TCorner is a serialized blog post from our newest Labs member, Taylor Cornelius. TCorn comes from a design background and these are his adventures on the development side of the fence.
In today’s fast paced, information driven society we rely on the internet more than anything else to provide us the answers we seek and at a moments notice. This service however, remains a mystery to a vast majority who use it. I will attempt to explain how the internet works and its base components.
The internet functions much like the highway systems we navigate everyday. Data travels across networks like our cars and if one route is closed or damaged, the information can be re-routed instantly to reach its destination. If a road is closed we are not out of options to reach our destination. We use detours. When you send an email to someone over the internet the data in the email is not sent as a single file, although it would appear so. When you hit send your email is broken up into pieces of data that can all travel along different routes to reach their final destination. At the end the data is put back together like a puzzle so that whoever you sent the email to can read it. All of this happens in the blink of an eye. This method of data segmentation is called Packet Switching.
You have probably heard the term server before which may conjure images of private rooms with blinking lights and lots of cables. A server at its base is nothing more than a type of computer whose sole purpose is to store information and send information when requested. When you enter a url into your browser search bar, your computer sends out a request to find the website you are looking for. That information comes from a server, it is not stored on your computer. There is one more step involved from your computer to the server (who holds the data for a website you are trying to reach). Computers do not understand domain names like Google.com or Facebook.com. Instead they rely on IP addresses as their way to navigate to a destination. An IP address is a series of numbers which computers understand as the destination you are trying to reach. So while you see Google.com, your computer sees 22.214.171.124. With the multitude of websites available in 2015, how does a computer know which IP address is associated with the website you are trying to reach? There exists a protocol called Domain Name System which is similar to the GPS you use while driving. When you type Google.com in your browser that signal is sent to a Domain Name System server, (servers store and send information). This DNS server asks itself “Can I associate Google.com to an IP address?” If this specific DNS server cannot find Google.com it will send that signal to another DNS server. Eventually one will find Google.com‘s IP address and send that location with directions back to your computer, and voila, you’re on Google’s homepage. This process seems tedious and time consuming but all of this happens in milliseconds.
The internet may seem intimidating and sometimes confusing but if you remember highways and cars you will always be able to find your way.