Propagation Explained

When you register your domain name, the registrar will typically inform you that your new domain will take between 24 to 96 hours to propagate. What does this mean and how does it affect you? Why does it take so long to process?

First, domain name propagation refers to the process of syncing a great deal of information about your new domain name. First, the nameserver of the domain will have to be assigned. This information will be provided by your hosting company and will need to be updated with your registrar. If you are only parking your domain name, you will not need to worry about this step.

After the correct nameserver is applied to your domain, the Domain Name Server or DNS will update their DNS tables. This is where the information from a DNS zone file is applied. Several different fields are necessary within a DNS zone file to make sure that the propagation is successful.

These fields include the address, nameserver, host information, hardware and software information from your hosting company and other pertinent fields. You won’t have to worry about this step unless you are running your own dedicated server.

The address field in the DNS zone will contain the mapping information to route your new domain to your new site. The DNS tables will need to be updated to include this new information. This update usually occurs once a day, but you will need to allow a little extra time, just to make sure that the update included your information. This is why you will normally see at least a 48 hour propagation wait time.

Once all of this has been completed, your domain name will begin to propagate on the Internet. If you are transferring a domain name, or changing your nameserver in the future, you will have to go through this process again, but it is normally much quicker.

Why does all of this need to take place? Computers don’t recognize the actual domain names of websites. Instead, they recognize IP addresses. These addresses will look something like: 11.222.33.444 They will contain three decimal points in between the sets of numbers. Each site will be assigned an IP address by a web hosting company. This IP address is actually how browsers will find your website.

A properly propagated domain name will begin to resolve within the time period mentioned above. Usually, it will take about 24 to 48 hours, but you may need to allow a little extra leeway either way.

While your domain name is propagating, you can use this time to set-up your website. You will still be able to access your new site via it’s IP address while propagation is taking place. Once your domain name is propagated, the resolving process takes place automatically, each time someone enters your domain name in their browser’s URL bar.

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Posted on 12/15/05 8:18 PM

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