What’s in a name?

It seems that everywhere I work, I end up writing about DNS, or the Domain Name System. It probably doesn’t help matters any that there seem to be so many different permutations of the acronym. There’s really only one authority (although there are several references) and that’s the Internet Engineering Task Force or IETF. The relevant documents these days are RFC 1034 and RFC 1035, which obsolete RFCs 882, 883, 973.
And if you read any of these, you’re likely to become more confused. Don’t worry; the concept is easy, even if the specifics are a bit obtuse.
Computers “talk” to each other on the Internet using IP addresses that look like this:
192.168.144.120
Humans remember computer addresses like this:
www.some.com
DNS is the service that translates human names into network addresses so the Internet can work for everyone.
Why should you care? In your whole career, you will probably only need to know about DNS for two different reasons.
You’re setting up a network or Internet connection on your computer. Your ISP has name servers available to your computer, and when you click a link to www.somereallycoolsite.com your computer will look up the address from your ISP’s DNS servers. Most ISPs and proprietary consumer on-line services set this up when you log on, so you may never even know this has happened. If not, the instructions your provider gives you should include 2 IP addresses and how to apply them correctly to your specific configuration.
You’re registering a domain name and the registrar is asking about name servers. In this case, you need someone to keep track of the names and addresses of your domain. The people who host your website probably provide DNS service for your domain, they can tell you what server addresses to use, if they don’t do the domain registrations for you. This probably is NOT your ISP. Nothing against them, but their business is getting you connected to the Internet. Even if they do that well, you’ll be dealing with a different group when you setup your web account.
We may be slightly impartial, but we think your best bet for DNS or other web services is someone whose business focus is providing web services.

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