Have you ever wondered how the Internet really works? Many people do, from simple web surfing to sharing pictures on social media. In fact, the Internet heavily relies on something called a DNS: a database of network names and IP addresses. These three little letters hold huge weight. Without DNS, the Internet as we know it would simply not exist, and we would be left dealing in ones and zeroes. Without DNS, everyday activities such as shopping, web browsing, research, communications, or downloading would not be possible. That is why experts usually refer to DNS as the Phonebook of the Internet.
So, what is DNS and why is it important? In brief, DNS is a comprehensive translation system used to search the Internet. You might wonder, naturally, what it translates. Well, in the simplest definition, DNS is the term used to describe a system that assigns user-friendly domain names to unique IP addresses. It translates unfathomable amounts of data into words and phrases in order to provide clear and accurate search results.
While computers communicate using strings of numbers, humans, obviously, do not. DNS translates such number strings into human-friendly phrases. You see, each IP address must be distinct in a network, which allows users to reach a particular website. An IP address could be a set of any four numbers, from 0 to 255, like 184.108.40.206. When you type a domain name into your browser, the DNS system bursts into action, translating the browser name into the IP address associated with the website. Once the website IP address is found, your computer connects with the web host and the requested page is displayed on your computer. While the concept might seem basic, DNS is a cornerstone in how the Internet functions.
History of DNS
It is imperative for today’s Internet users to be aware of the evolution and history of DNS. This system was initially conceptualized to support the growth of communication via email on the ARPANET. Now, it supports the Internet on a global scale, yet effectively understanding its early history and development can be challenging, to say the least. However, due to its pivotal function in how the Interest operates, it is essential to understand DNS’ characteristics and components in their entirety.
Initially, working with a few sets of numbers leads to assigning alphabetic hosts to ARPANET. Afterwards, the use of alphabetic names is enhanced since they are easier to remember. The development of host names is useful for the growth of computer programs, and being aware of how the network is important. Since the body of each host name was built by numbers, each site was awarded a host name to provide a guide of network addresses in simple text records.
On the other hand, as early data types began to communicate, Internet mail was re-establishing its attempts to make mail systems benefit from the use of DNS. These attempts included adding application features; however, these proved unsuccessful as it was not yet achievable to hook other applications to DNS roots. In fact, it took nearly a decade to create the first major update to the DNS protocol.
What was the update?
However, users soon realized that keeping multiple copies of hosts is inefficient and becomes vulnerable to human error. Therefore, in 1973, a central system was allocated to be the official source of host master files. This system worked well for a decade, but by the 1980s, the disadvantages of a centralized management were becoming obvious, and the need to incentivize interest in the domain concept was growing.
A group of programmers held a meeting in 1982 to come up with a solution to relaying emails. Initially, emails were sent site-to-site and would have to go through several different links. Consequently, sending emails became a tedious task. In a bid to solve this matter, domain names were constructed to give individuals the same address, regardless of the destination of the email.
Hence, there was a need to construct a registered administrative domain, which could be maintained better. After a series of communications, the concept was developed in November 1983. It was published under the name Domain Names Plan.
First Generation DNS
The most effective way to enhance first generation DNS was by ensuring continuity when multiple servers answered numerous queries simultaneously. This renamed a server as “master”, denoting the other servers as “slave” servers. Practically, each slave followed instructions to keep updated with the master, determining changes in data periodically.
Second Generation DNS
The game changer in the second generation DNS was NOTIFY. This prevented the master from waiting on slaves for feedback. Moreover, delaying problems were solved as well, as previously the master was unable to send notification messages to its respective slaves to prompt them to acquire fresh data. Meanwhile, IXFR highlighted the way data was to be communicated through records, notifying hundreds of changes instead of just the primary. It changed the system of sending central messages, making it so that with each specific change, changes could be sent rather than multiple messages at a time.
Third Generation DNS
The third generation was a turning point for the dynamic changes later adopted, mentioned as RFC 2136. Comparatively, in the first generation, an administrator accessed the master server, did file editing, and then waited till the master reloaded the file before slaves finished with their updates. With this iteration, administrators were no longer required to log into the master, as they could carry out their updates across the network.
Although this sounds like a minor accomplishment, its effect was significant in the long run. Updates now reused messages with their original format for other purposes. Meanwhile, other efforts to define extensions were added, and this modernized the system overall. Additionally, the structural integrity of the protocol increased with the codes being added, and this led to DNS security, which would become the main focus for future modification.
The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is the name given to a global Internet community that consists of network designers, operators and researchers. It is concerned with developments in the field of Internet. The membership of this community is open to anyone who might be interested. The organization holds meetings three times a year and much of the work is distributed via emails.
Additionally, the technical work is carried out by working groups that are divided into further specific areas, and which come under the command of area directors. Therefore, they are members of the Internet Engineering Steering Group. An area director’s job is to provide an overview of all the tasks carried out by their group. They are also responsible for any failure the group might encounter, which the board would have to investigate for an appeal.
The other organization that is involved in the regulation of this system is the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). It is the key coordinator for the guidelines of specific Internet projects and their respective standards. The body is governed by the Internet society and acts as the regulator to allocate and coordinate the innumerable Internet protocols. These guidelines are presented in the IETF Standards Process.
