How the Web Works

Did you know that it can take up to three whole days for a new website to be made available on the web? If you were planning to coordinate a marketing campaign with your website launch and weren’t aware of this time delay, this could be very bad news. That’s why I think a little knowledge can go a long way in helping website owners manage their websites.

There are many systems and technologies working together to bring you content on the internet. Having a basic understanding of how these systems work can help you make informed business decisions regarding your website. I have compiled a short list of definitions and commonly asked questions about these important web technologies.

Web Host

A web host is a company that provides a place to store and serve websites on the internet. GoDaddy and MediaTemple are examples web hosts.

Domain Name

The domain name is often referred to as the web address. Our domain name for King Design is

Domain Registrar

A domain registrar is a company that sells domain names. Many web hosts are also domain registrars. To become a domain registrar a company must be accredited by ICANN, an organization that oversees the domain registration system.

IP Address

An IP address is a string of numbers used by computers to identify each other over the internet. Think of them like phone numbers for computers. An example of an IP address looks like this:


The domain name system, or DNS, is a network of computers that translates domain names into IP addresses. If IP addresses are the phone numbers of the internet then the DNS would be the phone book.

SSL Certificate

An SSL certificate is what allows users to browse a website over a secured connection. This is most useful when a website collects sensitive information such as credit card information. A website with a secured connection will display https:// in front of the domain name with some browsers highlighting this in green or showing a lock icon.

Where do I get an SSL certificate?

Certificates are usually purchased and set up through your web host, but the certificate may be issued by a separate company. An SSL certificate can range in price but usually costs about $75 per year.

How does a domain name get associated with my website?

Domain names are connected to web hosts through the domain registrar’s DNS records. These records are updated from the registrar’s end with the IP address provided by the web host.

If you purchased your web hosting separate from your domain name, your web host will provide you with an IP address. You can give this IP address to your domain registrar and they will update the DNS record for that domain.

When the DNS records are updated, it could take up to 72 hours for the changes to propagate. During this time, some visitors may see your old website while others see the new site. It all depends on which DNS servers your users connect to. However, in our experience, this change can happen within a few hours.

What is domain propagation?

Domain propagation is the time period when your changes to the domain registrar’s DNS records are being sent out to all the DNS servers on the internet. This process can take up to 72 hours to complete, but usually completes in much less time.

How does my computer connect to a website?

When you enter a web address into your browser, the first thing your computer does is get the domain name’s IP address from the DNS server.


The DNS will then return the IP address it has on record for that domain name.


Your computer then contacts the web server located at that IP address and requests the page or resources you want.


The web server returns the content you requested.


Now that you know a little more about how the web works you can feel more confident in making decisions about your website. If you have any questions, let us know in the comments below.

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