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Jargon Explained Part 2: Domains, DNS & IP

Tweet This is part 2 in my series explaining the jargon of the web. If you missed part 1, POP, SMTP & IMAP, you might want to read it first. So now we are going to look at some jargon around these www things we use to visit websites & send email. For example, you [...]

This is part 2 in my series explaining the jargon of the web. If you missed part 1, POP, SMTP & IMAP, you might want to read it first.

So now we are going to look at some jargon around these www things we use to visit websites & send email. For example, you typed (or clicked a link) www.studiowhiz.com into your address bar of your browser. Your browser bought you here. You just used a domain (web address) to get to this site.

So lets start with domains. A domain is a unique name that helps direct traffic around the internet, from computer to computer. Why do we need domains? Well computers identify each other with a series of numbers. Your computer knows itself at 127.0.0.1, one of Googles many computers is 72.14.207.104. These numbers are known as IP (internet protocol) numbers. It’s hard to remember these IP numbers, however words are easier to remember. So domains use words to point to these computers, making it easier for us to remember.

Domains are made up of a number of parts. Lets break a couple down. www.studiowhiz.com & www.nzherald.co.nz

TLD (top level domain) is the right most part, and is the first bit read by the browser. In the examples above this is the .com and .co.nz parts. This tells the browser where to look and what for.

Domain name is the next bit, and is the bit you can make up. In the example above this is the studiowhiz and nzherald parts.

Subdomain is the last bit, and generally is www, however can be anything. You are in control of these and they are free.

When you type www.nzherald.co.nz into the browser, your computer says “go to New Zealand (.nz), find all the companies (.co), then find nzherald” this will give your computer the IP number for the computer that has the NZ Herald website.

You have to purchase your domain name (name.tld – eg: studiowhiz.com) and you purchase them from a registrar. There are many, however for .com, .net or .org domains check www.godaddy.com these guys are widely respect as ‘the’ company to purchase your domain from. For regional domains eg .co.nz or .com.au you will probably have to purchase through a local registrar. Just do a Google search for your local registrar eg: Australian Domain registrar.

The last part to this domain puzzle is DNS (doman name server). This is a special computer that connects domains to IP numbers. When you type www.studiowhiz.com into your browser, your computer must talk to a domain name server to find the IP number. When you purchase your domain, chances are your registrar will have their own domain name servers that you can use. By default their domain name servers will point your domain to their own computers.

Your domain works for your website (eg: www.mysite.com) your email (me@mysite.com) and many other protocols used on the web. One of the great things about domains & DNS is that you can use one domain name, to point to different computers.

In my 5 reasons to use Google Apps post I talked about how I use Google for my email (me@studiowhiz.com) and I use MediaTemple for my website (www.studiowhiz.com), well I do that by setting the 2 parts of the domain to point to different IP numbers.

Summary:

  • Domains are used so we don’t have to remember IP numbers
  • Domains have 3 parts
    • top level domain (eg: co.nz & .com)
    • domain name (eg: studiowhiz)
    • subdomain (eg: www)
  • Domains can point to different service providers (eg: Google for email, MediaTemple for web hosting)
  • DNS (domain name servers) link domain names with the IP number of the server
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