For the most part, creating an Internet standard is very basic. It requires a specification, and careful analysis of the information by the Internet community. This is adopted to uphold the standard. However, in reality, the process is much more complicated, since it demands creating high-tech specifications, consulting all the stakeholders, and the need of an established community to evaluate
A Request for Comments (RFC) is a term used to describe an official request from the IETF, which occurs after the committee has constructed rules. Usually, it is done when the stakeholders present a review. Each RFC is of a different nature. While some are informational, others are intended to construct Internet standards. Once the RFC has been finalized, no further comments can be made to alter it. If a change is required, it can be done by suppressing other RFCs.
Interestingly, RFCs were first constructed in 1969 and are currently a part of the official functions of the IETF. They often comprise large portions of the global Internet research community. The first RFC was drafted and its copies distributed among leading IT experts, with the earlier versions of RFCs aimed at encouraging discussion. Conversely, its form of writing did not indicate authority, and the less formal style has become a common form of writing of RFCs.
The University of California was responsible for some of the earlier RFCs, as it became the face of the interface message processors. It also became home to the Augmentation Research Center (ARC) and was one of the first sources of early transmitted RFCs as well as other network information. After the original contract with the United States Government had expired, the Internet society, acting on behalf of the IETF, assumed an editorship role and took the responsibilities of working on the RFC. The IETF working groups, under the IEFT director, handles the publication of RFC documents. In 2008, a new model was proposed to split the task into several different stages. This also included a new role for the RFC series advisory group and, subsequently, it was revised again 2009 with new standards. Up until late 2011, the system has been additionally revised, when Heather Flanagan was appointed as the permanent RFC editor.
In its simplest form, the DNS is a database that maintains the names of websites, such as webhostinggeeks.com, and links them to particular IP addresses that consist of a number pattern (i.e. 220.127.116.11). However, this can be understood as its simplest task. Linking addresses to names is the basic function of DNS, as is it used for a variety of services, apart from host-to-address mapping.
Some of the major functions of DNS include locating IP addresses to specific site names, and then storing this data. This process is also known as “maintaining records”. A second function is to distribute the DNS over a vast network of connections, and a DNS can also store a vast library of records. For many experts, DNS is the term used to define a database and, most importantly, a database that can be easily shared. This is because each server holds only a minor portion of the host name to IP address mapping details.
DNS servers are configured with a special record that informs where the DNS server is located. Due to this process, each DNS server holds a small part of the host to IP mapping address. This collection of host to IP address mapping is also called the namespace. When looking up a name in the DNS system, the user must first check the high-level database, which tells the client how to check the DNS server host. As a next step in the process, it specifies queries the client can address through the hostname given by the DNS server. The process continues until the user finds the correct server that hosts the DNS required.
Additionally, finding the correct DNS and identifying the correct mapping of records stored by the database permits the DNS to maintain records. These record types are useful for several other purposes and may help other applications. For example, the record of the Mail Exchanger provides mail servers with the data needed to pass on sender-to-recipient emails. Another important record used by Microsoft Active Directory is to locate network services accurately.
Although it may seem as if DNS is complicated, its importance lies in the fact that other processes solely rely on it to function.
World Wide Web
The WWW relies on DNS for human-friendly navigation. Users can easily access a website by entering the IP address of a particular site or web browser. However, remembering several numbers is not the best way to approach the site. Therefore, it is much easier to remember the DNS name for a website that will present user-friendly names, such as webhostinggeeks.com.
E-mail is the main reason the DNS was developed and is one of the most popular functions of the DNS. Through the web, DNS links the names to IP addresses for various sites, although email servers need a more advanced record than what is required of basic host names. For instance, when an email is sent by a user through Outlook or Gmail, it can either be sent to the recipient at their domain or to another email server that is providing a similar service. If the email specifies an outgoing mail server which is not the target domain, then the user is using a reliable process.
An email address contains two portions: a host and a recipient. For instance, in the address firstname.lastname@example.org, ‘mailbox’ is the recipient and the mail transfer agent is responsible for ensuring that the message reaches the recipient. In actuality, any application that requires the Internet connects two or more hosts, which then shares information or communicates using DNS services.
Other uses of DNS servers include the more recent upgrade in 2008 that supports a zone type called the Stub Zone. This is a zone that contains features and records of resources that are used to identify contained DNS servers. The zone operates in such a way that lets the parent zone be aware of a forceful DNS server for its child zone. Another key feature of the DNS is that it provides integration with other Microsoft networking services. These features include connection with services, such as Windows Internet Name Service and Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol. With its improved ease of administration, DNS now allows a graphical user interface to manage DNS server services, in addition to other applications.
The DNS architecture is defined by a hierarchical distributed database and a set of protocols. It is a mechanism for updating, replicating information and a schema of the database. DNS was conceptualized in the Internet’s early days when it was just a minor network established by the United States Department of Defense. The various host names in DNS were administered by a single host that was located in the central server, and anyone that required the host name downloaded this file. On the other hand, as the Internet grew, the size of this file expanded with the traffic it generated. The need for a new host soon rose, which further featured support for various data types.
For the DNS, the host name is stored in a database that can be distributed among multiple servers. This will then decrease the pressure on a single server and will also allow access to the database without any location constraints. DNS is said to support hierarchical names and allows the use of various data, in addition to mapping. Since the data is shared and the size of the host is unlimited, the performance of the DNS does not degrade when more servers are added
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