*This is longer than I intended so get a cuppa and a biscuit and dive in.*
Questions that often come up when people are either looking to organise a new website or they want to transfer control from the individual or organisation who originally set it up for them either to themselves or someone else, are; Who does what and where? Is my domain where my website lives? Why do I see website services called domain hosting and or website hosting, what’s the difference? Where does domain registration fit in to all this? Also, what is DNS? *sighs heavily*
Fundamentally, the domain name is the address people use to find a website i.e., www.google.com The pages that are displayed when you visit that website address via your browser are stored or ‘hosted’ on a server computer and the domain is how the network that is the Internet knows where they live.
Still confused? Don’t worry, so was I for a long time so let’s dig a little deeper and see where we end up in this week’s blog.
Before the Internet, there was the ARPAnet (Advanced Research Projects Agency). Each computer on the network had an address as a set of numbers to identify each other but as it was easier to remember letters than numbers a system was developed to tag each set of numbers with a user-friendly name (a domain name) and keep a record of what names were linked to what numbers in a digital (and paper) file called the Resource Handbook. A record looked something like this; HOST: USC-ISI Address: 10.0.0.52
Here’s a 1978 copy of the front cover of the Resource Handbook.
That worked ok whilst there were only a few computers connected but once ARPAnet started to grow it became clear that the Resource Handbook wasn’t going to be able to cope, so other sets of rules needed to be developed so that data could be transmitted between multiple networks. One of those sets of rules or protocols, was TCP/IP and ARPAnet changed over to this Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol on the 1st of January 1983, paving the way for the Internet we know today.
It’s also worth knowing that one of the original ‘keepers of the Resource Handbook, Elizabeth (Jake) Feinler came up with the naming system for the user-friendly names that we still use today i.e. .com, .gov, etc. I think you’ll agree that google.com is easier to remember than 22.214.171.124. The .com .co.uk etc is called a ‘top level’ domain and the name that is matched to the number is called a domain. The top level part gives you a clue about the objective of the website i.e. .com for commercial businesses, .co.uk for organisations in the UK. .edu for educational organisations.
The top level part has expanded massively over the years so you can almost get .anything these days
So, lets revisit the whole Website hosting/Domain hosting carry on.
Currently there are somewhere in the order of 342 million registered domains (https://www.networkworld.com/article/3268449/what-is-dns-and-how-does-it-work.html ) so instead of Elizabeth having to keep those updated in one book or file, there are lots of computers connected to the Internet whose job it is to look after part of the whole directory and these computers are called Domain Name Servers that maintain the Domain Name System or DNS which was invented in 1983 by Paul Mockapetris.
They keep in touch with each other and let each other know when there are updates to the part of the whole directory that they are looking after. There are currently 426 valid domain name servers in the UK and here’s a list of them if you want to check it out https://public-dns.info/nameserver/gb.html They are essentially the phone books of the Internet and the DNS records are the names and numbers.
When you register a domain name, you will sometimes buy the hosting space for your website from the same place as you buy your domain name but you don’t have to. You could buy your domain from Billy Smith for example and Susan Jones could store your website files for you.
Like typing a location into a Sat Nav and it looks at co-ordinates, when you type a website address into the address bar at the top, your browser goes off and looks at the Domain Nameserver ‘phone book’ first to match up the human friendly address you have put in (i.e. www.google.com ) with the numerical computer friendly or IP address of the website page ‘name and phone number’ (Google.com’s IP address is 126.96.36.199) . If it matches it sends a request to the server computer that the website page is on asking if it can be connected to have a look at the files, if the server that has the website page on is happy with how it has been asked (i.e. you have ‘dialled’ the right number using the website name), it will ‘serve’ up the page in the Internet browser.
If you’ve got this far, respect and big love 🧡🧡😘. To finish off I’ve just done a cheeky little who’s who of who currently keeps the wheels of the internet turning.