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#BacktoBasics: What is DNS?

4 September 2013 by Emma Blunt

As internet users, we frequently use the Domain Name System (DNS) but not all of us will be able to explain what it is and what it actually does. Not to worry; it’s all explained in this post.

The DNS is the system that allows internet users to access specific websites, linking the alphabetic URL that we type into the search bar, for example, with the numerical location or Internet Protocol (IP) address of that website, which is a series of numbers and dots.

When you type in a web address on a computer, it needs an IP address to direct your request to the right website. If you remember the dial up tone that we used to hear when connecting to the internet, it’s easier to conceptualise how this works. It’s like dialling a number to get connected to the right person. DNS is essentially like a phone book for the internet and your computer uses it to locate the domain name address you’re trying to access and translate that into an IP address.

Without the Domain Name System, we would have to type the IP addresses of the websites we wanted to see into our computer’s browser. Can you imagine having to remember a different set of numbers for all of your most used websites? That’s why DNS is so integral to the functioning of the internet.