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Domain names are used on the Internet to easily locate a resource. A 'name' is registered at a domain, for example: the internet-guide name at the domain uk. Domain names are registered - for it's owner - by a registrar; a registrar is a company that has been certified by ICANN. When a domain name is registered, a DNS (Domain Name System) record is created for it. The DNS record for a domain name must contain two or more nameservers, and the DNS record is stored by central registry for that domain. Shown below, is an example of how a nameserver is written (in a DNS record):

  1. ns.example.co.uk
  2. ns2.example.co.uk
  3. ns3.example.co.uk
  4. ns4.example.co.uk

The nameserver information is managed - can be changed - by the registrar of the domain name. A registrar will change nameserver information on behalf of the owner, or, the owner can login to the website of the registrar and change it themselves. Any change to the nameservers of a domain name will be updated by the central registry for that domain; it may take 24-48 hours for the registry to change the record. The registrar is a 'middleman' between the owner of the domain name and the registry (owner) of the domain.

So, what is the purpose of a nameserver?

A central registry (TLD) for a domain would struggle to cope with all the DNS queries made for domain names registered in it's domain. Therefore, a TLD registry points queries to a nameserver that manages the DNS of a domain name. When a nameserver receives a DNS query for a domain name: it will then respond with the location of services for that domain name.

When a user is surfing the World Wide Web, the following happens:

  1. A user will enter a domain name into the address bar of a browser.
  2. The browser will then use the DNS (Domain Name System) to retrieve the nameservers for that domain name.
  3. Using the nameserver information it has retrieved, the browser will then request the nameserver to provide the address of the domain name.
  4. The nameserver will respond by providing an IP address for that domain name.
  5. The browser will then use that IP address, combined with a filename, to request the webpage located at the domain name originally typed by the user.
  6. The web server, located at the IP address, will then send the browser the file (webpage) requested.
  7. The browser will then render the webpage for the user.

Because a nameserver handles DNS requests for a domain name, it is sometimes referred to as either: DNS nameserver; or a DNS server. Anyone, as long as they have the correct DNS software, can operate a nameserver.


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