Difference Between Domain Name Registration, DNS and Website

Difference Between Domain Name Registration, DNS and Website

For people on the Internet to access your website, there are actually three different layers of technology which need to work together for your website to be seen by the public.

People, even website owners, often confuse these three layers -- thinking there is only one thing, their website, which controls everything. Nope. Not true.

Let me explain...

Domain Name Registration

For most websites, the owner had to register a unique domain name for their website (or have someone register it for you). Registering a domain name is a license to use that domain name for a recurring annual fee. If you stop paying this fee, then you lose the ability to use that domain name to access your website, your email addresses, etc.


DNS (Domain Name System) stores the technical details about your domain name.

Website Look-up: When someone enters your domain name into their web browser, their browser asks the DNS system where the associated website lives and the DNS system returns your website's IP address to the person's browser. The browser then sends a request to that IP address to retrieve your website page(s).

Email Look-up: Similarly, when someone sends an email message to an email address that ends in your domain name, e.g. bob.smith@mycompany.com, the sending person's email system will ask the DNS system where to send email for your domain name, e.g. for the mycompany.com domain name in this example. The DNS system will return the address of your email system and then the sender's email system will send that message to your email system.

The DNS system tells people on the Internet where to find the associated website(s), where to send email messages, and other technical details about your domain name. You can think of DNS as a "configuration look-up system" for domain names.


Your website contains all of the information, images, videos, and other content which is displayed on the various pages of your website. It also contains any functionality like catalogs, ordering systems, email forms, etc., that are part of your overall website.

Your website is not the DNS and your website is not your domain name's registration.

Different Organizations for Each Service

Each of these layers can be provided by a different organization. For example, you might obtain your domain name registration from Company 1 and pay them an annual fee to continue using that domain name. You might host your DNS configuration with Company 2, and your website might be provided by and hosted by Company 3. Further, your email might be provided by a fourth company, e.g. by Google/Gmail, Microsoft, Yahoo, or by any of thousands of email service providers around the world.

Or you might receive multiple or all of these services from the same company.

Hopefully this article will help you understand that if you ask your website company to make a change to your domain name registration or DNS or your email system, your website company might not have access to update those other services if those services are provided by different companies.