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Domain Name

DNS stands for Domain Name System, a naming database developed in 1983 by computer scientist Paul Mockapetris. DNS is designed to distribute the mapping of domain names to internet protocol (IP) addresses across a network of servers. Before Mockapetris developed DNS, these relationships were maintained on a centrally stored file. But DNS has proven to be a much more efficient, accessible, scalable model, leading to its establishment as one of the world’s first internet standards.

How does DNS work?

DNS operates through a hierarchical structure. At the top are root name servers, followed by top-level domain (TLD) servers (such as .com, .org, .net), and authoritative servers that provide the IP address for specific domain names. When you request a website, your browser contacts a DNS resolver, which starts querying these servers from the top of the hierarchy until it finds the correct IP address.

Why DNS is important to digital trust

DNS is foundational to the functioning of the internet because without it, you’d have to memorize the IP addresses for every website you want to visit. And because DNS translates domain names in email addresses to the corresponding IP addresses of mail servers, DNS also plays a vital role in email delivery. But one of the most important roles DNS plays is in digital trust, furthering internet security and performance through techniques like caching, which reduces latency and load on authoritative servers.

Key DNS terms

You can learn more about DNS in our FAQs, but here are a few key terms to know:

  • Domain names: Human-readable addresses (e.g., www.example.com) that are easy to remember.
  • IP addresses: Numerical labels (e.g., used to identify devices on a network.
  • DNS resolvers: Servers that respond to queries from browsers to find the IP addresses.
  • Authoritative DNS servers: Servers that hold the actual DNS records and provide the IP address for a requested domain.

Learn more

Explore DigiCert’s DNS solutions or read our FAQs to learn more about DNS.