How do internet domains work? Who are you paying?


How do internet domains work? Who are you paying?

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A domain is basically an easy name to reach a website. A domain redircts you to the assoiciated server ip address. Lets say your favorite websites ip address is 1.37.4628.2726. That pretty hard to memorize so instead you type in and you are connected. There is an asociation called ICANN that certiefies the domain name. A Domain-Registar is where you can buy the domain and the domain-registar looks that everything is alright and registers the domain you bought at ICANN. Top level domain like .tv are owned by their countrys. They usually sell a license to a company. The tld .tv for example is ownend by Tuvalu but licensed to Verisgn. Tuvalu gets only a small part of the revenue that .tv generates for verisig. Tuvalu gets 5 million a year for .tv. So when you are buying a domain. You pay for the infrastructre, prestige and license fee.

You’re paying the registrar or reseller (like godaddy or to register the domain name you want to use with the registry, a database of domain names maintained by registry operators.

These registry operators must all agree on one version of the registry so that there are no conflicts.

I’m order to do that, they all comply with rules and practices from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN. An international nonprofit that manages the whole domain name system.

Visual aid:—Registry-Process-Large-FINAL-GIF.gif

My team built the domain registrar at Squarespace (I’m no longer there.) There are two business entities involved in buying a domain.

The first is the “registrar”. These are companies like Godaddy. Registrars are the Expedia of domains. Their job is to handle all of the retail transactions with customers, collect payments, and reserve domains on behalf of their customers. Registrars don’t own any domains themselves, rather, they connect to domain wholesalers and broker the sale, and do support along the way. For this, they take a fee.

Since registrars don’t actually own any domains, who does? These are called (confusingly) “registries.” One registry owns all .com domains. Another owns all .net. Another owns .dev. And so on. Registries are domain wholesalers, and they only sell to customers via registrars. Registries keep track of registrations, renewals, DNS, and other technical and administrative tasks for their domain. They also take a fee.

There is an organization (not a government organization, just a private entity) called ICANN. They also take a fee. You can apply to become “accredited” by them to sell domains. This means agreeing to an aide by certain rules, both technical and administrative, to sell domains. Accredited registries will only work with accredited registrars. ICANN generally wants customers to have a uniform experience buying domains, so by buying accredited domains, you can be pretty confident that your domain will work as advertised.

There’s an international organization called ICANN that basically administers the entire system of internet domains. This ensures universal compliance with a set of rules and regulations that allows the internet as we know it to function across all devices anywhere in the world. They allow a very limited number of organizations to create a top level domain, like .com, .net, .edu or more recent ones They collect a fee for this to keep the lights on, so to speak. Those organizations then offer access to their registries to for-profit registrar organizations, like GoDaddy or TUCOWS, that sell domains to end users. By working together to conform to ICANN rules, people can trust that the domain they buy will work as intended for anyone in the world who uses it.

The Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS) works like a phonebook. Its most common use is when you want to use an online service, it converts its human-readable names (like “”) to IP addresses (like “”), which your computer can then connect to in order to talk. Your computer automatically reaches out to a DNS server (called a “resolver”) tasked with navigating this phonebook to find this information. DNS has other uses as well, like finding the email servers a domain uses.

This phonebook is a massive database, it not owned and operated by just one group, but all kinds of different people. There’s 3 main common levels:

– The “root servers”, which is where all name lookups start. These servers are run by Verisign, USC-ISI, Cogent, UMD, NASA, Internet Systems Consortium, US Dept of Defense, ARL, Netnod, RIPE NCC, ICANN and WIDE. The root knows who runs each of the top level domains.
– The “top level domain registries”, which include com/net/org/us/edu/dev/io and so forth know where to find records for domain names, like “”. The top level domain registries knows who to contact to provide records for the domains.
– The “authoritative servers”, which actually host the domain names themselves. These servers are typically run by your hosting company, but anyone can run an authoritative server.

The registries don’t usually directly deal with the public. They have a lot of work already in the big picture in maintaining the fleets of servers and their part of this massive database, their part possibly containing millions to maybe billions of records. So they allow allow web hosting companies and other companies to become “registrars” who are responsible for following and maintaining the individual records.

Now, when you pay for a domain name, what you are actually paying for is to have your registrar add and maintain records into the top level domain registry so that your name can be reserved, get connected to your authoritative servers and actually start working.

Part of this fee also goes to the registry, so they can maintain things on the bigger picture, and another part of the fee goes to maintain the root servers on the even bigger picture, so everyone’s names work.

While are so many different groups, ICANN, the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers provides coordination between everyone for ensuring everything works.

Edit: Correcting some grammar.