What is DNS?
The Domain Name Service (or DNS) is the key to the presence of your server on the internet. You are probably aware your domain has an “IP” address, which stands for Internet Protocol; that number is your domain’s literal web address on the internet. A typical IP address is a series of four numbers called octets that are identified like so: 10.10.10.10. You can think of your IP address as being similar to a postal address. The IP address is the exact location where your domain lives. I usually explain it like this;
Let’s say my friend Bob’s address is at 123 Main Street.
My other friends all know his location as “Bob’s House.”
Now, we can compare 123 Main Street as the IP address since it’s specific to a single location and “Bob’s House” would be the equivalent of the domain name.
123 Main Street and “Bob’s House” are the same location, but defined in a different way.
DNS is the system that tracks the information that 123 Main Street and “Bob’s House” are the same location. The DNS protocol translates a domain name to an IP address and back again.
Your domain name (we’ll use domain.com in this article) is much easier for humans to read and remember than a long string of numbers. Without the DNS system, the actual location of a domain is not transferred to other computers on the internet. DNS tells other networked computers where your domain resides.
As you can see from the above graphic, DNS is a multi-layered system. At the peak of this hierarchy are 13 top-level root nameservers that store all of the domain names and their associated IP addresses. These root nameservers are managed by IANA and are located all over the world in different geographically diverse locations. Under those root nameservers are the top-level domain servers like .com, .net, and .org. Under those TLD’s are the third level nameserver provided by the major ISP’s or internet communications companies that manage those TLD’s.
Each level in that hierarchy uses nameservers to track, store, and update the domain names and IP addresses. When your browser wants to visit a new domain that you haven't visited before, it will send a request to the next highest DNS server in that hierarchy, searching for the domain's IP address. If your ISP’s nameservers do not find the IP, the request is forwarded up the chain to the next level DNS nameserver until it finds an IP, or if it doesn’t see an IP associated with a domain, the browser will return an error message.
DNS primarily uses port 53 and transmits its inquiries utilizing the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) to serve requests. DNS queries are expressed in a single UDP request from a client followed by a single UDP reply from the server. This transaction happens within milliseconds and is usually transparent to the client.
The next step in the progress of DNS is the move towards "DNS over HTTPS" or DoH. DNS over HTTPS is a new protocol that's used for processing remote Domain Name System (DNS) lookups via the HTTPS protocol. This method increases the user's privacy and security by preventing third parties from monitoring and manipulation of the DNS data.
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