Have you ever wondered about the differences between hostname vs domain name? Then, this article is here to clear up the confusion. Read on and find out all about the differences and similarities between them. 

Have you ever considered the differences between hostname vs domain name? They both make up part of the mechanics of your web address. So, how does typing that set of words into an address bar get you to where you want to be on the Internet?

Read on, and you’ll soon be able to tell hostnames from domain names and everything in between with your eyes closed. You’ll also learn what each one does and how to create great names for your business.

What’s the Difference Between a Hostname and a Domain Name?

In the simplest possible terms, the difference between hostname and domain name is that a domain name is a web address, and a hostname identifies a device on a network. That doesn’t tell the whole story, however. So, we’re going to examine what they are and how they help people use the Internet. 

Let’s begin by defining these terms, as this is the first step in understanding the difference between them.

What is a hostname?

You can give a hostname to any device connected to a network. This could be either a local network or one connected to the wider Internet. As for the device, it might be either a server or a mobile device, like a tablet.

A hostname allows people to find specific devices on a network. For example, this may be needed to gain access to an email server. It may look something like mail.acme.org. Here, the part of this address that says “mail” is the hostname.

Host names are needed for fully qualified domain names (FQDNs). A ‘say what, now?’ An FQDN allows users to find a specific location on an online network. It’s a combination of a hostname and a domain name. 

Check out the FAQs at the bottom of this page for more on FQDNs.

What’s a domain name?

Basically, we use domain names to identify websites. You type these into an address bar on a browser to navigate to a particular site. 

Choosing the right domain name is a big deal for businesses, as an easy and impactful name can help drive traffic to a website.

Domain names are meant to be recognisable to humans (rather than IP addresses, which are a string of numbers that you’d have to be Einstein to understand). On the other hand, computers on a network use IP addresses to identify and communicate with each other. 

For example, the IP address for the OnlyDomains homepage is Pretty hard to remember when you want to register your .com domain name. It’s far easier to remember something meant for humans, like OnlyDomains.com.

When tackling hostnames vs domain names, it’s important to understand how they work together. Combined to create an FQDN, they’re the ones who help us navigate the World Wide Web.

Host Name vs Domain Name: Key Things You Should Know

Now that we’ve sorted “What is a domain” and “What is a hostname,” are you ready to take it a step further? 

In this section, we’ll detail the structures and purposes of domain name vs hostname. We’ll also give you useful guidelines for choosing the right options for your business.

Uses, purposes, and structure

Domain names and hostnames each have special, unique roles, and this section will explain the differences between them.

  • Uses of hostnames: A hostname directs users to a particular device on a network. For example, a server hosting the mobile version of your website. Or a server hosting a localised version of this.
  • Uses of domain names: A domain name is used to navigate to your website and is also picked up by search engines like Google and Bing.
  • Purposes of hostnames: A hostname is designed to get users to where they want to be on your website. Yes, they could navigate to this from the homepage, but it’s often quicker and easier to give them a link directly to your store page, for example.
  • Purposes of domain names: The purpose of a domain name is to be memorable and identifiable. But it’s also got to be true to your brand and connected to your business. Using your company name is one way to tick this off the checklist.
  • Hostname structure: The domain name system (DNS) translates hostnames and domain names into IP addresses. And there’s a particular structure they must take. You always type the hostname in first when navigating in a browser.
  • Domain name structure: A domain name always starts with the hostname, such as www. for the “World Wide Web.” Next comes the name of the website and then the top-level domain (TLD), e.g., “.com.”

For examples of their individual structures, check the “What Are Hostname and Domain Name Examples?” section.

Naming conventions and guidelines

Good news! You actually have a lot of freedom when it comes to hostnames and domain names. The downside to that is there are certain rules about what you can and can’t do. 


  • These should describe the purpose of the device. For example, if it’s a server for an online storefront, the word “store” is perfect. So, your FQDN might look like this: store.mycompany.com, with “store” as the hostname.
  • Hostnames need to be 15 characters or less. The maximum length of a FQDN is 255. So, don’t go crazy. Try to opt for one word, like “store,” “gallery,” “learn,” or similar. 
  • Hostnames are case-sensitive. So, Store.mycompany.com won’t be the same as store.mycompany.com. The first hostname uses a capital “S,” while the second uses a lowercase “s.” 
  • You can use the following characters: “a to z,” “0 to 9”, – (hyphen), and _ (underscore). Special characters, such as “£,” are not allowed. So, forget about that cryptic idea for a hostname you had. If you want to expand on your hostname, keep it simple using numbers, hyphens, and underscores: think, “store_1” or “store-1”, for example.

