Parts of a Web Address
The URL for the page you are currently reading is:
Have you ever really thought about what all this means?
Let's break it down:
Portion of URL
A domain "under" the main URL
Name of website with top-level domain (TLD) and second-level domain
Specifies type of domain name
Second part of domain name
Location of page in server file system
This is the subdomain. Even though it is before the domain, it is "under" it. A single domain might have several subdomains for different reasons. By tradition, www (World Wide Web) is used for publicly available content.
Whoishostingthis.com (Domain Name)
This is the domain name. The .com part is called the TLD (top-level domain), and the whoishostingthis part is called the second-level domain.
Taken together, they are called simply "the domain name", and they are unique to a single owner (which could be a person or organization).
When you "buy" or "register" a domain name, what you are paying for is the exclusive use of the unique combination of second-level and top-level domain names.
If you register example.com, no one else can do so (though that wouldn't stop anyone from registering example.net).
This is a directory name. If you imagine a file system like you have on your computer, /compare/ is a folder with a bunch of content in it. This is a metaphor, though.
In reality, there is no folder named "compare" on our computer. The directory name is really more like a section header.
This is the specific resource name (or file name) of the page you are looking at.
If the website is designed well (this one is!), it will be named something that describes the content itself (a comparison of hosting plans that offer free domains, along with an explanation of how domain names work).
Domain Name Rights and Ownership
When you register a domain name, you are getting the exclusive right to use the name you register.
No one except Google is allowed to put content at google.com. No one but us can put content at whoishostingthis.com.
How to Choose a Good Domain Name
There are a few things you should keep in mind when selecting a domain name.
Whenever possible, it makes sense for your web address to be the same, or at least related to, the name of your business.
If you own a company called "AAA Business Accounting", it doesn't make any sense for you to put your website at abcdepartmentstore.web, does it?
The address of a website is such a major branding concern for some people that they actually choose a name for their company based on what domain names are available for registration.
Ease of use
If your domain name is 35 characters long and contains a hyphen, an underscore, and a nonstandard spelling of a common word, people are going to have a hard time typing it into their browser's navigation bar.
On the other hand, this might not matter. Are people most likely to arrive at your website after clicking on some link, or after seeing it on your sign?
It's a good idea to think about potential traffic patterns to your site before making a decision.
Some TLDs (the .com or .org part) are more trusted than others.
It is tempting to get the .net domain name if the .com version of the name you want is already taken. But this is almost always a bad idea.
People will easily get confused because almost everyone thinks of .com as the "default" domain ending.
Free Domain Name Hosting
Many hosting companies offer free domain name registration as part of their hosting package.
This is a good feature because you definitely need a domain name to set up a new website.
Are Free Domains Truly Free?
You should really look at other aspects of the hosting provider's overall package. Don't select a hosting provider based on this feature alone. For one thing, it is very common.
For another thing, domain names aren't actually very expensive or hard to get (which is why so many hosting plans offer them free: it doesn't cost them much to do so).
Whatever hosting plan you choose, make sure your domain name is a good one. It will be your unique identifier.
At least until you change it.
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- Do I wish to host multiple domains?
- Are subdomains included for free?
- What are the costs compared to other options?
- Why is the domain being offered free of charge?
- What is the contract length?
Hosting Multiple Domains for Free
If you want to host multiple domains for free, a little more searching may be required.
Hosts often provide a few tiers of hosting plans, and the higher your plan tier, the more likely it is to allow multiple domains.
Whether or not multiple domain hosting is free hinges on the specific host.
In an extremely fortunate case, you might find a host who allows unlimited domains for no additional cost.
Free Subdomains Included
You should also consider whether subdomains are included as part of the free domain names or whether you'll pay extra for them.
Costs compared with other options
When you are looking for free domain hosting, it is advisable to weigh it against the other offerings of potential hosts.
Hosting a domain is generally inexpensive, so you want to be certain that the host can meet all of your important criteria.
Reasons Why Hosting Companies Offer Free Domains
There's no such thing as a free lunch. If a domain name is free, it's because the hosting company wants to sell you other options for your web site.
It costs next to nothing for them to register a domain name. It's just a few bits on a server.
Length of Contract
You should look at the other features when you make the decision to buy web hosting service.
Many of them have yearly contracts, so you should choose carefully before you realize that you picked the wrong host for your needs.
Useful Features to Consider
Here are five features you may wish to consider when choosing a free domain hosting provider:
- Control Panel
- SSL Certificates
- Website Builder
- Mobile-Friendly Design Options
- Web Design Templates
A good free domain name hosting provider will make it easy for you to actually use your domain name.
