Domain vs. Hosting vs. Platform

There’s a lot of confusion out there among our customers and clients – who really don’t know anything about online terminology, and although I can’t say that you’ll be fluent in “Nerdspeak” after reading these blog posts, you’ll know just enough to be dangerous to the people who call and offer you services using terms that might sound a bit like they are making words up as they go.

Take a couple minutes, and read this initial introduction into “Nerdspeak:101”, and feel free to let me know what you think in the comment section below!

What is a Domain?

Your domain is like your street address for your home, in that it is a way to locate your property while out driving.  The main difference between the domain and a physical address – is that you can easily move your domain to point to a different ‘piece of land’ – and construct a completely different parcel, without letting your visitors know anything has changed.  It would appear to them that they pull into the driveway – and are blown away by how great things look compared to the last time they were there.  They don’t see that the site has moved to a completely different server, possibly a thousand miles away, and under the administration of a different company.  We will not take this control away from the client.  They will own the domain, and we will avoid ownership of the domain at all costs.  The headache of owning the customer’s domain is a deep rooted issue, that involves separation between a client and web developer – and what could be considered (to the uneducated client) as a form of hostage negotiation – when in fact it takes time to transfer a domain, and it also takes quite a bit of finesse in walking a customer through the process.  Since a domain is not as simple as a piece of paper, or even anything physical at all – it is quite hard to explain that a transfer is not as easy as attaching it to an email, and sending it over.  When done correctly, the process of ‘pointing’ the domain to the completed website is very simple, and can be done in minutes – with the changes taking effect in as little as a couple minutes (and as much as a few hours).

What is website hosting?

Your hosting is your piece of land that the domain is directed towards.  There are all sorts of pieces of information that can be tied to this, including the size in acres (gigabytes of storage), mailboxes (email accounts) and utilities (different software that needs to be attached/installed to the server to get things done).  All those are individual parts of the hosting account – but it’s easy to think of them as a parcel of land prior to any sort of construction has begun.  Our “piece of property” has already been set up to host many websites, and is already built into a “subdivision” of sorts – so that we are able to set up a customer with a hosting ‘package’ in minutes.  It is very similar to the property analogy in this way, since a simple signature can turn a piece of property into YOUR piece of property.  What happens next, construction-wise… is up to the client.

What is my website ‘platform’?

This is where the fun begins.  The platform is best described as ‘what type of building is on the property?’  If you are looking for a simple 5-page website, this is a fairly simple platform.  If you are looking to sell from the site (like a physical storefront), you have to move towards an eCommerce platform.  As we use WordPress for our client websites, it’s a matter of building these features into the WordPress installation – and any additional development time is spent “connecting the cash registers to the bank”.  As with any physical construction, there is a lot of details that go in to this part of the website – and it is most definitely the most time consuming of the three.  We flesh out designs, layouts, function-trees, sitemaps – but it’s really similar to building your first home.  You get to pick the paint, choose the finish for the cabinets, pick out carpet samples – and have a lot of influence on the overall design and layout of the website as a whole.


Nick LaBrant is a Web Specialist for The Columbian’s Digital Services Department – joining the team to help build our offerings, and to aid and assist the sales team by educating our customers in a way that is easy to digest. Nerdspeak:101 was created to help ease everyone into the terminology involved with our Digital Services offerings. Nick drinks a lot of coffee, enjoys answering questions, and has an open cubicle policy. Unless he’s wearing his headphones – as that means he’s neck deep in development of our customers’ websites – and is intently focused on providing the best quality work that you could expect from the largest mid-sized Newspaper in SW Washington.

A little more about The Columbian Ad Dept...

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