A domain is simply an address to indicate a specific web page on the Internet.
Let’s take this example: you purchased a house with the address of 3200 Awesome Place in the city of Oz.
Domain Registrant - The Home Owner
Domains have to be purchased, and they are registered where they are purchased and paid for. You have a Domain Registrant, much like a house has a Home Owner. This person pays the mortgage to keep the house, just like a Domain Registrant has to pay for the domain yearly to keep it.
Now, you want to share your address with your friends so they can find you and hang out. If you supply them with just 3200 Awesome Place, it’s not very useful on its own. Why is that? Because it requires context in order to find 3200 Awesome Place.
IP Addresses - The Street Address
This address has latitude and longitude points so that your GPS system can map it and find a precise place. But, who can remember strings of long numbers to find their friend’s house? Not me. Instead you tell them 3200 Awesome Place.
The same concept exists for domains. Domains are associated with IP addresses, much like latitude and longitude are associated with street addresses. It’s not very user friendly to tell your clients to type in a typical IP address like 126.96.36.199 to get to a website. Instead, you tell them to go to mysite.com.
DNS Records - The Map
Latitude and longitude are helpful, but it is even more helpful when you have a city map with a grid that shows you where your street address is relative to other references points. You know where the street Awesome Place is, because it’s catty-corner to Super Cool Street and Baller Boulevard.
Your IP address is part of what we call your DNS records. These records associate your domain with different information, like the IP address that points your domain to the website, and the email records that allow you to have an email with @mysite.com.
Nameservers - The Region
How do you know what city 3200 Awesome Place is in? It could be in any city, or in any country! Your latitude and longitude are associated with a particular region that is assigned to a country or city that has claimed that territory. This territory can change at any time.
If this were 55 B.C., by the time you read this you’d already be part of Julius Caesar’s conquered countries. Likewise, your DNS records are hosted within a particular Nameserver that tells the Internet what “territory” it’s under. That way the Internet is not hunting all over the world needlessly to find your domain. It zeros in on your territory, or Nameserver, and then from there uses your DNS records to read where it ought to go. Your DNS records host important information like your IP address, which is used to display your website.
DNS Admin - The Manager
The person who controls your DNS records within your Nameserver is the DNS Administrator. Technically, your Nameserver can change anytime with the blessing of the Domain Registrant, so the Admin who controls your DNS records can change, even if the Domain Registrant is a completely different person.
Let’s go back to the analogy of buying a house. You own the house and pay your mortgage. You control the territory your house is in (we’ve suddenly promoted you to Mayor of Oz). But then Julius Caesar conquers your city. Caesar offers to control your territory and do the hard work of managing your city, but allows you to keep your house, so you let him. (Ultimately there’s a fail safe — you can take back control of your territory, but it requires some paperwork.) The Domain Registrant can set the Nameserver, but the DNS Admin who controls the Nameserver dictates the rest.
- Domains have a Domain Registrant (Home Owner, who pays the bills)
- Domains have Nameservers that tell it what territory it lives in — this territory can change depending on who the Domain Registrant sets in charge (Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s Caesar)
- The Nameserver hosts your DNS records, which gives your domain information on IP addresses, MX records for email, and other goodies (DNS records are like the reference points around a street address)
- The IP address affiliates your domain with your website (latitude/longitude is affiliated with your street address)
In short, the Internet knows how to find your hosted website because it uses the Nameserver to find which server territory it belongs in, DNS records to give technical information about the domain, an IP address to give it precise “latitude and longitude,” and a domain name that easily allows your users to type in an address to find where to go.
Do you want help better understanding this process? Our team can help.