Behind names are groups of numbers

October 12, 1998|By Michael Stroh | Michael Stroh,SUN STAFF

Ever wonder how your computer can locate another one half way around the globe?

When you type "" in your Web browser, you're tapping into a complex, worldwide address system developed in 1985 by a group of engineers at the University of Southern California.

They wanted a user-friendly alternative to the geeky system by which computers were registered on the Internet. That system gives every computer on the Net a unique address consiting of four groups of four numbers between 0 and 255.

The numbers are separated by periods.

For example, the true Internet address of SunSpot,

The Sun's WebSite is, which is pretty hard to remember.

Sometimes you'll see these numeric addresses displayed at the bottom of your Web browser when it's connecting to a computer.

While computers trade in numbers, people generally think in words. So the engineers at USC devised the Domain Name System (DNS), which gives every computer a name in addition to its number.

The "top level" domain is the little abbreviation at the end of a Web address. These domains represented the groups that were using the fledgling Internet at the time: .mil (military), .edu (schools), .org (nonprofit groups), .com (commercial enterprises), .gov (government agencies) and .net (Internet service providers).

When you type in a web address, such as, your Internet Service provider sends it to one of 13 so-called "root" servers (most of them are on the East and West coasts).

These computers look up the name "" and fin the true numeric Web address. Then they forward your request SunSpot's computer, which in turn sends you the Web page.

The creation of a new, nonprofit corporation to manage Internet addresses opens the possibility that new domain name suffixes will be created to meet the demand.

Some commercial interests want to expand the real estate available for commercial sites by adding suffixes such as .store or .firm.

Lawmakers have proposed forcing all adult sites to add the suffix ".xxx" to their Web addressses.

These could be blocked by filtering software to protect minors from pornographic materials - thereby creating a red light district in cyberspace.

Pub Date: 10/12/98

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