DNS: Domain Name … Something …

What is DNS?

Remember when you picked up the phone and had to ask the operator to connect you to someone? (Well, maybe you don’t but your grandparents might.) Now imagine DNS as that operator switchboard in the 4th dimension. 

DNS stands for Domain Name System. It’s an internet protocol, which essentially means it manages the flow of information between internet connected devices.

DNS connects your website visitor’s computer to the location where your website lives. Domain names are also called web addresses or URLs (Uniform Resource Locator). Often, websites live on a server. In the case of serverless hosting like Shifter, the website lives on a distributed network of devices.

DNS also connects with email, adding an additional layer of complication. A lot of precautions are added to DNS to ensure emails get to where they’re going. Plus, DNS is involved in intranets and private networks. In other words, DNS is used not only to connect site visitors to a web host, but the same system is also used by the FBI to share top secret documents within the organization.  

Why DNS is Complicated for Users

Domain names are everywhere. Because people see them all the time, we get used to them on the front-end. We start to form our own logic for how they work. We imagine the system in the back-end is much simpler than it actually is. Most people don’t know how DNS works or how complicated the system can be. Even developers may not have much knowledge or experience in this area. 

The process a user goes through to connect their domain name to their website is an understated process, especially for those new to web development. Because of the complexity of DNS, many things can go wrong in different places and at different times. Your site could go down, our email could be disrupted, and much more. 

Why DNS is complicated for Companies

DNS is also complicated for companies that offer web hosting and domain names. Not only do users need to figure out the ecosystem of internet service providers, the internet service providers need to figure out the same ecosystem in order to be compatible with each other. It can be simple if you have purchased a domain name and a hosting package from the same provider. Often companies that try to provide both hosting and DNS services do only one service well, but not both. 

Neither of these internet services are easy to provide. There can be just as many tech issues on the domain name provider’s end as there are on the hosting provider’s end. 

Users assume we can do it for them, but often we can’t. In addition to compatibility issues and communication problems between services, there are security precautions that can be difficult to work with. 

Approaching the Problem

To start, we’re doing a deep dive into DNS. We’re learning more about DNS technology, and we’re looking at how other providers approach this problem. Most importantly, we’re learning from our users.User research teaches us about your experience and how we can relieve your pain points.  User data from surveys and interviews helps the most. If you use Shifter and would like to offer feedback, reach out through intercom in your dashboard. 

Look forward to improvements in the future. We’re working on updates to our dashboard and docs.