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What Is A DNS?

How does your computer know where to find when you type the address into your browser? The answer is a fundamental part of how the Internet works.


Domain name searching is the process by which the Internet converts human-readable Internet addresses into numeric internet protocol (IP) addresses. The main protocol for doing domain name searches is the Domain Name System, or DNS.


For example, when a user requests information from a text URL such as, a computer providing DNS information would tell the computer to seek that information at the computer at The sequence of four numbers separated by decimal points is known as an Internet Protocol address, or IP address for short.


The Domain Name System has been compared to a “phone book” for the Internet. Just as a phone book matches individual phone numbers to human names, DNS pairs plain-language URLs with numeric IP addresses.


DNS information is given by a computer running DNS software, typically called a name server or DNS server. The software is part of most comprehensive server operating systems, including the various flavors of Unix and Windows Server.


Internet users typically do not provide their own DNS service or information, but rather send requests for DNS information upstream to computers operated by their internet service provider. Requests for information that a given computer does not have will be passed along to other computers on the network. That information is then remembered by the first name server for subsequent requests for the same address information.


The DNS system essentially bridges the gap between individual networks, known on the Internet as domains, and other parts of the Internet. In each network, there will be an authoritative DNS server, on which other DNS servers ultimately rely for addressing information.


Above individual domains stands a hierarchy of name servers, each passing unanswered requests up the chain to the more authoritative one above it. At the root level of the system are a handful (13, to be exact) of root name servers, assigned by the international body that runs the naming system with ultimate authority to resolve domain naming queries

Domain Name Guide