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"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic´╗┐."

 - Arthur C. Clarke

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DNS, What is it?

DNS or Domain Name Server/Service, it's what turns a web address (URL) into an IP address, and it also allows for different destinations to be "resolved" (looked up) based on the type of service requested.

The process of matching a URL to a destination is called "name resolution". For example: Email servers are designated with MX records (Mail Exchange), other records are A records (Address), CNAME records (Canonical Name), PTR records (Pointer), TXT records (Text Information).

Because there are so many servers on the internet, a distributed system is used to maintain the records for all possible combinations.

Due to the fact there isn't one single list, changes in one area take time to propagate. While far from perfect, the Internet would be quite cumbersome without the DNS system we have in place today.

More on DNS at Wikipedia