Julia Evans

New zine: How DNS Works!

Hello! On Thursday we released a new zine about one of my favourite computer systems: DNS!

You can get it for $12 here: https://wizardzines.com/zines/dns, or get an 11-pack of all my zines here.

Here’s the cover and table of contents:

why DNS?

I wanted to write about DNS for three reasons:

  1. DNS is everywhere! You basically can’t use the internet without using DNS — nobody is going to memorize all the IP addresses for every domain they use. You need to look them up with DNS!
  2. DNS has a really cool decentralized design! I love that it gives you control of your own little corner of the internet (it just costs ~$12/year to own a domain!), I love that the basic design is relatively straightforward, and I love that it’s worked basically the same way for 40 years and scaled relatively well over time
  3. DNS is very frustrating! I’ve run into some VERY weird DNS problems over the years, and it can feel magical and incomprehensible if you don’t know how it works. But once you learn how DNS works, these problems all become totally possible to understand.

And I’ve never seen a clear explanation of DNS that included all of the technical details I wanted to know, so I decided to write one.

a DNS playground!

I find the most fun way to learn is by experimenting and breaking things! So back in December, Marie and I built a playground where you can do weird DNS experiments with no consequences if you mess something up.

It’s called Mess With DNS. It has examples of experiments you can try, and you’ve very encouraged to come up with your own experiments.

There’s also a blog post from when we released it in December.

a simple DNS lookup tool

I also built a little DNS lookup tool at https://dns-lookup.jvns.ca to provide an easy way to do DNS queries without using the command line. Even though I love the command line I actually find myself using it all the time.

what we left out: DNS security

The main thing that isn’t in the zine is DNS security (DNS over HTTPS, DNS over TLS, DNSSEC). This is because the DNS security landscape still seems to be evolving, and I didn’t feel confident that we could write something that would still be true in 5-10 years.

I think I’ll try to write a blog post about DNS security at some point though.

identifying common points of confusion is amazing

I mentioned earlier that my friend Marie Claire LeBlanc Flanagan and I built Mess With DNS together in December. That was really fun, so Marie and I decided to work together on this zine too – we paired on it for about an hour every weekday for almost 4 months. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have finished the zine without her.

She was incredibly helpful with everything to do with the zine (editing! character design! marketing! rewriting the NS records page 5 times!), but one of the biggest things she improved for this zine was feedback.

Usually I only get feedback from maybe 10 beta readers, but this time we wanted to hear from more people and get better at identifying common points of confusion.

We did this by building a small custom feedback website where people could click on a page and leave feedback (“I have a question! This is confusing! I learned something! I have a suggestion! I love this!“).

Building a custom website let us organize the feedback way more easily and hear from more people – in the end we got ~1200 feedback items from ~60 people and all of the feedback made the zine a LOT better.

I might write a longer meta post about all of this later.

some blog posts leading up to this zine

I wrote a bunch of blog posts about DNS over the last year or so while thinking about this zine. Here they all are:

you can get a print copy shipped to you!

There’s always been the option to print the zines yourself on your home printer.

But this time there’s a new option too: you can get a print copy shipped to you! (just click on the “print version” link on this page)

The only caveat is that the international shipping costs are unreasonably high, so if you’re outside the US it probably doesn’t make sense to get just 1 zine shipped to you. I’m still trying to find a workaround for that. Orders of $60+ do include free international shipping though.

Here’s the link to get the zine again: https://wizardzines.com/zines/dns/

thank you

If you’ve bought zines in the past, thanks so much for all your support over the years. None of this would be possible without you.

A list of new(ish) command line tools Pages that didn't make it into "How DNS Works"