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DNS is the system that connects every device in the world of the internet. Literally, every device and every piece of equipment that connects to it, such as servers, wi-fi, mobile phones, laptops, and tablets, is assigned a unique IP (Internet Protocol) address. This address consists of numbers separated by dots, for example Google has a 18.104.22.168 as an IP address of one of its servers, and it serves as a way for computers and devices to communicate with each other.
What is DNS
However, for us humans, remembering all those numbers can be quite challenging. That’s why domain names, like www.hosted.com, were created to make it easier for us to navigate the online world.
Whenever people type domain names into a web browser’s search bar, the browser will instantly connect to the global DNS and obtain the correct IP address. For the user, they will instantly see that IP address’s website display in their browser. The Domain Name System is essentially the address book of the internet.
Where is the DNS
The entire DNS system is a global affair, it is literally stored on a vast number of servers across the world that are in constant communication with each other and provide information, updates and redundancies i.e. a backup for when a DNS server is not responding.
How DNS Works
- A user types a domain name into a browser’s search bar.
- The device sends a DNS query that is received by a DNS resolver, which then queries a DNS root nameserver.
- The root name server responds with the Top Level Domain (TLD), the suffix of the domain e.g., “.com.”
- The TLD DNS server sends a reply to the device that contains the IP address of the server containing the website’s information.
- The device stores the IP in its cache, to access the domain name for future requests, and displays the site in the user’s browser.
- Although the above may seem complicated, it all happens “behind-the-scenes”, and the entire process happens in milliseconds, giving it the appearance of being instant while you are browsing the web.
To ensure the smooth operation of the internet, there are authoritative Registries appointed to enforce the regulations set by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers) on a global scale.
Some well-known international Registries include:
- Verisign: Manages the .com and .net TLDs, which are among the most popular and widely used TLDs globally.
- Public Interest Registry (PIR): Oversees the .org TLD, which is commonly used by non-profit organizations.
- Neustar (now GoDaddy Registry): Operates various TLDs, including .biz, .us, and others.
- CentralNic: Manages a wide range of TLDs, including .xyz, .online, .site, and many others.
- Donuts Inc.: Operates multiple TLDs, such as .live, .social, .news, and more.
- Afilias: Manages various TLDs, including .info, .mobi, and others.
Note: To learn more about the technical side of the Domain Name System, there is a very comprehensive ICANN Wiki article.