Because most people have trouble remembering the strings of numbers that make up IP addresses, and because IP addresses sometimes need to change, all servers on the Internet also have human-readable names, called domain names. For example, www.howstuffworks.com is a permanent, human-readable name. It is easier for most of us to remember www.howstuffworks.com than it is to remember 188.8.131.52.
The name www.howstuffworks.com actually has three parts:
- The host name ("www")
- The domain name ("howstuffworks")
- The top-level domain name ("com")
Domain names within the ".com" domain are managed by the registrar called VeriSign. VeriSign also manages ".net" domain names. Other registrars (like RegistryPro, NeuLevel and Public Interest Registry) manage the other domains (like .pro, .biz and .org). VeriSign creates the top-level domain names and guarantees that all names within a top-level domain are unique. VeriSign also maintains contact information for each site and runs the "whois" database. The host name is created by the company hosting the domain. "www" is a very common host name, but many places now either omit it or replace it with a different host name that indicates a specific area of the site. For example, in encarta.msn.com, the domain name for Microsoft's Encarta encyclopedia, "encarta" is designated as the host name instead of "www."