What Makes a DNS Server Authoritative?


Angela Bailey

What Makes a DNS Server Authoritative?

DNS (Domain Name System) is a crucial component of the internet infrastructure that translates human-readable domain names into machine-readable IP addresses. When you type in a URL like www.example.com into your web browser, it relies on DNS to find the corresponding IP address of the server hosting that website.

Understanding DNS Servers

DNS servers play a vital role in the functioning of the DNS system. They are responsible for storing and managing DNS records, which contain information about domain names and their associated IP addresses. There are various types of DNS servers, including authoritative and recursive servers.

Authoritative vs. Recursive Servers

Authoritative servers are considered the primary source of truth for specific domains. They hold the authoritative DNS records for domains, providing answers to queries about those domains. These servers are responsible for storing essential information such as IP addresses, mail server addresses, and other DNS resource records.

On the other hand, recursive servers work as intermediaries between clients and authoritative servers. When a client makes a request for a domain name resolution, recursive servers query multiple authoritative servers to find the correct answer. They cache the responses they receive to improve future query response times.

Characteristics of Authoritative DNS Servers

1. Ownership: Authoritative DNS servers have control over their respective domain zones. The administrators of these servers have complete authority to manage and modify the zone’s DNS records.

2. Trustworthiness: Since authoritative servers hold accurate and up-to-date information about specific domains, they are considered reliable sources by recursive servers when resolving queries.

3. Speed: Authoritative DNS servers need to respond quickly to queries from recursive servers or clients directly. A fast response time ensures efficient domain name resolution and a seamless browsing experience for users.

How Authoritative Servers Work

When a recursive server receives a query for a domain name, it starts the resolution process by contacting an authoritative server responsible for that domain. The recursive server sends the query to the authoritative server, requesting DNS records related to the domain name.

The authoritative server looks up its DNS records and checks if it has the requested information. If it does, the server sends back a response containing the necessary data, such as the IP address associated with the domain name.

In case the authoritative server doesn’t have the requested information, it may refer the recursive server to another authoritative server with more relevant information or return an error indicating that no records were found.


Authoritative DNS servers are essential components of the DNS infrastructure. They hold accurate and up-to-date information about specific domains and provide reliable answers to queries from both recursive servers and clients directly. Understanding how authoritative servers work helps in comprehending how DNS resolution takes place and ensures efficient functioning of the internet as we know it today.

Remember: Next time you type in a URL, there’s an authoritative DNS server behind-the-scenes working diligently to bring you that website!

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