It’s easy to tell your friends that your favorite blog is SmarterMSP.com. It would be harder to suggest that they visit 126.96.36.199. You can thank Paul Mockapetris for the ease with which you can recommend websites. In January 1985, Mockapetris launched the innovation that landed him in the Internet Hall of Fame: the Domain Name System, commonly known as DNS.
Back in the days of ARPANET, the only way to get an online address was to call up Elizabeth “Jake” Feinler at the Stanford Research Institute’s Network Information Center (NIC). Jake would add your address to a master file called host.text, and the NIC staff updated the file on ARPANET’s servers a couple of times a week. The thing is, Jake and her colleagues were only available during business hours and they took holidays off. This was great for their work-life balance; bad for the always-on access necessary for the Internet’s predecessor.
The new system innovates domain naming
Enter Paul Mockapetris. In 1983, his colleague Jon Postel asked him to reconcile five existing proposals for improving ARPANET’s address naming system. Mockapetris ultimately created his own proposal, which stuck. The Domain Name System attaches a word-based address to each numerical IP address. The addresses are managed by databases hosted on multiple servers — the Domain Name Servers. By spreading IP resolution across a network of servers, Mockapetris ensured it was possible to resolve URLs and create domain names 24 hours a day.
The first domain name created through DNS was Nordu.net, though the first domain name registered through DNS was Symbolics.com, registered on March 15, 1985, by Symbolics Computer Corporation. Five other domains were registered in 1985: bbn.com, think.com, mcc.com, dec.com and northrop.com. Thanks to the ease of registering allowed by the DNS system, countless other domains have been registered since.
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