Understanding the difference between a domain name and a URL is essential for navigating the online world. In this article, we’ll explore the similarities and differences between these two concepts, provide examples of various URL structures, and discuss the importance of secure protocols. Let’s dive in!

What is a domain name?

A domain name is like a memorable nickname for your website’s location on the internet. Instead of trying to remember a complicated series of numbers (the IP address), a domain name simplifies this process. In essence, it serves as a user-friendly identifier for a website, making it easy for people to find and access online content. A domain name consists of a second-level domain (SLD), which is the unique name you choose for your website, and a top-level domain (TLD), such as ‘.com’ or ‘.org’. For a more in-depth explanation of domain names, check out our article What Is a Domain Name and How Do They Work? A 2023 Guide.

What is a URL?

A URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is a complete web address (that includes a domain name) that specifies the location of a specific resource on the internet, such as a web page, image, or file. It includes several components:

  • Protocol: The communication method used to access the resource, ‘http://’ or ‘https://’ are most commonly used for website access but other protocols such as ftp:// can also be used in URL’s.
  • Subdomain: An optional part of the URL – you often see websites proceeded with ‘www.’ this is in fact a subdomain, but subdomains also allow you to create separate sections or categories within your website (e.g., ‘shop.blogchap.com’).
  • Domain name: The human-friendly identifier for a website, consisting of the SLD and TLD (e.g., ‘blogchap.com’).
  • Port: An optional component that specifies a particular network service on the server (e.g., ‘:8080’). Most URLs do not include a port, as the default of :8080 is assumed but certain control panels or webmail access may need the port specified (e.g. :2096).
  • Path: The location of the resource on the server, this can be folder structures, pages or files (e.g. blogchap.com/media/image.png).
  • Query strings and Variables: Additional information that can be sent to the server as key-value pairs, usually for processing requests (e.g., ‘?search=example&filter=date’).

Differences between a domain name and URL?

While domain names are a key element of a URL, they serve different purposes and functions. To better understand the distinctions, let’s break down the differences into a few key aspects.

Identity and specificity

A domain name represents your website’s unique identity on the internet, similar to how your home address helps people locate where you live. In contrast, a URL goes a step further, providing a specific address for a particular resource within your website, such as a web page or an image. Essentially, a URL is like your home address, room type, and item name all rolled into one, guiding users directly to the content they’re seeking.

Static vs. dynamic

Another key difference is that a domain name remains static, meaning it will not change unless you switch to another domain name. In contrast, URL components, such as paths and queries, can be updated. For example, a blog article might be published with a specific year in its URL, but it could later be changed to reflect an update (e.g., “/blog-tips-2022” becomes “/blog-tips-in-2023”).

Ownership and transferability

Domain names can be bought, sold, and transferred between owners, much like a piece of real estate. In this way, domain names have inherent value and can be considered a commodity. On the other hand, URLs are not transferable and cannot be bought or sold. They are simply a digital address that directs users to specific resources on a website.

Similarities between a domain name and URL?

Both domain names and URLs are essential for locating and accessing online resources. They provide human-readable identifiers that make it easier for users to navigate the internet and find the content they’re looking for.

Different examples of domain names and URLs.

Let’s take a look at some examples to illustrate the difference between domain names and URLs:

Example 1:

Domain Name: blogchap.com
URL: https://www.blogchap.com/resources
In this example, the domain name is “blogchap.com”. The URL contains the protocol “https://”, a subdomain “www.”, the domain name “blogchap.com”, and the path “/resources” that leads to a specific section of the website.

Example 2:

Domain Name: travelinsider.co.uk
URL: https://shop.travelinsider.co.uk/products?category=backpacks
Here, the domain name is “travelinsider.co.uk”, while the URL consists of the protocol “https://”, a subdomain “shop.”, the domain name “travelinsider.co.uk”, the path “/products”, and a query string “?category=backpacks” that specifies a particular product category.

Example 3:

Domain Name: example.org
URL: http://sub.example.org:8080/files/document.pdf
In this case, the domain name is “example.org”. The URL contains the protocol “http://”, a subdomain “sub.”, the domain name “example.org”, a port number “:8080”, the path “/files/document.pdf” that points to a specific file on the website.

By examining these examples, you can see how domain names are just one component of URLs, which include additional elements like protocols, subdomains, port numbers, paths, and query strings to create complete web addresses that lead to specific resources on a website.

Let’s wrap things up

Understanding the differences and similarities between domain names and URLs is crucial for anyone working with websites or exploring the digital world. By grasping these concepts, you’ll be better equipped to create, navigate, and manage your online presence effectively.

Remember that domain names are the unique, user-friendly identifiers for your website, while URLs are the complete web addresses that lead to specific resources on your site. Keep security in mind and opt for secure protocols like ‘https://’ whenever possible.

With this knowledge in hand, you’ll be well-prepared to tackle any online challenge and make the most of your internet experience. Stay informed, keep learning, and continue refining your digital skills to succeed in the ever-evolving world of the web.