2. #DIY your web presence | The internet and domain names

2. #DIY your web presence | The internet and domain names


4 min read

In the first post, I lined up what we have in store within this series. Next, we'll be registering a free domain and linking up free hosting to it! Sweet, right?

But before that, there's a lot to figure out. Let's get to that first. If you are conversant with domains and how the internet works, feel free to get to the next post in the series.

The series: DIY your web presence 'for FREE'

Previous post: #1

First things first, we need to demystify a number of things about how the internet works. I'll use an analogy to explain this.

The internet and domain names

The internet

The internet can be likened to the postal service system without the human element.

In this system, the 'postman' needs to be able to collect your letter and deliver it to the correct recipient. Then your reply can be received via the same system thereby having a complete communication loop.

Similarly, for the internet, a browser acts like the front desk of a post office receiving what you type (your request) and, in time, you get your reply (a response).

For example, when you type the text *youtube.com on the address bar of your browser and press enter; this request being a domain is received and the webpage that's familiar to most of us containing videos ready to be watched is delivered to your browser.

Screenshot 2020-04-25 14.57.52.png

Under the hood is an interconnection of computers (running varied software programs) called servers with fast computing power and large storage. These servers number in the millions globally and come in with many functions. I'll attempt a summary:

  • A name server or DNS (Domain Name Server); interprets the human-readable characters youtube.com to a numeric identification; its IP (Internet Protocol) address
  • A routing server; By referencing chains or rules established by network admins called IP tables; a routing server specifies the route data packets (either requests or responses) take to the intended destination
  • A webserver; receives the requests of the World Wide Web and responds with files (mostly) that were requested
  • A hosting server; this is where the files that constitute youtube.com in our case are stored (hosted)

Here's a screenshot of the interactive map of the submarine connection globally.

Screenshot 2020-04-25 15.03.04.png

That's the summary I could afford you. There's a lot more. What's important to us, for now, is the name server so keep this in mind.

Buying a domain name

What you need to know

Let's first deconstruct youtube.com; 'youtube' is a name the creators of Youtube came up with. 'com' is what is called a TLD (Top Level Domain). So youtube.com, whitehouse.gov, who.int, web.dev and techkenyans.org are all domains with different TLDs: .com, .gov, .int, .dev and .org. This is just the tip of the iceberg, the internet is vast!

To get your hands on one you need to get to the 'marketplace'. Yes; there is a marketplace with a bunch of rules. Say, for example; not just anyone can buy a '.int' domain. It is reserved for international bodies. It is called an intergovernmental treaty domain that can only be given by the *IANA. The who now? ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

The IANA, a department in ICANN, is the policing body in this marketplace. However, not every domain has to be bought from them. Thank God. You can imagine the logistics! There are registries in every country and these, in turn, delegate the work to registrars. Registrars are individuals, companies or organizations in the domain name industry. There are country-level TLDs like '.ke' for Kenya, '.il' for Israel or '.ae' for the Arab Emirates. The jargon is ccTLD*, country code TLD. These are owned by registers who license registrars to sell them. Registrars do sell beyond their country's ccTLD but it's unlikely for you to buy a ccTLD from a registrar who is not in that country. When you approach a registrar and buy a domain you become a registrant** of that domain.

One more thing to note here is this; remember the .gov? That's reserved for the US government and its bodies. The rest of the countries use secondary level domains (SLD or 2LD) directly under the TLDs for example: .go.ke or co.il for example: google.co.il

๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ช For my Kenyan audience: see kenic.or.ke Kenya's registry and their list of registrants.

The purchase

First and foremost, decide which TLD you want to buy. There's a long list to choose from.

So you've decided which TLD you'll buy. Great! You then select a registrar. A simple google search like 'buy .com domain' should do the trick. There are several factors to consider: (not limited to the following)

  • Price
  • Customer service
  • Account management tools
  • Hosting services (do they offer this with the purchase)
  • Can you purchase with their mode of payment? (Kenyan registrars accept mobile money like *MPesa)
  • Among others like WHOIS privacy protection

In our case, we said we'll get this done for FREE! Over to the next article.

Next post: #3