Domains » All About Domains
- What is a domain? How is it related to my site?
- What is a registrar? Is WordPress.com my registrar?
- What is hosting?
- Is my registrar my host?
- Does registering a domain mean my site is self-hosted?
- I misspelled my domain. Can I edit it?
- What happens when my domain expires?
- I don't see the answer to my question here.
On WordPress.com, you can register a custom domain and use it with your site (for example, yourgroovydomain.com), instead of the default address you get when you sign up, which ends in wordpress.com (yourgroovydomain.wordpress.com). If you already own a domain you’ve registered (purchased) somewhere other than WordPress.com, you can still map it here and use it with your site. But domains are different than any other upgrade – and they can be a bit confusing!
If you’re wondering what exactly you are purchasing when you register a domain and how it works, you’ve come to the right place. Here are answers to some of the most common questions about domains:
What is a domain? How is it related to my site?
A domain name is a name used to identify a particular website on the internet. Your site’s domain name is like your mailing address: it lets people know where to find you.
An example of a domain name is yourgroovydomain.com. When you register a domain (whether through WordPress.com or anywhere else), you pay for the right to use that specific domain for a specific period of time. There is only ever one yourgroovydomain.com on the internet. It’d be pretty confusing if entering yourgroovydomain.com could take you to a variety of different places!
Your domain exists independently of your site, however. You can use your domain with another site, or you can cancel it, or you can let it expire, and through all of that, your site with all of its content remains unchanged.
At WordPress.com, every site has a default web address that ends in wordpress.com (like yourgroovydomain.wordpress.com). If you register a custom domain for your site, both the original address ending in wordpress.com (yourgroovydomain.wordpress.com) and the new domain (yourgroovydomain.com) will take visitors to your site (although once they are at your site, they will only see the new domain (yourgroovydomain.com) in their browser address bar). If your domain expires, your site with all your content will still be there at the original site address (ie, yourgroovydomain.wordpress.com).
What is a registrar? Is WordPress.com my registrar?
A registrar is an organization that sells and/or manages domain name registrations. For the most part, whoever you pay for your domain is your registrar. If you paid WordPress.com, we are effectively your registrar.*
What is hosting?
A web hosting service is an organization that stores and displays your website’s content on the internet.
Your domain registration and your site hosting are two different things, just as your mailing address and the house you live in are two different things. You tell people your mailing address so they can send you mail or come visit you, but your actual house is where you keep all your stuff (your site content).
Say you could change the name of the street where you live whenever you wanted. That would be like changing your domain. Your house (hosting) would still be in the same place no matter what the street was called…although your friends might get lost when they tried to find it!
Is my registrar my host?
While people often register a domain with the same service that is hosting their site, you can have a different registrar than your host. For example, you can register a domain with GoDaddy.com and use it with your WordPress.com site, which is hosted here.
Does registering a domain mean my site is self-hosted?
No. All WordPress.com sites are hosted here at WordPress.com for free.
If you register a custom domain for your site, that doesn’t actually move your site (your house) anywhere at all. Your house is still here at WordPress.com, but now it has a new street address.
Say you wanted to move your WordPress.com site to a self-hosted (WordPress.org) platform. First, you’d purchase hosting from a hosting company, such as Bluehost or HostGator (you’d buy a new house). Then, you’d export your blog’s content from your WordPress.com site and import it into your new site with your new host (you’d move all your stuff into your new house). Finally, you’d point your custom domain to your new site (you’d change your mailing address so people can find you at the new house).
I misspelled my domain. Can I edit it?
Not exactly, but you can fix it.
When you register a domain name, the exact name itself is what you are purchasing. As addressed above, there can only ever be one website at any given domain at a time, so you are buying the right to have your site at that name for one year. So if you accidentally registered examplle.com, you couldn’t change that domain itself to example.com.
If you notice the mistake within 48 hours of registering the domain, however, you can cancel the misspelled domain and receive a full refund. You can then register the correctly spelled domain.
What happens when my domain expires?
The short answer is that when your domain expires, it is gone. You should never allow a domain to expire unless you are fully done with it and never want to use it again.
The longer answer is that during the first two weeks after expiration, a domain can still be renewed normally. After that, the domain is put up for auction and anyone can bid on it, but the original owner still has the opportunity to renew it for an extra $80 late fee (the owner should contact WordPress.com support). After that, if the owner does not renew the domain and it is not bid on at auction, the domain usually becomes available for registration again within a few days. But sometimes it doesn’t.
Unfortunately, there are companies that specialize in bidding on expired domains, so even if your domain is very specific to you or would seem to have little worth to anyone else, it could still be purchased out from under you if you allow it to expire.
This is why you should never let a domain expire or cancel it with the assumption that you can then buy it again: the registrar will hold onto it for up to 90 days, and they might even sell it directly to a third party during that period.
If you decide to leave WordPress.com but you still want to use your domain with a site hosted elsewhere, you should either point it to your new site from WordPress.com by changing its name servers or transfer it to another registrar altogether. You should not cancel it.
I don’t see the answer to my question here.
Registering a domain here at WordPress.com is very simple, but you might need to do some things that are a bit more complex, such as changing your domain’s name servers to point it somewhere else, or adding MX records for your email. Fortunately, we have step-by-step guides for most situations you will run into:
- I already own a domain. How do I use it with my WordPress.com site?
- I am trying to point a domain to WordPress.com, and my registrar says I need a “zone record.”
- I already have a website with a domain, and I want to use a subdomain, such as blog.example.com, for my WordPress.com blog.
- I need to set up email on my domain, such as email@example.com.
- I need to add a CNAME record, MX record, or another kind of DNS record.
- I registered a domain here, and now I want to use it with an outside website.
- I registered a domain here, and I need to change my domain’s name servers to point it to my new website.
- I registered a domain here, and I need to transfer my domain’s registration to another registrar.
- I registered a domain here, and I don’t need it anymore – I want to cancel it.
- My situation isn’t covered here. How can I contact support?
* Technically, WordPress.com partners with a registrar, but because you should contact us with any concerns or questions about your domain, we are effectively your registrar.