DNS and Domain Names

As I mentioned in another post, I got a domain name a while ago. Because of that, I erased my presence at the address of brycec.dyndns.org. However, it was not a painless process. Today, I will be talking about my experience in obtaining a domain name without much help.

What are domain names? Not many people should be unfamiliar with this term, but I thought I would discuss it, as it is important to know. Domain names are names that are used to visit websites easily. Before domain names came into existence, a person needed to know what the IP address of the server. The IP addresses were in the format of x.x.x.x. Combinations were quite complex that we, in today's world at least, could not keep track of things easily. However, with the appearance of a new standard, RFC 1034, there was a new kind of server that translates easy-to-read host names, or addresses, into IP addresses, in order to access servers hosting the desired website. These host names are known as domain names, which are now handled by ICANN. Domain names make surfing the Internet easier.

If I get a domain name, does that mean I have immediate access to the site I want to use it with? No, it will not. Usually, there is a waiting period, but this one I did not need to wait very long to have it be active. The waiting time is usually to verify information that a user supplied when getting the domain name and then activating the domain name. Once it is active, the person needs a server to host the website. One could set up the server themselves, as there are many articles out there about doing so, but ISPs, modems, routers, dedicated hardware firewalls, software firewalls, etc. can all cause problems. For that reason, it is easier to find a third-party to host the site for the person. After getting the host, the person will need access to a DNS, which is usually provided to the purchaser. ICANN requires people to use a middleman to get domain names, so they will not give people domain names, nor do they provide DNS access to the public. It is those providers that usually give people a DNS. In the DNS records, a person needs to enter an IP address, one that is not 10.0.0.0-10.255.255.255, 127.0.0.1, 172.16.0.0-172.31.255.255, or 192.168.0.0-192.168.255.255. All of those IP addresses or address ranges are private IP addresses only available on LANs. 127.0.01 is a loopback, usually referred to as localhost, and only works on that device. Once that is established, the server becomes accessible. Getting a domain name does not mean that one immediately gets a host.

Yes! Now I can access my site from via http://example.com. Not so fast, just because www. is unnecessary these days to visit your favorite websites it does not mean that the same is true for the site you established. I made that mistake and I had a big hassle over getting the server to work. A DNS is not only responsible for translating things like example.com to IP addresses, but it is also responsible for the luxury of typing in addresses without www., not the browser. In order to have that luxury with your site, the www. sub domain, as it is called by my registrar, needs to point to the domain name via a CNAME record, or alias. It would be referenced like this domain.tld. Domain is the name you registered and tld is the extension you used to register the domain name (e.g. ".com", ".org", ".net"). A period is required after the tld in the DNS record. Not doing this may result in people getting what your server software (e.g. Apache, IIS, NGINX) says is the DocumentRoot, instead of the specified paged. DNS not only resolves domain names to IP addresses but also allows the luxury of not needing www.

Well, that is all for this topic. Domain names allow us to access sites without knowing IP addresses. A DNS resolves the domain to an IP address and allows usage of http://example.com instead of http://www.example.com.

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