Your domain name is how visitors easily find you online. It is often the first step in getting your website started because it is like establishing your website’s street address on the internet. If you did not have a domain name, you would have to give out your IP address to everyone who wanted to visit your website, which would get confusing and be easily forgotten.

When you type google.com into your browser, the domain is split into parts by the “dot”, from right to left. The first part is “com”, so your computer checks the root zone file to see which registry manages the .com TLD. It then checks with this registry to see where the next part, “google”, points to. The registry returns the IP address 216.58.214.14, and your computer can then ask Google to send their homepage over.

Some domain name registries, often called network information centers (NIC), also function as registrars to end-users. The major generic top-level domain registries, such as for the com, net, org, info domains and others, use a registry-registrar model consisting of hundreds of domain name registrars (see lists at ICANN[21] or VeriSign).[22] In this method of management, the registry only manages the domain name database and the relationship with the registrars. The registrants (users of a domain name) are customers of the registrar, in some cases through additional layers of resellers.
FatCow has one of the cheapest offers for an entire website package, with hosting and domain names for just thirty cents during your first month. After, that the price is $10.99 a month or $59.88 for the whole year, in a shared hosting package with enough bandwidth for most people. This is a limited promotion I found, but they still sell fairly well-priced packages (their "fat" options come with extras like marketing and advertising credits), and will gladly offer you perks for transferring your domains and hosting to them.
DNS is essentially a database of IP addresses.  Each IP address is a series of numbers that allow computers to communicate with each other. A website is identified on a server by its IP address. Instead of your visitors having to remember an IP address to type into their browser to access your site, they instead use your domain name. When your domain is entered into their browser, DNS translates it into an IP address because that is what computers understand.Your computer is able to connect to your web hosting and show your website on the browser once the IP address is found.
In the first quarter of 2015, 294 million domain names had been registered.[17] A large fraction of them are in the com TLD, which as of December 21, 2014, had 115.6 million domain names,[18] including 11.9 million online business and e-commerce sites, 4.3 million entertainment sites, 3.1 million finance related sites, and 1.8 million sports sites.[19] As of July 2012 the com TLD had more registrations than all of the ccTLDs combined.[20]
If you do not have a web host, you can always allow the registrar to park your domain name at a temporary website specially set up for you. This way you can quickly secure your domain name before it's too late and still take your time to set up the other aspects of your site. As far as I can tell, most registrars (or probably all) automatically park your domain by default whether you ask them to or not, so if this is your situation, you probably don't have to do anything special to get it done. Some of those registrars also provide you with a free email address at your own domain name while it is parked at their site, like sales@example.com (where "example.com" is your domain).
Domain names are often seen in analogy to real estate in that domain names are foundations on which a website can be built, and the highest quality domain names, like sought-after real estate, tend to carry significant value, usually due to their online brand-building potential, use in advertising, search engine optimization, and many other criteria.
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