Domain names

  • A domain name should be easy to remember and should identify your business.
  • It should be no more than 63 characters (including the hostname but excluding the TLD, e.g. “.org”).
  • You can use the same characters that are available for hostnames. So, again, no special characters are allowed.

Pros and Cons of Using a Hostname vs Domain Name Alone: Weighing It Up

Which one is better: a hostname or domain name?

Strictly speaking, every hostname needs a domain name. This goes for devices that are hosted on both the local network and the internet. They’re far from an either/or solution. 

So, you need a domain name, full stop. But do you really need to use a hostname as well? 

Ok, let’s break it down. The perk of hostnames is the pinpoint accuracy, making them perfect for specific things. That said, too much detail in hostnames might make things complicated. 

Here are the main advantages and disadvantages of using hostnames: 

Hostname pros

  • IP addresses are hard to remember, whereas hostnames are short, snappy, and memorable. So, instead of trying to remember IP addresses, end users can locate devices at a glance using the hostname.
  • Can describe the purpose of a device on a network, improving productivity. 
  • Gives you control over an element of your brand, which can be used to your advantage in online marketing. A catchy hostname can stick in the minds of end users, making your brand more recognisable. This is particularly useful if your domain name isn’t branded.
  • Helps users navigate to where they want to be on a network or website. Website visitors can enjoy more streamlined experiences without the hassle of jumping from page to page. 

Hostname cons

  • If you don’t use unique hostnames, they can quickly become indistinguishable from one another. This can cause network conflicts and confuse your users. 
  • Duplicated hostnames can present security threats. They make it easier for hackers to confuse the network and target a specific system. So, again,  make sure you’re using unique hostnames.

As for domain names: well, you have to have them anyway. So … enjoy. 

What Are Hostname and Domain Name Examples? See Them in Action

The DNS processes the host and domain name in order of importance, and this decides the structure of an FQDN. 

Think of it like an upside-down tree. You begin with the hostname, which has the widest number of possibilities. Then, onto the domain. Finally, the address is completed with a TLD. The cherry on top.

The following example is for a mobile version of a fictitious website: “m.acme.org”.

“m” is the hostname for a mobile-optimised server. “.acme” is the domain name. “.org” is the top-level domain.

You can also use the hostname to direct users to localised versions of websites, e.g., “nz.acme.org.”

The example above would show the New Zealand version of acme.org.

To access the email server for acme.org, you could use the following: “mail.acme.org.”

Find the Perfect Hostname and Domain Name at OnlyDomains. We Have All You Need to Get Online

Now you know the differences between hostnames and domain names, let’s use that knowledge to make your business thrive! 

Checking out OnlyDomains for host domain name registration is a great place to start, as we’ve got all the tools to create and register your business website. More importantly, we’ll make sure your site gets its SSL certificate, a security standard that Google is a stickler for.

If you’re a self-starter, our knowledge base has everything you need to know, but if you’d prefer some help, our support teams are raring to go.

Remember, it’s so important to have a website that’s responsive on any device. Luckily, we always have you covered whether your customers want to access it via mobile, tablet, or desktop.

FAQs about Hostname vs Domain Name

What’s a fully qualified domain name (FQDN)?

An FQDN is made up of all the important information to find a specific place on a network. It includes the hostname, domain name, and top-level domain (TLD).

What’s the difference between a hostname, a domain name, and an FQDN?

A hostname refers to a particular device on a network. So, in the URL www.mybusiness.com, “www” is the hostname.

A domain name identifies the website. So, stick with the example website URL www.mybusiness.com. “Mybusiness” is the domain name. Multiple hostnames can be associated with a singular domain.

The FQDN is the hostname, domain name, and TLD (e.g., .com). So, “www.mybusiness.com” is the FQDN. 

What are IP addresses?

IP stands for “Internet protocol”. An IP address is a string of numbers, and computers on a network use them to identify and communicate with each other.

What’s the difference between a hostname, a domain name, and an IP address?

Hostnames and domain names are words we can use to navigate networks. They make it easy for us to identify and use devices on those networks. 

On the other hand, the devices on a network use IP addresses to interact with each other.

What is a DNS (domain name system)?

The DNS is a ranking system for the Internet. It translates hostnames and domain names into IP addresses and acts as a bridge between how humans surf the Internet and the devices they use.

What’s the difference between a hostname, a domain name, and a DNS?

The DNS is the system that translates hostnames and domain names into computer lingo. That means it turns the words used in them into a numerical language, so nothing is lost in translation. The machines we use to access the Internet can then understand these numbers. 

Similar Posts