want has been taken already with our  Check Domain Availability search tool.

Want to register a domain now?


Your registration is subject to the terms specified in our Domain Name Registration Agreement. In case of a dispute over a domain name, the standard ICANN dispute resolution procedures will be used to resolve the conflict. When you request a domain registration or transfer, you agree to be bound by these policies. The ICANN also maintains a Rights and Responsibilities document you should be aware of.