Difference between domain name and URL

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I’m quite sure that a domain name and a URL are not the same thing. I tried to get more information on this but keep getting confused. Can you explain the difference to me please?
Tyrone Jobson 

You are absolutely right. Domain name and URL are NOT the same thing, though they are often used interchangeably quite like world wide web and the Internet. A domain name is simply a human readable form of an I.P. address while a URL stands for Universal Resource Locator and indicates the location of a file on the Internet. Let me now explain this in “english”.

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Dissecting a URL

Here is a typical URL from the Internet:

It specifies the location of page.html file on the Internet which is present on a server that hosts the domain name example.com and resides under the folder sub-directory which itself is under the folder main-directory.

A URL starts with the protocol (http) followed by the network (www in the example above). URLs can use other protocols like FTP (File Transfer Protocol) or NNTP (Network News Transfer Protocol). Then comes the domain name. Thus, domain name can be a part of the URL! And this the most important difference between a domain name and a URL.

The above example was over-simplified because URLs can actually be quite complicated. For instance, a URL of a product page on Amazon.com can be very long containing characters like ? (the question mark) and & (the ampersand). I don’t want to get into exact details, suffice to know that pages generated by such URLs display content that reside in databases.

Another character that can occur in a URL is the hash (#). It points to an exact location on a page. Thus, //www.webdevelopersnotes.com/difference-between-domain-name-and-url#top-of-this-page creates a link which takes you back to the top of this page (click that link to see how this works).

Finally, and you probably know this already, URLs are unique – no two files can have the same URL.

The anatomy of a domain name

As I mentioned before, a domain name is simply a human readable form of I.P. (Internet Protocol) address. What does this mean?

Any computer/device connected to the Internet has an address. This is the Internet Protocol (I.P.) address, typically consisting of a sequence of four numbers between 0 to 255 separated by the period sign. If you want to know the I.P. address of your computer/device you’re using to read this page, search for what is my ip address on Google. The search engine will immediately display the I.P. address of your Internet node.

Web servers, those high-end computers on which web sites exist, also have an I.P. address. Since remembering these sequence of numbers is complicated, the powers that be decided to use names. And so domain names came into being.

When you type a domain name in a web browser and hit the enter key, the software sends the data to the DNS (Domain Name System) which tries to locate the I.P. address associated with domain name. Once this information is found, the browser is directed to the computer (web server) on which the site is hosted. So the domain name which we humans use to identify a web site is translated to an I.P. address which computers understand.

And it won’t be wrong to say that a domain name is simply a web site name! It contains a name part which you can choose and an extension, like com, net or org. The domain name system originally had only 7 extensions. Nowadays, tens are available including nifty country-code extensions like tv and me.


The first dot-com domain name was symbolics.com which was registered on the 15th of March 1985. In the first year, only 10 dot-com domain names were registered. Now thousands are booked each day!

Differences between domain names and URLs

Following are some important differences between domain names and URLs.

Domain Name URL
Typically points to a web site (web server) Points to the exact location of a file on the Internet – any type of digital file.
Has only name and extension Has the protocol, network, folder names, file name, file extension and much more.
Is a part of a URL Contains the domain name
Is not case-sensitive. Example.com is same as eXaMpLe.com Can be case-sensitive depending on the operating system of the server.

Quick question

Before you leave, here is a quick question. Is the following a domain name or a URL?

Let me know what you think by posting a comment below.

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