They'll typically have a web-based control panel where you paste in your domain name and name server, and then they'll point the domain name to your site.
You could go digging into the DNS configuration files, but the syntax can be daunting for people who are new to building websites. There are whole books devoted to DNS configuration alone.
With cPanel, for example, you just click on icons in the main control panel to access the settings for your domains and subdomains.
One thing you should definitely consider is getting an SSL certificate. An SSL certificate allows your website to use HTTPS.
An HTTPS connection lets you encrypt the connection between a user and the web server, ensuring that nobody can intercept the connection. This is important if you process payments or handle login data.
It's been a lot easier to get SSL certificates with projects like Let's Encrypt offering them for free. Since it's so easy to get one, there's no reason not to.
One nice feature that web hosting companies might throw in is a website builder. You might already wince at this sentence, having bad flashbacks to the late '90s GeoCities monstrosities or to MySpace in the '00s.
Modern site builders let you create attractive, modern sites without having to code. You can even add e-commerce features to your site.
Designing a Website for Mobile Devices
Many of these website builders let you design sites for mobile devices, a continually growing source of traffic.
A lot of these drag-and-drop website builders will let you preview your site in portrait mode to see how it will look on a smartphone or tablet.
Web Design Templates
For the truly design-challenged, there are professional-looking templates. You can tweak most of them with your company logo or other design elements if you need to.
With the money you're saving on a domain name, you might just use it to hire a web design firm instead.
Popular Hosting Options
When selecting a hosting package, it is important to consider which type of hosting is best suited to your needs.
There are a number of popular hosting options available:
- Dedicated Server
- Virtual Private Server (VPS)
- Cloud Hosting
- Reseller Hosting
- WordPress Hosting
You should also ask yourself whether you need a dedicated server or are willing to use a shared hosting plan. Shared hosting plans are, well, shared.
Your site will be hosted on a physical server with a bunch of other websites.
A lot of these free domain name plans are part of shared hosting. Shared hosting is appropriate for small sites, personal sites, blogs, and so on.
Dedicated servers will give you a lot more control over your environment since you don't have to share it with other people.
This is essential for larger businesses and as you get more experienced with web hosting. The downside is that you have to manage a lot of things by yourself.
There are a few alternatives to a dedicated server that have emerged in recent years.
Virtual Private Servers
A Virtual Private Server (VPS) is a hybrid between shared and dedicated hosting.
With a VPS, you get a virtual machine that resides on a physical machine with a bunch of other physical machines.
From your point of view, it's the same as having your own server.
Cloud Server Hosting
Cloud servers take the idea further, with virtual servers that can ramp up their bandwidth and processing power as needed.
If you have a low-traffic site, you can get by with a less powerful server, but have the ability to burst if you go viral.
Reseller hosting offers shared hosting packages along with additional tools that allow customers to resell hosting packages to other users.
They also provide applications to facilitate billing services and support for these accounts.
Many companies also offer packages specifically optimized for the WordPress platform.
These packages include features such as "one-click install", designed to ease the installation process for beginners, and include servers configured to speed up WordPress sites.
Top 3 Free Domain Hosting Options
Everyone likes free stuff, and that extends to domain names. It's become more common for hosting companies to throw in free domain names in with a hosting contract. Having a free domain name is only part of why you should choose a hosting provider. You should also consider price, features and service.
HostPapa is a great choice for those who want a free domain. Users get a free .com domain name. The money-back guarantee is very generous at 90 days. If you're anticipating a lot of traffic, you'll be pleased to know that HostPapa has unlimited traffic as well as emails. Plans start at $3.95 a month.
One hosting provider that our users rated highly is GreenGeeks. This hosting provider tries to be environmentally friendly, with datacenters powered by renewable energy. They offer a free .com domain and a 30-day money-back guarantee. Other things that will sweeten the deal include unlimited traffic and databases as well as WordPress integration and free nightly backups. Plans start at $2.49 a month.
Bluehost is another free domain provider our users rated highly. In addition to a free .com domain, users get 24/7 support and a 30-day money-back guarantee. It also offers unlimited traffic. Their plans start at $2.75 a month.
Points to Remember
A lot of these offers of free domains are ultimately designed as a "loss leader" to get you to sign up for a web hosting company's full-fledged hosting options.
Also see: Free Website Hosting. The same caveats should apply to free web hosting as it does to free domain names. It's going to cost you somewhere, and if your business depends on having a web presence, you should consider making the proper investments in a good web host. Still, you can get some amazing deals on web hosting and domain names out there if you don't mind being upsold.
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