Glossary of Key Terms

Registrant, Reseller, Registrar, Registry | DNS (Domain Name System & Domain Name Servers) | Domain Names vs. Top Level Domains (TLDs)

What is a Registrant, Reseller, Registrar, Registry?


If you own a domain, you are a Registrant. A Registrant is an individual or company that makes the purchase of, and therefore legally owns a particular domain name(s).  For example, Jessica Smith (Registrant) registers the name EXAMPLE.COM through a Domain Provider (Reseller).  

Reseller (Domain Provider)

Also referred to as the Domain Provider, a Reseller is a company which sells domain name registrations to the public.  Your Domain Provider, or Reseller, is the last company you paid money to for your domain name registration. Your most recent payment may have been for the renewal, transfer, or initial purchase of your domain.


A Registrar, for example, TUCOWS, is an organization that has the authority to issue a domain name license to a Registrant.  However, TUCOWS operates under a unique wholesale model. Though some Registrars directly facilitate the sale of domain names to the public, we not. If you own a Tucows Domain, you would have purchased it from one our affiliated Resellers. Alternatively, you may have transferred it to a Tucows affiliated Reseller from another Domain Provider.


A Registry is an organization that manages one or more top-level domain names (TLDs). Registries create domain extensions, for example, .com or .org.  They also set the unique terms of registration and use for their TLDs, and manage them within a backend database. For instance, and are both operated by the .COM Registry. Tucows shares access to these databases to create a channel for Domain Providers (Resellers) to sell domains to the public.

What is DNS? The Domain Name System & Domain Name Servers

DNS stands for Domain Name System, and effectively functions as the phonebook of the internet. This directory system translates a memorable alphanumeric address, such as, into a purely numerical IP address, such as  

All domains have at least two DNS servers, which are visible through a Whois search, and appear in a format similar to NS1.EXAMPLE.COM and NS2.EXAMPLE.COM.  For example, the DNS servers for are DNS1.TUCOWS.COM and DNS2.TUCOWS.COM.

When you type into your browser, sends a request to one of the DNS servers listed above. A response is sent back in the form of an IP address, which directs your browser to the appropriate web page. A similar process is involved in the sending and receiving of email, which also relies on DNS as a directory system.

What is the difference between a Domain Name and Top-Level Domain?

Domain name

A domain name is essentially a signpost on the Internet.  Think of it as a piece of online real estate. Every website you have ever been to and every email you have ever sent has used a domain name as its address. For example, you might visit a site located at  or send an email to

Top Level Domain (TLD)

A Top Level Domain refers to the last portion of a domain name. It is sometimes also called the domain “extension”. To distinguish between a Top-Level Domain and a domain name, let’s consider In this case, the domain name would be, which falls into the Top-Level Domain category of .COM. Similarly, the domain name would be considered a .ORG TLD.

Each TLD group is managed by a particular registry and exists as an independent product type. Consequently, the regulations for registration and use vary across TLDs, as does the technical set-up. The TLD-specific nature of Domain Name Servers illustrates this point. For example, the Name Server NS1.EXAMPLE.COM can be used with all .COM domains. For it to be used on a .ORG domain, however, this .COM Name Server must first be added to the .ORG TLD Registry by your Domain Provider (if hasn’t been already).