Every website that you visit consists of a domain name and a web host. The easiest way to picture it is to think of the domain name as the address and the hosting as the physical building. Your website needs a hosting provider to get it up on the internet and web and publicly available to visit. When you’re browsing the web and you type in a URL, your web browser basically queries that domain name and asks it where the website is hosted. The browser then loads up the contents that are stored there.
Websites are a collection of web pages that are governed by code. The code can be filed and uploaded to a web server so that any computer in the world with access to the internet and web browser can locate the stored data. The server is an internet-connected computer that receives requests for web pages from visitors browsers. The browser then connects the computer to the server via an IP address. As you click, you probably don’t even realize all this sending and translating and receiving is happening!
To display a website on the internet, you will need three things: a domain name, a website, and a server.
A domain name, the unique-to-you web address where your site can be found (identified by the .com, .blog, or .whatever at the end of the URL) catalyzes the pull of information from web server to web browser by interpreting the code and displaying your page.
Once you have a domain name and a website (either one you’ve built yourself or with the help of a CMS or site builder), you’ll need server space. That’s where hosting companies come in. When you purchase a hosting plan, you’re really renting space on a web server for your site’s files to live. Your hosting provider functions as a digital landlord, taking care of the server resources and, depending on your plan, many of the technical to-dos required to maintain your site.
To sum up the process from the first click to the final page, a user opens their laptop and types in a URL. When they type in the web address (the domain name) into the web browser, the browser conducts a series of inquiries, including locating the IP address of the domain name, finding the server that hosts the web pages of that domain name, submitting a request to that server for a copy of the web pages, receiving them, and finally, using the web browser to translate the code on the page into something the user can see, understand, and even engage with.