What is a Domain Name System (DNS)?


At the end of August, the Zimbabwe Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (POTRAZ) presented a draft Domain Name System (DNS) framework. This framework was the culmination of consultations the regulator had with the public in 2019.

Before we get into what the document says, let’s break down the basics of what DNS is.

What is a Domain Name System (DNS)?

So, to break down what DNS is, we need to start by looking at IP addresses and domain names:

IP (Internet Protocol) Address is an identification number associated with a specific computer or computer network. When connected to the Internet, the IP address allows computers to communicate with each other. IP addresses are often represented as numbers in this format “123.456.7.8These numbers allow your web browser to locate a website. So you can, if you can remember the IP address, type it in the address bar and then go to the website. remember every ip address for every website we have domain names.

A Domain name is a unique name that identifies a website. When you visit a website, the domain name is in the address bar, it could be “google.com” or this website “techzim.co.zw”. It is much easier to remember the name of the website you want to visit than it is to remember the IP address. So that we don’t have to remember IP addresses, web browsers translate the domain name we enter in the address bar into an IP address.

Another way to view the relationship between IP addresses and domain names is to look at map coordinates and physical addresses. Every point on the earth has coordinates of longitude and latitude. If, for example, you are directing someone to your house, it would be difficult for most people to get there by giving them your contact details. Even though they have Google Maps numbers, they are not always easy to deal with.

But it is easier to tell them the name of the street and the number of the house. It would be much easier to enter in Google Maps than the coordinates.

We finally arrive at DNS

Earlier, there was talk of web browsers translating domain names into IP addresses. Well, what allows your web browser to go to a website that you type in the address bar is DNS.

Since computers are better suited to process numbers and we are better suited to process words. DNS is the intermediary between man and machine.

Servers and Domains

The last two pieces of this puzzle are domains and domain name servers:

Areas are the letters that come at the end of the domain name. So if we use the example “www.google.com”, the domain is “.com”. There are different types of Areas but the two most common are:

  • Generic top-level domains or gTLDs (“.Com”, “.org”, “.net”, “.biz” and “.info”)
  • Country code Top-level domains or ccTLDs (“.zw”, “.uk”, “.za” etc)

In the example, we used previously “google.com”, “.com” is an example of gTLD (Generic top level domains).

Domain name servers are those that deal with a web address that you type into the address bar. There are four of them and they are:

  • Name server resolution, the first server does the first step in the process. Its job is to poll each server until it finds the correct IP address. The most important thing it does is find the next server in the line which is called the root nameserver.
  • The Root name server is the first place the resolving name server comes in for a point of reference. It tells the resolving name server where to look for the correct TLD name server (Top level domain server)
  • TLD name server works with the registry of the last part of a domain name which can be “.org” or “.com”. When a person or entity purchases a domain, the TLD registry updates the TLD name servers. This means that the TLD nameserver knows which authoritative nameserver to refer to.
  • The Authoritative name server is the last server in the chain. It then tells the first server in the chain, the name resolution server, the IP address the browser must go to for the user to access the page they want.

Expert in website creation has a really good infographic that maps this process from start to finish.

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