Like we always say: Educated clients are the happiest clients. This post is to help you understand the inner workings of the internet. The internet is changing crazy fast and we're the ones who are trying to stay on top of it as it does. That way, we can tell you all about it.
Let's start at the end and work our way back.
A server (appropriately titled) serves up information that is requested of it. In order to serve that information, it must store it too. Picture a ton of files sitting on a giant hard drive that get accessed by internet users every second. A lot like opening a document on your computer, but instead you're using your computer to access files on another hard drive. This is called Hosting. Dizzy yet?
Now, the files on the server tell your computer what to display when you see a website. Image and design files dictate the color and design elements. Stylesheets dictate the fonts, sizes, and font colors. Finally, a server stores an enormous amount of files that contain code. This code is what makes buttons and links work, images move, and any animation or functionality you see in a website - basically, the difference between a flat image and a functioning website.
A short recap: We have a giant storage place that's smart enough to pull the files you're looking for. We have files on that storage device that dictate what a website looks like and does.
Now how does that make the internet?
I'll tell you.
IP Addresses & Domain Names
Every server has it's own IP Address. This address is unique to the server and usually looks like this: 10.101.14.193 (a set of 1-3 numbers separated by periods). This is how the internet knows how to find the site you're looking for. The site is stored on a server that could be anywhere in the world, so it needs an address.
IP Addresses are impossible to remember. Nobody has ever said, "Yeah, I bought this shirt at this awesome new website! Go to 10.101.14.193!". However, this is exactly what's happening - those numbers are just being masked by what's called a domain name. Domain names are what you buy from GoDaddy, Network Solutions or a handful of other domain registrar sites. A common misconception is that you buy your domain name then put your website on the GoDaddy website. This is false. GoDaddy is only a registrar for domain names so we don't end up with duplicates anywhere in the world. After you purchase a domain, you must tell it which IP Address to point to, and violla! You've completed the process of pulling up a website.
A Final Recap
Let's start at the beginning. First, a user punches in a URL like paramore.is. That request goes to the DNS (Go Daddy) which searches its records for the corresponding IP Address. The DNS then sends the user to that IP Address. Once the user is there, the server must decide which files to serve, based on the domain name and IP address. Finally, a website loads on the user's screen and everything the user interacts with is driven by the files on the server.
And that's how the web works. Obviously, there are many more moving parts, but we're just talking basics. We're likely in process of working on your own website and I've heard cries for more education on the process - so hopefully this helps!
If you're working with us on a web development project, check out another post I wrote about deliverables to learn more about our process.