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Propagation Explained

web_filesWhen you register your domain name, the registrar or your web designer will usually inform you that your new domain will take up to 24 (and in rare instances up to 48) hours to propagate. What does this mean and how does it affect you? Why does it take so long to process? What can you expect during the process?

Web propagation is the process of syncing information about your domain name with many servers across the world wide web. Once the nameserver is assigned (we take care of that step at We Have a Site), the Domain Name Server or DNS will update their DNS tables and information from a DNS zone file is applied. This is a large amount of data about the domain name, the location or address, and other relative fields of information which must be matched up. The address field in the DNS zone contains mapping information to route the domain to the new site and the DNS tables must be updated to contain this information. We are so used to computers being instantaneous, but the reality is, this takes time. While you may see your website's home page when you first navigate to it, someone in another part of the world may not see it right away - or vice versa.

propagation connectionsOnce these connections are made, your domain will start to propagate on the Internet. If you later transfer a domain name or change your nameservers in the future, you will have to go through this process again, but it is usually faster.

So why does this all have to take place? Computers do not recognize, but they see a string of numbers such as 22.333.44.555. This set of numbers is known as an IP address. Each site is assigned an IP address by a web hosting company and it is this IP address that browsers actually find.

While the site is propagating (that before-mentioned 24 hour period) you may see some odd issues such as pages not showing up. Email may show up at a different rate than web pages. It is an unavoidable part of the web-design process, but hopefully if you understand the "why", it will make it a smoother transition.