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Domain Name Server (DNS) Basics

Domain Name Server (DNS) Basics

Regular users of the Internet must have surely come across a 'DNS Error' while browsing. In this article, we tell you more about DNS, or domain name servers.
Madhavi Ghare
Domain names are a very technical sounding name for website addresses. For example, is the domain name for this website. There are many parts of this address which make up the entire domain name.

The '.com' part of the website address is called a First Level or Top Level domain. Other such first level or top level domains are
  • .edu (used by educational institutions)
  • .gov (used by government organizations)
  • .mil (reserved for the United States Military)
  • .com, .net and .org (available for most people; used by commercial organizations, organizations related to the Internet, and non-profit organizations respectively)
  • .biz (reserved for businesses)
  • .info (for websites providing information)
There are also other top level domains available by country codes such as '.uk' (for the UK), '.us' (for USA), '.au' (for Australia), etc.

The Second Level Domain is directly below the first level domain name. In our example, '' would form a second level domain. The Third Level Domain is also known as the URL (Uniform Resource Locator). This is the entire website address, which in the case of our example would be ''. There are also Sub-Domains on a website. For example, in the URL '', the '.personal' is a sub-domain. One can have many sub-domains on a website.

There are other basic terms which one needs to know in order to understand the concepts of Domain Name Servers (DNS).

IP or Internet Protocol Addresses
These are the numerical form of domain names of websites. It is the actual address that one computer uses to link to the website via the Internet. These numbers are regulated by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or the ICANN. Each computer on the Internet also has an IP address. This can be either static or dynamic. Dynamic addresses change every time a computer logs on to the Internet. Computers such as servers use a static IP Address, which always remains the same. The IP address usually looks something like '12.345.678.91'. Ideally, one can reach the website by typing either the website address or the IP address into the browser.

WHOIS Directory
This is a directory of website domain names, and the people or organizations who own these names. It is a public directory, and anyone who wants to know more about the owners of a particular domain name can find relevant details in the WHOIS Directory. The IP addresses of these domains can also be obtained from this directory. Therefore, anyone wanting to register a domain name needs to provide certain details while registering. These details include the name, address, contact telephone numbers in case of technical or other difficulties, etc.

Domain Host
These are places on the Internet which run the DNS for your domain. This includes your A Records (your host records), MX Records (mail exchange records), and CNAME Records (canonical name records or aliases for A records).

Domain Registrars
Domain registrars are companies which sell you the domain name that you want. Most of these companies often offer hosting solutions. Hosting is actually the specified amount of space on a server where you can store the data which may or may not appear on your website. One can purchase hosting with another provider as well, and have the IP address of the domain name point to the IP address of the server space of the hosting company.

ICANN maintains a list of Accredited Domain Registrars. A domain name can be usually registered for different periods of time, anywhere between a period of 1 to 10 years, and has to be renewed after this period is over. This name is owned by the buyer only for that specified period of time. If not renewed in a timely fashion, anyone else may be able to purchase it.

There are no limits to the number of domain names which a person can own. A person can also buy and sell them. But before you go and register domain names in your name, you need to be aware of Cyber Squatting Laws and Intellectual Property Laws. Cyber Squatting involves registering a domain name with the aim of extorting a large amount of money from the person who ends up buying it from you. Also, Intellectual Property Laws will come into force if you register domain names with names similar to the names of famous people, personalities, and organizations.