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Domain Name FAQ

Get answers to frequently asked questions about domain names

What is a domain name?

A domain name is a unique word or phrase in a particular format that allows people to find information on the Internet. The Domain Name System (DNS) maps domain names to servers where the content resides, based on each server's Internet Protocol (IP) address (for example, or 2001:503:A83:0:0:2:30). Instead of searching for information by IP address, a domain name allows people to search for websites and send email using familiar, easy-to-remember domain names.

What is a TLD?

Every domain name ends with a top-level domain (TLD), which are the two or three letters after ".", such as .com or .tv. Every TLD is managed by an authoritative registry, a single place where domain names are registered and the associated name servers are identified. There are currently two types of TLDs: generic top-level domains (gTLDs) such as .com, and .cc and country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) such as .de, .fr, .nl, .cc, .uk and .cn. ICANN has announced a timeline for the introduction of new extensions, commonly referred to as New gTLDs.

What is a second-level domain name?

The portion of the domain name that appears immediately to the left of the top-level domain is the second-level domain name (the "verisign" in "", for example). Many organizations and individuals register multiple domain names using the same second-level domain name with different top-level domain (TLD) names (,,, etc.).

What is a third-level domain name?

The portion of the domain name that appears before the second-level domain name, separated by a dot, is the third-level domain name. The most common third-level domain name is www. Third-level domain names, also called subdomains, are often used to categorize special sections of a website, such as investor information at "" A third-level domain name does not have to be registered and is created on the website host server. However, the .name registry does allow registration of third-level domain names so that individuals may register domain names that match their actual names such as

What is ICANN?

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) coordinates the unique identifiers used for computers connecting to the Internet globally. It is a not-for-profit, public-benefit corporation with participants from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable. It promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet's unique identifiers.

How are domain names registered?

Registration is the provisioning process to register a domain name with the appropriate naming authority. When you create a website or set-up an email account, you have to tell the Internet where that content is located. Domain names are registered for a period of one to ten years by an individual or an organization. A user requests a domain name from a registrar. The registrar verifies that the domain name is available by checking with the registry that manages the corresponding TLD. If it is available, the registrar registers the domain name with the registry, which adds it to the registry database. At the end of the registration period, the domain name registrant has the option to renew the domain name or let it expire.

What is an Internet domain name registry?

For the Internet to function and to prevent duplication of domain names there has to be one authoritative place to register a domain name. Each TLD has an authoritative registry, which manages a centralized database. The registry propagates the information about domain names and IP addresses in TLD zone files to enable communication over the Internet for applications like credit card processing, bank transactions and telephony, as well as Web browsing and email. A registry provides direct service to registrars, who in turn provide direct service to domain name registrants.

What is the difference between a thin registry and a thick registry?

There are two different types of registry databases: thick and thin. A thin registry database contains only DNS information (domain name, name server names and name server IP addresses) along with the name of the registrar who registered the name and basic transaction data. A thick registry database also contains registrant, technical and administrative contact information. Verisign operates a thick registry for the .name TLD and thin registries for other TLDs.

What are the TLD Zone Files?

TLD zone files are files maintained by a registry that map active second-level domain names to the unique IP addresses of the name servers. Name servers have additional information about Internet services related to the domain name. A separate file is maintained for each TLD. The TLD zone files are maintained primarily to facilitate increased system throughput and overall Internet efficiency.

What is the domain name resolution process?

When a user enters a domain name into a Web browser or other Internet application, the Internet has to find out where to send the information. These domain name lookups require resolution. The resolution process uses the data in the DNS to determine which IP addresses correspond to a particular domain name. The technology, servers, guidelines and processes that make the system work form the DNS backbone. Verisign® Domain Registry Services support the industry's most scalable, reliable DNS resolution and provisioning systems. The Verisign DNS has maintained 100% operational accuracy and stability for more than 15 years.

What domain name registries does Verisign operate?

Verisign operates the exclusive domain name registries for .com and .net, as well as and .cc. We also provide registry services for .edu and .jobs on behalf of EDUCAUSE and Employ Media, respectively. ICANN maintains registry agreements with Verisign for the operation of .com, .net and .name. Verisign provides registration and resolution services to close to 900 ICANN-accredited registrars who submit over 252 million domain name transactions daily.

How long will the Verisign registry be the exclusive registry for .com and .net?

Under the .com Registry Agreement, Verisign will continue to be the exclusive registry for .com through November 30, 2018, which may be extended or renewed. Under the .net Registry Agreement, Verisign will continue to be the exclusive registry for .net through June 30, 2017, which may be extended or renewed. The agreements can be found at ICANN Archived Registry Agreements.

What registry services does Verisign provide registrars?

Depending on a registrar's business priorities—to increase registrations or renewals, expand to new markets or enhance services—we have many tools, resources and registry services to help. Through the Extensible Provisioning Protocol (EPP) SDKs developed by Verisign as part of the Shared Registration System (SRS), registrars may add new or delete existing domain names, modify name server information, transfer names from another registrar, add name servers, modify name servers, query the registry database and check availability of names. Verisign also provides a web-based tool for registrars to administer domains, manage name servers, manage registrar information and generate reports on the domain names under their management. Our global support team is available 24/7 with assistance in 150 different languages.

What registry services does Verisign provide to registry owners?

It is no simple task to acquire and operate a top-level domain name extension. Verisign has an extensive history in operating the world's best-known extensions, .com and .net. New gTLD Services provide organizations with the trusted support and "always on" reliable infrastructure needed to acquire and service new domain name spaces without having to invest in the critical infrastructure required for provisioning and resolution servers.

What services does Verisign provide to Internet users?

Verisign processes as many as 77 billion DNS queries every day. Verisign provides critical infrastructure services that allow the Internet to function securely and reliably, so that Internet users get to where they need to go. Many times a day, the Verisign registry updates the TLD zone files for the domains we manage and propagates those files to the Internet's TLD servers. TLD zone files enable a domain name to correlate to an IP address.

Verisign manages the authoritative Whois service for all second-level domain names registered in the top-level domains we manage. Anyone can search Whois by domain, registrar or name server. The search results display the domain name, registrar of record, registrar Whois server, registrar referral URL, name servers, domain status, creation date, expiration date and last updated date. The registrar of record maintains contact information for the actual domain name registrant. If a domain name is not registered, no match will be found.

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