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The Difference Between a Domain and a URL

by Matt Zentz

“Can you please register the following URL?” is a question we get a lot. The technical answer is “no, we cannot.” What the individual is asking is really “can you please register the following domain?” Now our answer is, “of course!” My goals is to help you understand the difference between these two terms.


A domain is simply a physical address that tells a person’s browser where to go. Here is an example:

That is a domain. It is also referred to as a TLD or top level domain because a company or individual can register to use it. Here’s another example of a domain:

This is a domain but is also called a sub-domain because the www part is the sub-domain of You can easily continue this by adding additional sub-domains, such as

Domains can only have letters, numbers, dashes, or underscores in the name. No other symbols may be used. International domains, on the other hand, like .谷歌, probably have similar standards but I can’t read written Chinese/Mandarin, or any other non-traditional character so you’re on your own with those.

To use an analogy, a domain simply specifies the building address but provides no other information.


URL is an acronym for Uniform Resource Locator. URL’s contain a domain but have additional information, as well. An example URL is below:

Notice the additional parts at the beginning and the end. The first part, https://, designates the protocol. This tells a browser or other application how to get to the domain. The second part, /contact-us, is the path.

The protocol can be http:// (non-secure web), https:// (secure web), ftp:// (file transfer), mailto://, etc. There’s a lot more to the first part of a URL then this but for the intent of this post it should suffice.

The path has a lot more flexibility in it’s format and depends on the type of server handling the requests. Here are a few example paths:


That’s barely scratching the surface but hopefully you get the point. To expand on my earlier analogy, the domain is like a building’s physical address. The protocol is the method of transportation to get to that building (e.g. walk, bus, car, or train). The path is like one of the suites in the building. And finally, the URL is the entire set of instructions altogether.


Hopefully that helps clear up the difference between a domain and a URL, at least a little.

A domain:

Related Tags: Marketing, Agencies, Website Marketing, Website Tips & Best Practices

Matt Zentz, founder of Marketpath

Matt Zentz

Matt Zentz launched Marketpath from a small Broad Ripple bungalow in February 2001 with a focus on custom web application development. He built the first, basic version of a hosted CMS called Webtools and shortly afterward expanded his team and created the first version of Marketpath CMS.

Matt has worked for a national consulting firm, taught computer programming to high school juniors and seniors , and led the information technology arm of the auxiliary business units at Indiana University.

Matt graduated from Indiana University in 1999 with a B.S. in Computer Science and has built custom web applications since 1995. Matt is husband to an amazing & supportive wife, has three beautiful children, and supreme master to Archimedes (Archie) the dog. He coaches various kid sports, enjoys building furniture, and plays guitar and piano. Matt is very active within his church community and several area not-for-profits.