Dancing naked snakes? Damn nature scary? Nah. DNS stands for Domain Naming System and it serves an incredibly important purpose for pretty much anyone who uses a computer today. Some of us older folks will likely recall a time that we had to memorize phone numbers in order to call our friends and family when we wanted to speak with them. Gasp! I know. I never called anyone.
Luckily today, we can simply program a number into our phone, give that number a name, and go about our merry way. Want to text Jeff? Look him up in your contacts and hit that message button. Easy peasy.
Making it easy
DNS performs a similar function, but for websites, computers, services, etc. Imagine for a moment that you had to to type a number for every website you wanted to visit? If your friend wanted you to check out thefunkycat.com (I just made that up and it exists! It’s not what I was hoping for though…) they would instead have to give you something like 126.96.36.199. Let’s use a more popular website as an example instead. You can normally access facebook by opening up your favorite web browser and typing in facebook.com. Voila! You’re transported into the wondrous security and time suck that is Facebook. You could also (at the time of this writing) type in 188.8.131.52 into your browser instead and be brought to the same place! That’s the “phone number” for Facebook. These numbers are actually called IP addresses instead of phone numbers.
The same thing happens on smaller local networks (including your own home!) too. Your computer has a name, your X-Box has a name, a server you may access at work has a name, and underneath all of these names is an IP address that more complex processes use to communicate with one another. That’s the ELI5 for DNS. Check out a more advanced version of the same topic on Tuesdays, where we take a deep dive into the everyday technological processes that happen right under your nose.