The Make-up of a Domain Name: How Does it Work?

It’s easy to take the concept of a domain name for granted: you type in an alphabetical Web address and your desired Web site pops up on your computer screen. Domain names are actually a simplification of a rather complex process.

Domain names are actually translated IP (Internet Protocol) addresses. When you type in letters and words, a DNS (Domain Naming System) goes to work locating a correspondingly numbered Web site. Every Web site you visit has a numeric address as the “real” address on the Internet, but the DNS makes it much easier to remember addresses. Every domain name is required to be connected to a DNS server (most Web hosts will take care of this for you).

Once an IP address has been determined, the user interacts with the Web server to have access to specific pages. A browser establishes which protocol (server languages like FTP or HTTP) should be used and then the server sends a GET request to the Web server to retrieve the address. Once the server verifies that the requested name exists, it finds the correct files, runs the correct scripts, exchanges cookies when required, and provides results to the browser. If, for some reason, the server cannot locate the file, the server sends the client an error message. Once the browser receives the appropriate results, it translates the data into HTML and displays the results to the client. This process is repeated over and over again until the client browser exits the Web site.