How Does The Internet Work?

It’s hard to imagine the world as we know it without including the internet.   Commerce, communication, and even socialization have been irrevocably changed since the internet came to prominence. At the same time, for most people, the internet is just something that’s there for most people.  We take it for granted, particularly those of us who grew up with the internet.  Few people understand how the internet actually works – how we can access that information from home or a mobile device.

The internet depends upon both protocols and physical servers.  A server is essentially a computer that houses the files available on the internet.  For instance, a website is made up of files that include the images, art, text, etc…  All of those files are housed on a computer called a server that is connected to a network of other computers: the internet.

When you open a browser like internet explorer, firefox, or chrome and type in a web address, the browser looks for the files associated with the address.  A web address includes the domain name, plus any folders and files.  For example:   www.domain.com/folder_name/specific_page_file

Each domain has some records associated with it.  The first of those records is the WHOIS record.  That record includes contact information on the owner of the domain.  The next record is the name server or NS record.  The NS record tells your browser which server to find certain other records on.  Those records are the A and MX records, and they are contained within a file called a DNS zone file.  The A records tell your browser where to find the actual site files.  The MX record describes where any associated email accounts are housed.  So, to sum up:

  1. You type in a web address.
  2. Your browser looks for the domain and finds the associated NS record.
  3. The NS record directs your browser to a file that has directions to the site files.
  4. Those directions, the A records, take you to the actual site files, where they are housed on a server.
  5. Your browser then displays the site to you.

All of that takes seconds or less.  Isn’t that amazing?

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