Imagine going to a website on the internet except you don't type in the URL (Universal Resource Locator) on your browser. Instead it's like calling someone on your rotary dial phone. To go to Yahoo, you dial 22.214.171.124 which is the site's IP address, including the dots. To go to Facebook, you dial 126.96.36.199. Now to get to other websites, you'd need one of those big heavy yellow pages and look them up alphabetically or by category. Tough, isn't it? That's where the Domain Name System or DNS comes in. If your cell phone has a contacts list you could choose from instead of remembering eleven-digit numbers, why not the Internet?
The Domain Name System is basically one mechanism that acts like a giant address book. Instead of typing IP addresses on the browser (which actually works by the way), internet users can just type in easily remembered names like Yahoo.com or Facebook.com. Domain names are unique names that identify websites on the Internet. These domain names are associated with their respective IP addresses thus by typing those leads users to their desired websites. Domain names are not to be confused with URLs. Apart from the domain name, URLs include a website's sub-areas or sub-folders as well as other codes that lead to various parts of a website. The domain name often leads users to the site's home page. For example, the URL www.wallawallaWashington.com will lead users to the homepage.WallawallaWashington.com is the site's domain name. Typing in www.wallawallawashington.com/travel/hotels.html will take users directly to the site's Hotel page.
Luckily, the DNS system was built into the Internet right from the start and worked very similar to Windows ‘hosts’ files in keeping a list of hostnames with a corresponding IP address and later became a fully automated system known as the Berkeley Internet Name Domain (BIND). Domain naming conventions were published in 1983 by the Internet Engineering Task Force which remains the standard until now.
Domain names are a hierarchy. The term ‘.com’, ‘.net’, ‘.org’ and ‘.edu’ are considered top-level domains while whatever comes left is considered the subdomain like wallawallawashington. If wallawallawashington were a large company, it would have further subdomains for email (letters.wallawallawashington.com), for business portals (business.wallawallawashington.com) and for employee forums (forums.wallawallawashington). Multinational companies make use country codes as top-level domains. For example Chicochicago.com has branches in Canada and Australia, their domains names would be Chicachicago.com.ca and Chicachicago.com.au.
Companies can choose any domain name they want as long as it follows the domain naming conventions, usually, it’s the name of their company or their top brand. The name should also be easy to remember. But many people and companies have the same mindset and even the same company name. Unfortunately, no two companies can have the same domain name so if two unrelated used car companies on opposite coasts of the US have the same name, Cool Cars, one has to be the first to submit ‘coolcars.com’ to the authorities and the other has to give in and think of something else.
The main authority of the domain name system is Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN then authorizes domain name registrars to manage sublevel domains usually run by telecommunications companies or Internet service providers who then map the companies’ host IP addresses to their chosen domain names. Domain name registrars register and maintain domain names for a fee. Registering and keeping domain names can be expensive as easy to remember and catchy domain names often cost more. If Cool Cars of the east coast couldn’t maintain their domain name, the Cool Cars west coast can buy the domain name.
DNS servers make it possible for users in a network to access sites via domain name. ISPs and companies run DNS servers which contain and translate domain names in URLs typed by users. Without them or if there is an error, users will have to type IPs the hard way though there is no way for them to what IP goes to a website. DNS servers make the process transparent so users won’t have to worry keeping a list of IPs and websites. Looking back, our parents and grandparents had it hard.