Monday, June 27, 2011

June 23, 1983: First Successful Test of the Domain Name System Description: 30 years ago the first Domain Name System (DNS) was tested and it changed the way we interacted with the internet. Nearly impossible to remember number addresses became easy to remember names.

Without DNS you’d be browsing a web where numbered addresses pointed to numbered addresses. Google, for example, would look like in your browser window. That’s assuming, of course, that a numbers-based web every gained enough traction to be popular enough to spawn a search giant like Google. How did this shift occur and what did we have before DNS? From Wikipedia:

The practice of using a name as a simpler, more memorable abstraction of a host’s numerical address on a network dates back to the ARPANET era. Before the DNS was invented in 1983, each computer on the network retrieved a file called HOSTS.TXT from a computer at SRI. The HOSTS.TXT file mapped names to numerical addresses. A hosts file still exists on most modern operating systems by default and generally contains a mapping of the IP address to “localhost”. Many operating systems use name resolution logic that allows the administrator to configure selection priorities for available name resolution methods.

The rapid growth of the network made a centrally maintained, hand-crafted HOSTS.TXT file unsustainable; it became necessary to implement a more scalable system capable of automatically disseminating the requisite information.

At the request of Jon Postel, Paul Mockapetris invented the Domain Name System in 1983 and wrote the first implementation. The original specifications were published by the Internet Engineering Task Force in RFC 882 and RFC 883, which were superseded in November 1987 by RFC 1034 and RFC 1035.Several additional Request for Comments have proposed various extensions to the core DNS protocols.

Over the years it has been refined but the core of the system is essentially the same. When you type “” into your web browser a DNS server is used to resolve that host name to the IP address of–making the web human-friendly in the process.