Name servers and me

Wheee! IU’s name server finally points to my Web page when you type in michaeldietsch.com, so in a couple days, it should be ready for the whole world to see. Holy cow.

Okay, so what am I talking about with propagation and name servers and DNS entries? In a nutshell, here’s how the Web works. You type a domain name, like–oh–www.michaeldietsch.com, into your browser. The browser sends off a request to your Internet service provider’s name server, which is a machine that changes domain names into numeric IP addresses. The name server translates http://www.michaeldietsch.com into the IP address 168.144.201.250. (Try it. Type 168.144.201.250 into your browser–or copy and paste it–and you should arrive straightaway at my Web site.) Your request for a Web page actually goes to a number, not to a name.

So, why do computers bother with the number and not with the names themselves? Look at my example again. The address 168.144.201.250 “belongs” to SoftCom, the company that’s hosting my pages. They’re only loaning it to me for the time I have my pages on their servers. If I move to another Web host, that company will assign my site a new IP number, but my name, http://www.michaeldietsch.com, will stay the same. SoftCom can then reuse 168.144.201.250 for another customer.

Here’s an analogy that might make more sense: Say you want to call a friend on the telephone but you don’t know his number. You pick up the phone, call information, and say, “I’d like the number for David Lichty in Indianapolis, please.” The operator offers to connect your call and you’re done. If David moves to a new number, all you have to do is call information again and they’ll connect you to his new number. The phone company can then reuse David’s old number for another customer.

In my case, I registered http://www.michaeldietsch.com with a company called Dotster back in November. All this time, it has resided on a server at Dotster. But it had no content. Dotster was simply holding it for me until I was ready to use it. In fact, type www.michaeldietsch.net into your browser. You should see a page that says “Future Home of a Dotster Registered Domain” with ad content for Dotster. I own both domain names and simply haven’t decided yet what to do with michaeldietsch.net.

But imagine this. I register at Dotster and park my domain there for seven months. Anywhere in the world, if anyone were so inclined to type http://www.michaeldietsch.com into a browser, they’d see that Dotster page. Now, I’ve shifted the domain name over to SoftCom’s servers. This was like David Lichty moving to a new address and needing a new telephone number. In the case of Web addresses, however, they have to be registered with name servers all over the world whenever they move house. This takes time–anywhere up to 72 hours.

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