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Anyone who uses the Internet has some familiarity with Domain Name Systems (DNS) even if you are not fully aware of it. Every website you visit has a domain name that separates it from every other website on the World Wide Web. It is the foundation for how devices like computers and mobile phones communicate with other devices including web servers.
The Domain Name System (DNS) is easy to understand. In many ways, its name says it all. It is a system or database that stores every active domain name online. The DNS database is comprised of the domain name and website host name which are then translated into Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. You can think of DNS as a type of directory or phonebook comprised of all IP addresses on the Web. It translates a web address or URL (e.g. www.example.com) into an IP address (e.g. 126.96.36.199) that you can contact to reach a certain website.
The primary purpose of DNS is to help Internet users connect with selected websites. DNS accomplishes this by converting a website name you type in a browser to a predetermined IP address of the web server hosting that particular website. Every type of device that connects to the Internet, whether it is computers or smart phones, is assigned a unique IP address.
The Internet Protocol (IP) has been updated several times since the inception of the Internet. Today’s Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) is the latest communications protocol that manages Internet traffic. Presently, IPv4 is still carrying most of the Internet traffic and is expected to do so through much of 2013. However, IPv6 will eventually take over because IPv4 is simply running out of domain addresses. IPv6 increases the number of addresses beyond the 4.3 billion allowed under IPv4. The challenge is successfully transitioning to IPv6 because the two different protocols do not work together.
To reiterate, Internet users rely on domain names to connect to online applications and websites. However, the online applications and websites communicate using IP addresses, not domain names. So when you want to go to a particular website, you type the domain name into your browser which then converts that to an IP address it can connect to per your command. This conversion is known as domain name resolution (DNR). Your computer’s operating system performs DNR automatically.
Because of the global nature of the Internet, languages are incorporated into DNS. Much work has been done to internationalize the domain name system. There are still limitations, particularly when it comes to special characters that may not be recognized by DNS. As more websites are being translated into other languages to attract visitors from around the world, the DNS is making similar changes.
Commonly referred to as rDNS, reverse DNS involves the identification of an IP address by finding the domain name using the DNS. Reverse DNS is typically used for network troubleshooting purposes. Website owners can use rDNS to track users. It is because of rDNS that many argue there is no such thing as true privacy or anonymity online. Major businesses often use rDNS to stop email spam and other phishing activity. Businesses also rely on rDNS processes to authenticate and monitor system use.
Understanding what DNS can help you take advantage of its various features. It is always useful to have a clear picture of how parts of the Internet work so you can make informed decisions about your Internet practices. And you need to what changes are coming that may affect that practices!