1. What is a domain name?

Surprisingly, domain name management does not need to be technical, and anyone can step out of the crowd and let their individual voice be heard.

See how to register a domain name here.


Domain names are used to help personalize your online presence and make it easy to access and manipulate information over the web. You already know how to use domain names, though you may not know it. Here is an example of a domain name:


A domain name is alphanumeric Internet address, formed by the name that you have chosen, and a TLD, or Top-Level Domain. A domain name is most often used to name a website (such as www.gandi.net) or an email address (example@gandi.net). In these examples, ”gandi.net” is the domain name; ”gandi” the chosen name and ”net” the TLD, the two being separated by a dot (.).

Breakdown of the domain names gandi.net and gandibar.net:

the chosen name the TLD
gandi net
gandibar net

Domains for websites

Domain names are particularly interesting if you want to create a website that has a name of your choice - one that identifies you, your interests, or organization, rather than one that might be provided by your service provider which may be something as impersonal as: http://123-free.perso.gandicourses.yourinternetprovider.com

Having your own domain name for your website will also help with your search engine ranking.

If you would like to know how to link your domain name to your web host in order to make it work for a website, please see here.

Domains for e-mail

Domain names are a convenient way to remember the address of a website or contacting someone by e-mail.

For e-mail addresses, you can therefore have easy-to-remember addresses such as:

  • somename@gandi.net
  • somename@gandibar.net

If you want to have an e-mail address that allows you to express your personality or reflect your company's name, and not a generic one such as, john29665@yourinternetprovider.net, you can simply register your own domain name, and then attach it to a mail server.

To see how to use GandiMail with your domain name, to create personalized e-mail addresses, see here.

Subdomains (or third-level domains)

A “www” (for World Wide Web) is often added before a domain name when it is used as the address of a website (more on www). While this is not necessary at all, it has become something of a convention. For example:

This added bit is called a “subdomain”, or a “third-level domain”, and it may be anything you want. You can also have as many subdomains as you want with your domain, and each one may point to an entirely different website. A perfect example is:

The interest of subdomains is that you can have multiple services all using the same, personalized, domain name.

Other common subdomains are “ftp” (for transferring files), “mail” (for a mail server), “ns” (for a nameserver):

subdomain second-level domain top level domain what it looks like common use
www example com www.example.com the main address of a website
ftp example com ftp.example.com transferring and manipulating web files by FTP
mail example com mail.example.com common name for a mail server
ns example com ns.example.com common name for a nameserver
blog example com blog.example.com for example, with a GandiBlog on your domain
webmail example com webmail.example.com for example, to access your webmail from your browser

the possibilities are endless…

2. Choosing your domain name

Technically speaking, the choice of your domain name has no effect on its functioning (with the exception of IDN domains with accented letters).

Simply choose the domain name that you like the best, is easy to remember, and available for registration. You can verify a domain's availability here.

Elements to take into account when choosing the name itself :

  • Length of the name: it is often difficult to find a name that is available, short, and explicit. The name is limited to 63 characters. If it contains several words, you may use hyphens to separate each word. You cannot use underscores.
  • Please note: The name that you choose must not infringe upon the liberties or rights of a third party (notably trademarks), and must uphold public order. If in doubt, please contact a legal specialist in the field.

When choosing the TLD:

  • Technically: there is no difference between the various TLDs. The resolution is done the same way in the DNS system.
  • Contractually: the conditions are different from one TLD to another, since each TLD is managed by different organizations, (a trustee authority and a Registry).
  • Availability: generally speaking, one chooses a TLD depending on the availability of the name. If a domain is not available in one TLD, it might be available in another. Our Whois search engine and registration form can help you see whether or not a name is available in the various TLDs that we support.

3. Managing your domain name

A new domain name is a blank canvass, and you can configure and manage it many different ways.

The basic operations are:

  • Changing the technical parameters such as the DNS
  • Changing the administrative parameters, such as which person or organizations have the right to modify the domain's parameters.

For domain names at Gandi, all these changes may be made online on our website. To help keep things simple, we have broken domain name management into some of the most common operations, listed below.

Configuring your domain name to "work" (technical changes)

Changing who can manage your domain (administrative changes)

4. Misconceptions

The number-one misconception is that a domain name *is* a website. As you have seen, a domain name only points to a server, which in turn hosts the website. The domain name's only role is to make it easy for the user to type in your address and see the content on your server. Domain names are not “hosted”. Domain names are simply addresses that point to a server. The website is hosted on that server, and has no physical relation to the domain name itself.

Last modified: 03/18/2015 at 13:28 by Ryan A. (Gandi)