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What’s In a Domain Name? The Top Level Domain, Second Level Domain, and Subdomain

By John DiGiacomo

domain_names In the Internet Age, opening a browser and punching in the name of a website has become a routine process. If the technology does what it’s supposed to, you will arrive at your cyber destination within seconds. Have you ever stopped to consider what all the letters and dots in the website’s address mean? Most people are taught that if you want to access a webpage, then you must enter “www.” first, enter the name of the site second, and finish it off with “.com”. This post will explain the meaning behind those segments of letters, and provide you with some tech-talk fodder for the upcoming office holiday parties.

Website Basics

Websites are identified by their Internet Protocol (IP) address. An IP address is series of numbers broken up with periods. Domain names were adopted in part because it’s much easier to remember an alphanumeric title than it is to recall strings of numbers. The Domain Name System is a hierarchical, or tree-like, naming system that translates the numerical IP address needed by computers into the easy-to-remember domain name that we use. This naming hierarchy consists of the top-level domain, second level domain, and a sub-domain. Let’s break down each in turn.

Top Level Domain Name – The “.com”

The top-level domain name is the last part of the website that you enter. It comes in two categories: generic and geographic. Generic top-level domains are those encountered most often on the Internet in the United States and denote different organizational domains. For instance, “.com” represents a commercial organization; “.edu” signifies the website is for an educational institution, and “.gov” will take you to a government webpage. Other common top level domains include “.net” and “.org”, but there are many more.

Geographic domains, on the other hand, are top-level domains used by other countries. To illustrate using Google once more, if you enter in your browser, you’ll be taken to Google’s French webpage.

Second Level Domain – The Part You Remember

The second level domain is located between the “www.” and the “.com”, and it can be thought of as a subpart of the “.com” domain. The second level domain is the part that companies and organizations care about because it’s how consumers will find them online. For this reason, companies often use their trademarks as the second level domain. When individuals who do not own the trademark register it with the intent to profit off the company’s mark, they run into cybersquatting problems.

Subdomain – Extending the Domain Name

The subdomain can be thought of as an extension of the domain name that will take the browser to a particular place on a webpage. The subdomain may appear at the beginning or very end of the webpage. For instance, our website is, but if you want to go directly to the types of services that we offer, then you could simply enter our subdomain: The “/services/” portion is the subdomain.

If you’re interested in registering a domain name, or if you have legal questions concerning your current domain name, contact Revision Legal’s experienced Internet attorneys here or call 855-473-8474.


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