A domain name is an identification label to define a realm of administrative autonomy, authority, or control in the Internet, based on the Domain Name System (DNS).
Domain names are used in various networking contexts and application-specific naming and addressing purposes. Domain names are organized in subordinate levels (subdomains) of the top-level Internet domains (TLDs), such as the prominent domains com, net and org. Below the top-level domains in the DNS hierarchy are the second-level and third-level domain names that are typically open for reservation by end-users that wish to connect local area networks to the Internet, run web sites, or create other publicly accessible Internet resources. The registration of these domain names is usually administered by domain name registrars who sell their services to the public.
Individual Internet host computers use domain names as host identifiers, or hostnames. Hostnames are the leaf labels in the domain name system usually without further subordinate domain name space. Hostnames appear as a component in Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) for Internet resources such as web sites (e.g., en.wikipedia.org).
Domain names are also used as simple identification labels to indicate ownership or control of a resource. Such examples are the realm identifiers used in the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), the DomainKeys used to verify DNS domains in e-mail systems, and in many other Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs).
An important purpose of domain names is to provide easily recognizable and memorizable names to numerically addressed Internet resources. This abstraction allows any resource (e.g., website) to be moved to a different physical location in the address topology of the network, globally or locally in an intranet. Such a move usually requires changing the IP address of a resource and the corresponding translation of this IP address to and from its domain name.
This article primarily discusses the group of domain names that are offered by domain name registrars for registration by the public. The Domain Name System article discusses the technical facilities and infrastructure of the domain name space and the hostname article deals with specific information about the use of domain names as identifiers of network hosts.