What's the Difference Between a Domain Name Registrar and a Web Host?

Are Domain Name Registrars the Same Thing as Web Hosts?

What's the Difference Between a Domain Name Registrar and a Web Host?

by Christopher Heng, thesitewizard.com

I recently received an email from a visitor asking whether domain name registrars are the same thing as web hosts. "I remain a bit confused as to domain name registrars and web hosts," he wrote. "It seems they are all one and the same." This article answers the implied question.

Domain Name Registrar vs Web Host

When someone wants to create a website, the first thing he/she does is to get a domain name. The latter is just the address of your site. For example, the domain of the site that you are reading right now is "thesitewizard.com". If you were to type the latter into your web browser's address bar, you will arrive at its front page. You get a domain by going to a registrar, choosing a name, and paying them an annual fee.

A domain name by itself means nothing. Without a website attached to it, it is an address that points nowhere. It's the equivalent of registering a business name in the brick and mortar world. At the end of the process, you will have a name. That's all. You will still need to lease shop premises and attach that name to the shop before you can open for business. The Internet equivalent of leasing shop premises is to sign up for an account with a web host. They provide the "premises" on which you can place your website.

As such, in theory, registrars and web hosts refer to businesses with two different types of activity. One allows you to register names (your domain), and the other provides space for you to set up shop (your website). In practice, however, as my visitor had noticed (leading to his confusion), some registrars are also web hosts and vice versa.

Although I have never been a registrar or a web host, I imagine that some (or most?) registrars also offer web hosting services because it's difficult to make huge profits from just selling domains. If you were to look at my article on "Can I Be My Own Domain Name Registrar?", you will probably realise that if a domain with a ".com" suffix is sold at (say) $10, the registrar is likely to make only a couple of dollars per year per domain, if even that, when you consider the other overheads they have to incur. As such, my guess is that they sell related products like web hosting so that they can have a fatter bottom line.

In the same way, some web hosts also sell domain names, if they can be bothered to set up the infrastructure needed and devote manpower and resources to attend to this aspect as well. After all, as I said, it's a related product, so it doesn't take a stretch of imagination to understand why companies that wish to expand their product range do that.

That said, even if you get a domain name from a particular registrar, you can still sign up for web hosting at a different company. You don't have to get them from the same place. You may of course do that if you wish, but domains and hosting are two separate things. The Internet is designed so that they interoperate seamlessly whether you get them from the same company or not. The end result is exactly the same. All you need to do is to point your domain to your web hosting account and everything will work normally after that.

More Questions?

If you have more questions about domain names, you may wish to take a look at my list of frequently asked questions on domains.

Otherwise, if you are ready to take the plunge, follow the steps given in How to Create a Website.

Copyright © 2018 Christopher Heng. All rights reserved.
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