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DNS: Don’t worry, it’s just the phonebook!

DNS or domain name system isn’t likely to be something you talk about on a frequent basis. If it is then you wouldn’t be reading this article in the first place! So for everyone else, unless you hire someone to take care of every little detail that concerns your business’s web presence then you will probably have to talk techie with the company that hosts your website and/or is your domain name registrar at some point in time. For some, this is no big deal but for others this can be scary/boring/intimidating/annoying or any number of less than happy descriptors!

Anyhow, DNS is one of those possibly intimidating terms your GoDaddy (Host Gator, Blue Host, Dream Host etc) customer service representatives might toss around when you’re on the phone. Most customer service reps for these companies are EXTREMELY good at explaining technical jargon to people with zero background – especially GoDaddy (despite their agonizingly horrible YouTube advertisements) But, on the off-chance you may want to impress them when you speak…or just sound really cool at your next dinner party, I’ll give an extremely watered down version of what DNS is – yet one that will still be likely to impress the masses .

Remember the Phone Book?

If you’re like me, you were born and raised when phone books were still a thing – still necessary. I believe they still exist in some parts fo the country, it’s just that no one knows what to do with one anymore!

Well you can think of DNS as a phone book of sorts. A phone book that sort of does the work FOR you. Remember in the old days you had to actually know the name of the person whose phone number you were looking up and then physically grab the book, navigate to the correct letter for the last name of your friend or family member – and then hope you remembered which street the person lived on – or at least the first name of their mom or dad!

DNS is a bit like that except the ONLY thing you are responsible for know is the name of your friend!

I am NOT just a number!

Well, actually…

So how does this all work?

Well, again, I’ll give you the watered down version because suffice it to say there are a LOT of resources out there that can help you out if you want to delve into the subject deeply. For our purposes here let’s think of it by making the following equivalencies.

Your Friend = One of the millions of connected computers that make up the internet. Given the way a computer “thinks” your friend is the equivalent of a number string, called an IP address in this case.

Your Friend’s Name = The Domain Name (website address url) you are typing in

DNS – A Quick Look Behind the Scenes

In the nutshell version of the story, all of the computers involved in locating a where a webpage resides and bringing that page back to your browser must resolve the domain name (your friend’s name) to a number because computers identify other computers using strings of numbers rather than names the way humans do.

It goes something like this:

  • First you type in the domain name into your browser’s address bar.
  • Your computer checks its cache (memory) to see if it has ever visited this website before. This is like you seeing if you can recall your friend’s number without resorting to other means of helping you find it.
  • For the sake of this example, your computer has never been to this particular website before, nor has the server at your ISP. Therefore a complex system of queries goes on in the background that involves many different servers located in many different locations on the planet.
  • Within the blink of an eye, after “talking” to several different servers your computer and its friends “resolves” that domain name (web address) into a string of numbers (IP address) and voila! You are now looking at your website of choice!

Of course there’s a little bit more to the story than this but this is a close enough approximation. Besides, I want you to have the ability to impress your friends and family around the thanksgiving dinner table – NOT put them to sleep!

Do you know anyone that might find this information useful? Feel free to share it using the social icons below or in anyway that is fitting. Have a great day!

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Marc is a Dad, a Web Designer, a Creator of Branding and an occasional blogger . (and probably in that order!) with some affiliate marketing thrown in for good measure.

He owns Thirsty Fish Graphic Design, A one-man web design biz., based in Corning, NY which is in the heart of the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate NY.

He enjoys physical fitness and healthy eating to an annoying degree, playing guitar, playing piano, sketching and most of all hanging with his daughter doing just about anything!

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