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What Is a Nameserver?
Your domain contains files assigned to something called a DNS (Domain Name System) record. A nameserver functions as an indicator of where you can locate your domain’s DNS records.
Imagine yourself opening an internet browser (like Chrome or Mozilla) to visit a particular website. The process goes like this:
- You type the web address on the browser’s URL portion. The background DNS servers receive server details about your site through your domain registrar (the company where you bought your domain name);
- The nameservers activate, pointing out the location of the website’s DNS records;
- Next, your browser reads and identifies this information from the DNS;
- Once it is interpreted, you’ll be able to see the website that you entered being loaded onto the screen.
What is a DNS?
To better understand nameservers and why these functions matter, it would serve you well to take a quick look at domain name systems and what these mean for websites.
Whenever you enter a domain name (i.e., “youwebsite.com,” “mywebsite.com,” etc.), your computer needs to convert the information into IP addresses (“184.108.40.206”). Your browser will then be able to locate and make sense of it.
The domain name system (DNS) takes this domain-name-turned-IP-address information into data that you, as the viewer, can navigate (as a complete website).
The DNS system consists of three major parts:
- The parent nameservers (there are only 13 parent nameservers worldwide).
- The company where you buy your domain (also known as the domain name registrar). Sometimes your domain is included in the hosting package – in that case, your host is your domain registrar. E.g., Web hosts like HostPapa, Hostinger, and GreenGeeks offer free a domain name with its plans.
- Your nameserver, an important piece of information if you plan to manipulate your DNS values
What Purpose Do Nameservers Serve?
The internet will only recognize your domain name if it has DNS records. If you’ve ever looked at the dashboard of your hosting provider (these are our top recommended web hosting providers in Australia and web hosts in Canada, just in case you haven’t made a decision yet), you’ll see things like “A,” “CNAME,” “MX,” and more. These are your DNS records.
Since domain names often move, the internet assigns nameservers to specific domain names. It quickly identifies which DNS record applies specifically to these locations.
How to Find a Domain’s Nameserver
Depending on your purpose, there are several methods for a user to search for a domain’s nameserver.
The most straightforward method is for people to search for the nameservers and modify their websites. You can do this when connecting to a CDN (content delivery network).
Log into your domain registrar and find your nameserver’s tab there.
Nameservers can appear in the following format:
How about investigating another site’s nameservers? For queries like this, your best bet is a search on WHOIS websites that contain domain information.
Another method for searching a website nameserver involves using the term “domain lookup” in the WHOIS query. You can check out the lookup tool in the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) for even easier access.
Imagine if people had to memorize IP addresses to get to your website. Nameservers eliminate this process, improving your website’s speed, availability, security, and user experience.
Nameservers are clever little mechanisms for simplifying the web user experience, and now you know more about how it all works. Feel free to let us know your other web-related questions in the comments below.