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How Exactly Does A Website Work

Since you made it to this page and you’re readying this I am going to take it that you already know what a website is. However you may be a little confused on How a Website actually works, I am going to make this as simple as possible to give you an idea of how websites work.

Domain Name

Let’s start with Domain Names, a domain name is simply the address (URL) to the website, for example the Domain Name for my Site (this website) is www.The-Website-Teacher.com. You should be able to see this from the top of your browser. Another example would be www.Google.com, I’m guessing that most of you know what Google is. Simply put a Domain Name is the Link to a website, you could think of a Domain Name as a Street Address. To learn more about Domain Names check out the article on “Choosing A Good Domain Name”.

Without trying to confuse you I just want to mention why Domain Names are actually used. When you are connected to the internet your computer is identified using an IP Address (computers basically do everything using numbers), an IP address generally looks something like 324.186.246.125, four sets of 3 numbers.

An IP Address of 007.016.236.009 is actually used as 7.16.236.9, you remove the 0’s before any of the set of numbers.

I hope I haven’t confused you yet.

Continuing on, every website is also identified using an IP Address, for instance Google (ww.google.com) is actually identified using 66.102.7.104. You can give this a try type 66.102.7.104 into your address bar for your browser (where the www.website.com goes).

So why do we use www.google.com instead of the actual IP Address, simple, because our brains don’t like numbers that much. How easy is it to remember a website when someone says go to google.com, it is actually really easy to remember and it sounds good. Now what if I told you “Hey check out 66.102.7.104”, you would likely forget it before I even finished telling you the address, there are also many other reasons why we don’t use the exact IP address of websites but you can see why Domain Names are used instead. To find out how Domain Names are used instead of the IP address of websites read on.

Domain Name Server (DNS)

Now that you know what a Domain Name is let’s take a look at the role of a Domain Name Server. Domain Name Server is usually shortened to DNS so from now on when you see DNS I am referring to a Domain Name Server. The operation of a DNS is never really seen or known of, since they work in the background. When you enter a domain name like www.google.com into your browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, Etc) that Domain Name is first sent to a DNS, the DNS will then tell your Browser the actually IP address for that Domain Name.

So for an example say you type www.YouTube.com into your address bar (in your browser), your browser will then contact a DNS and ask for the IP Address for www.YouTube.com. The DNS will then reply with the exact IP Address like 123.456.789.123, your browser can then directly connect to YouTube.

So basically Domain Name Servers are used to make a set of numbers which are hard to remember and very boring identified using words instead. This allows us to make Domain Names much more human friendly.

Website Hosting

Now let’s look at how the website is actually displayed on the monitor in front of you. As you may know every website is made up of multiple files, these files need to be stored somewhere so that anyone on the internet can access them. This is where Website Hosting comes in, Website Hosting is basically a computer that is always on that holds all the files for a website and is connected to the Internet.

Using the IP Address from the DNS your browser can then locate the computer which has all the files for the Domain Name (Website) you are trying to view. I’ll try and give an example to help make sense;

Say you enter www.google.com into your browser address bar, your browser will then ask a Domain Name Server what the IP Address for www.google.com is. The DNS will then replay saying the IP Address for www.google.com is 66.102.7.104. Your browser will now use this IP Address to locate the computer that contains all the files for www.google.com. Now www.google.com (66.102.7.104) will send your browser the appropriate files needed to display Google on your computer.

Forgive me if I just confused you and wasted the last few minutes of your life, hopefully this does help you better understand the basics behind how websites work.

So what happens when you have a link like wikipedia.org/wiki/Website. Looking at this link we can see that the Domain Name is “Wikipedia.org”, this Domain Name is then used to find the computer that contains all the files for Wikipedia. The rest of the link “/wiki/Website” is used to tell the browser which folder the page you are trying to view is located in.