Get to Know the Internet’s Directory: What is DNS

Get to Know the Internet’s Directory: What is DNS

Instead of beginning this story with I had to tell my mother to google ‘What is DNS’ into the search bar, let me start this way.
Ever wondered how the world of the internet, computers and smartphones works in general? Specifically, what needs to happen so we can see the website come alive before our eyes after entering a web address like www.google.me?

Since everyone has their 5 minutes of fame, mine came after one of my mother’s favourite culinary websites crashed due to an attack on the server. I know what you are thinking – Culinary website hacked? Be real! But it did happen. And believe it or not, it took me less time to explain to her why she couldn’t access the website and how everything works than to convince her that it was not the end of the world if we just wait until tomorrow to make the chocolate cake. I am certain you were unable to access a website for the same reason at least once. Or maybe you saw a “DNS server not responding” message on the screen. This is the story of how I got to know the ins and outs of the Internet Directory. Or better yet, answering your question: What is DNS?

DNS server - the olace where all the domains are registered or the internet's directory

What is DNS Server – The Place Where All The Domains Are Registered Or The Internet’s Directory

Our everyday life, both business and private, has become intertwined with technology that depends on digital communication. So much so, that it would be difficult to imagine us functioning normally in the long run without using technology. But to prove that this is not just idle talk, here are a few examples that support this claim. Some of which we might not be aware of. 

The proper functioning of modern medical equipment depends on the exchange of data over a computer network, and often over the internet. E-commerce in all corners of the planet Earth allows us to start a business from practically anywhere. Friends and families, businesses and governments meet every day via Zoom or some other online platform. These services, we take for granted rely on DNS servers, which translate human needs into meaningful computing activities. Did you know that on one occasion the whole US East Coast was left without internet? It (only) happened because the DNS of the largest internet provider on the East Coast crashed due to a DDoS attack.

Before we delve deeper into the world of servers, let me just clarify that DNS stands for Domain Name System. To make it easier imagine it as a telephone directory that every household used to have. You know – a gigantic book, where under the letter V you can find your aunt’s name surname and telephone number. The DNS server serves to connect what you enter in the search bar (domain name) with what the computer understands (IP address). If it makes things easier for you, you could say that DNS is the “directory” of the internet.

without DNS server communication between people and computers would not be possible - what is dns

Without a DNS Server, Communication Between People And Computers Would Not Be Possible

I don’t like to generalize, but from my experience, I can say that people are generally better with letters than they are with numbers. On the other hand, the opposite is true for computers. So, when people want to visit a website, they will memorize its name, e.g. www.domain.me. That name as such means nothing to the computer until it is translated into an IP address What is an  IP address? It is a string of 4 or 6 figures separated by a period, so for example, the IP address for www.google.com is 172.217.169.142.

Now, how about the function of DNS? Easy! DNS is used so that people do not have to memorize whole strings of different figures depending on the website one wants to visit. On the other hand, not to confuse computers with letters, DNS translates domain addresses into a string of numbers. In other words, DNS, the “directory” of the internet translates a domain name into an IP address. It bridges barriers between human and computer languages. So, in order for the computer to properly understand a command like: “Show me the front page of the web site www.google.com”, the computer needs to figure out at which IP address the website is located.

what happens when you type a website address and press enter

What Happens When You Type a Website Address and Press Enter?

Let’s put it this way – after typing www.google.com and pressing Enter, your computer will contact the DNS server and search for the IP address information associated with the requested page. In this case, it is 172.217.169.142. After that, your computer will connect to that precise IP address, and the page you were looking for will appear on the screen. The same thing happens when, for example, a CT scanner sends an image to a specialist who needs to interpret that image. The scanner must first find out where it should send the image – translated to the computer language: to which IP address, i.e., to which computer.

Bottom Line

The technological solutions that are part of our private and business life are based on the IP protocol. This is why the DNS system has become a critical infrastructure, just as the domain management system has now become a critical infrastructure of every country. Each registry, Domain.ME included, is in charge of maintaining its part of the internet directory, which includes a domain registration system and DNS servers. This whole system is very complex and without it all the websites that use the .ME domain (including Domain.ME), would not be able to function. You should get the picture if I tell you that the DNS infrastructure of the .ME domain extends from one end of the planet to the other., But I will tell you more about that the next time.

Author:

Sanja Mracevic

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