In the Domain Name System (DNS) hierarchy, a subdomain is a domain that is a part of another (main) domain.[1] For example, if you offered an online store as part of your website, you might use the subdomain .

A domain is made up of multiple parts. Here is am example:

The https:// is the protocol. It means that we are using the hypertext transfer protocol (in this example).

The www. is the subdomain. Domains don't always have to start with www. Many do, though. You can change the www. to anything you like, such as is the domain name. ".com" is the TLD (top level domain). There are also other TLDs, like .org and .net

/page is the webpage. Like the one you are on at the moment.

Let's take another example.

co is a subdomain of uk.

example is a subdomain of

www is a subdomain of

https:// is NOT a subdomain of


The Domain Name System (DNS) has a tree structure or hierarchy, with each non-RR (resource record) node on the tree being a domain name. A subdomain is a domain that is part of a larger domain; the only domain that is not also a subdomain is the root domain.[1] Each label may contain from 1 to 63 octets. The empty label is reserved for the root node and when fully qualified is expressed as the empty label terminated by a dot. The full domain name may not exceed a total length of 253 ASCII characters in its textual representation.[2] Thus, when using a single character per label, the limit is 127 levels: 127 characters plus 126 dots have a total length of 253. In practice, some domain registries may have shorter limits.

Subdomains in this context are defined by editing the DNS zone file pertaining to the parent domain. However, there is an ongoing debate over the use of the term “subdomain” when referring to names which map to the Address record A (host) and various other types of zone records which may map to any public IP address destination and any type of server. Network Operations teams insist that it is inappropriate to use the term “subdomain” to refer to any mapping other than that provided by zone NS (name server) records and any server-destination other than that.

According to RFC 1034, "a domain is a subdomain of another domain if it is contained within that domain". Based on that definition, a host cannot be a subdomain, only a domain can be a subdomain. A subdomain will also have a separate zone file with a SOA record (Start of Authority). Merely looking at a URL will not tell you if the left most node is a host or a subdomain.

Subdomains are often used by website builders. They sometimes give away subdomains to their clients who do not have their own domain. This also lets the website builder gain publicity.


In the United Kingdom, the second-level domain names are standard and branch off from the top-level domain. For example:

Subdomains are also used by organizations that wish to assign a unique name to a particular department, function, or service related to the organization. For example, a university might assign "cs" to the computer science department, such that a number of hosts could be used inside that subdomain, such as or

Vanity domainEdit

A vanity domain is a subdomain of an ISP's domain that is aliased to an individual user account, or a subdomain that expresses the individuality of the person on whose behalf it is registered.

Server clusterEdit

Depending on application, a record inside a domain, or subdomain might refer to a hostname, or a service provided by a number of machines in a cluster. Some websites use different subdomains to point to different server clusters. For example, points to Server Cluster 1 or Datacentre 1, and points to Server Cluster 2 or Datacentre 2 etc..

Some domains host their nameservers as,, etc., and these do not typically show up in search engine results.

Subdomains versus directoriesEdit

Subdomains are different from directories. For example, points to a directory within the domain, not to a subdomain of

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b P. Mockapetris (November 1987). "Name space specifications and terminology". Domain names - concepts and facilities. IETF. sec. 3.1. doi:10.17487/RFC1034. RFC 1034. Retrieved 2008-08-03.
  2. ^ RFC 1035, Domain names--Implementation and specification, P. Mockapetris (Nov 1987)
  3. ^ "BBC News - UK court systems set to adopt domain names". BBC News. 23 November 2011. Retrieved 26 February 2014.