What are Domain Names, DNS, and IP Addresses?

by Suzette Franck

When you want a website, you would like everyone to be able to access it easily. This would not be possible without the Domain Name System or DNS settings. In this article, I will explain the system for assigning unique names and addresses to websites and give an overview of how this works and some explanations for some of the more common terminology used.

IP Address IconWhen you purchase a domain name, such as awesomewebsite.com, you buy it from a registrar, such as Google Domains, Hover, Network Solutions, or NameCheap, who are given the priviledge of assigning unique domain names that correlate to IP addresses. Every single device that is connected to the Internet has an Internet Protocol or IP Address that is in one of two formats of 2605:e000:625d:f300:648f:bb40:4dbf:86f4 or 181.224.147.196. You can type “What is my IP address” on google and it will give you the number that is assigned to your connected computer on the internet.

Each device has an IP Address

Your website is also connected to the internet, so your website has its own IP address. This IP address may be shared with other websites on your web host or unique (dedicated) to only your website depending on your web hosting plan. The DNS or Domain Name System is merely the system or like a giant digital phone book that matches domain names like awesomewebsite.com with its corresponding IP address, 181.224.147.196. When someone types in your domain name into their internet browser, the DNS tells the browser what IP address that domain name is associated with and the browser goes to that location to display the content.

When you purchase a new domain, and then get web hosting at a different company, you will have to tell your registrar where your website is located. You do this by editing your DNS records at the registrar, which should be accessible through your registrar’s control panel. It is beyond the scope of this article to explain how to set these up, as it is different for every registrar, but in general, you would create an A record that pointed to the IP address of your web server. Alternatively, instead of pointing to an IP address, you could point to your web host’s nameservers by updating the nameservers in the DNS. You can get your IP address or nameserver name from your web host company. Another important fact to remember is that when you change nameservers, this points all web services to the nameserver for your web host, including email, so this is the more common choice.

When I first started making websites, Domain names, DNS, and IP addresses were a huge area of mystery. In this article, I hope that I have eliminated some of the confusion surrounding domain names, but if anything is still unclear, please feel free to leave me a question in the comments below.

Have fun and make an awesome website!

Published by

Suzette Franck

Suzette Franck has been in web development for over twenty years; she started making hand-coded HTML websites on geocities with font tags and tables back in 1995. Since then, she has taught herself CSS, Sass, PHP, MySQL, as well as becoming a Wordpress expert; evangelizing and presenting at over twenty-two WordCamps across the country and multiple WordPress meetups in Southern California where she resides, about all aspects of building and maintaining sites on WordPress. Suzette is passionate about WordPress the application as well as the WordPress Open Source Community, and loves to code and teach others the wonders of WordPress. She is a purveyor of lowbrow art, and when she is not WordPressing, she is painting or visiting Los Angeles art galleries to add more work to her growing art collection.

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