Domains: A Cookie Jar Analogy

As Happiness Engineers, one of the most common questions we receive is about one’s domain name and how it affects their website. Domain names can look daunting, but you don’t have to worry about it! Grab your favorite cookies and cup of tea or coffee or chocolate (or any beverages you prefer,) and let’s learn more about domain names and why they are similar to a cookie jar.

Think…cookies in a jar. The cookies inside the jar are your website’s contents. Your posts, pages, themes, plugins, database, everything.

Then, the cookie jar needs a label to identify it. It can be your name, or it can be a label written with bold letter “COOKIES”, or anything. That label is your domain name.

Generally, when you create a website, the cookie jar has its default label — we call this the “website address.” It can be something like temp0245.website.net, or if you are hosting the website in WordPress.com, the website address will typically be something like WEBSITENAME.wordpress.com.

The website address itself can vary, depending on the website hosting company. For WordPress.com websites with a Business plan and customized plugins/themes without a custom domain name yet (we will talk about custom domain names soon), the website address is WEBSITENAME.wpcomstaging.com.

Why is that? It’s similar to how we human beings created a naming system. When a person is born, they will automatically be given a name. Even when the individual is unidentified, we usually provide names such as “John Doe” or “Jane Doe”.

Now! What is a custom domain name? Custom domain names are essentially “vanity” names. This is a domain name that you can choose (as long as it’s available on the market), register, and renew regularly. People purchase custom domain names for business purposes, professional image, or simply for folks to remember it easily.

Is it compulsory to purchase a custom domain name? Not really. Some hosting providers provide free website addresses which are easy to remember (like .wordpress.com, .blogger.com, .tumblr.com, and many more.) Some hosting providers might require the users to purchase a custom domain name, but all in all, purchasing a custom domain name is based on your needs and preferences.

In some cases, and this is actually pretty common, there are cookie jars with multiple labels (one website with multiple domain names.) Some people choose to do that to ensure the domain name is “correct”, for the sake of presence, and for reducing phishing risk. For example, company A has a company website with the domain name companyA.com. They decide they want another domain, companyA.co, to open the same website as companyA.com. They can put two domain names on one website and the whole thing will still work.

We talked about multiple domain names on one website and how the whole thing works and should work smoothly. However, there’s an important point to remember:

A website needs a primary domain name.

A primary domain name is, no matter how the website is accessed — whichever domain name was used to access the site — the domain name that will be displayed in the browser address bar is the primary domain name.

For example, if you have a WordPress.com website address: awesomeblog.wordpress.com — and then you purchase the custom domain name awesomeblog.com, make sure you set the custom domain name awesomeblog.com as the primary domain name to ensure your website visitors see awesomeblog.com on their browser address bar when they visit your website. They will still be able to access awesomeblog.wordpress.com, but they will see the custom domain name in their browser address bar.

The same goes if you have more than one custom domain name. Taking the example from companyA.com and companyA.co above; if the primary domain name is set to companyA.com, visitors will be able to access companyA.co, but they will see companyA.com in the browser bar.

What will happen if the custom domain name is canceled? The address will revert back to its default website address.

I hope this post helps you understand how domain names affect one’s website contents 🙂 If you want to learn more about custom domain names, check out this article on WordPress.com.



Interested in becoming a Happiness Engineer at Automattic? Visit the Work with Us page to learn more about how you can apply!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s