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Glossary Of Common Domain And DNS Terms

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301 Redirect 
This is a HTTP response code. For URL forwarding, it indicates a permanent move of the URL as it's shown in search engine results. The optimal redirect for when you've moved your website to a new domain or perhaps you've merged two websites or have used multiple domains/URL's.

A Record
Maps hostnames to the IP address of the host. For example, the A record for points the IP address

AAAA Record
A records are used for IPv4 addresses. An AAAA record [or quad A record] ties a domain name to an IPv6 address in the same manner. See IPv4 / IPv6

Administrative Contact
The administrative contact is the primary contact for the domain for receiving notices of renewal. The registrant contact is the only contact to receive either WDRP or WAP notices. Typically, the admin contact is the contact who's managing the domain for the registrant.

Alias CNAME Record
See CNAME Record

It's provides the ability to create the root name [Apex record] as a Cname, which then becomes an Aname. Cnames have a limitation preventing the rootname from being created, so Anames work around that to allow the record creation.

Anycast DNS
Anycast is the fastest responding nameserver for any given request. These servers will reply back with the information when a query is made for your domain. This dramatically speeds up response time. ZoneEdit does not employ Anycast DNS but it's parent company, easyDNS, does offer Anycast.

ARIN - American Registry for Internet Numbers - manages the distribution of internet number resources as in IPv4 and IPv6. They are the regional internet registry for the United States, Canada, many Caribbean countries and north Atlantic islands. Their website is

Acronym for American Standard Code for Information Interchange. These are the common characters from the Latin based languages - A-Z alphabet, numbers (0-9) and hyphens (-) characters.

Non-ASCII would relate to characters that are from [but not exclusive to] alphabets in Arabic, Hebrew, French, Cyrillic, and Chinese. For example characters  é, ë, ê, è, â, à,æ, ô,œ, ù, û, ü, ç, î, ï, ù, û, ü, ÿ.

Authoritative Nameserver
Any of the nameservers that a domain name has been pointed to by the domain registrar. With ZoneEdit, you can set your domain's authoritative nameservers by selecting the 'nameservers' link to the right of the domain or via the Whois link if we are the registrar.

AXFR - Authoritative Zone Transfer - is an asynchronous transfer of the entire zonefile from the master nameserver to secondary nameservers.

BIND - Berkeley Internet Name Daemon - is the most common DNS software on the Internet and what ZoneEdit uses.

The last results from looking to the authoritative servers for a given domain. This stored information is used so that nameservers can respond more quickly to requests.

CIDR - Classless Internet Domain Routing - is a notation used for specifying a range of IP addresses. This involves the IP address followed by a slash and a number indicating the size of the block. The number used indicates the proportion of the last section of the address used for the block. The larger the number the smaller the block, so a block like represents a block of 256 host addresses which would all begin with 23.17.42, while a /27 includes 32 addresses, and a /32 is one specific host address.

CNAME Record
CNAME -Canonical Name Record - records point one name to another. CNAMEs are sometimes referred to as an alias.

ccTLD (Country Code Top Level Domain)
These include country codes like .CA, .UK, .IN, .AM, .EU, .TV, .CO, .ST domains. Every country is assigned a ccTLD by ICANN and there can be restrictions for purchasing these domains. For example, presence requirements are often manditory to obtain that country's ccTLD.

CSR - Certificate Signing Request - is a text file generated by a Web server which contains the following: 1. Information about your organisation (organisation name, country, etc.). 2. Your Web or WAP Server's public key. The certificate issuer [eg RapidSSL, GeoTrust, Symantec, etc] will use the Certificate Signing Request to generate your signed digital certificate.

Cybersquatting or domain squatting is basically registering a domain with the intent on selling it to the 'rightful' owner - via brand or trademark interests. The initial registrant recognises the opportunity to sell the domain at an inflated price to the person or company who should own the domain [trademarked].

The process of assigned responsibility of a zone file to nameservers. This is done via NS records which are called delegation records. See glue records.

DKIM - Domain Keys Identified Mail - is a protocol for signing and verifying the authenticity of an e-mail's sender. It does not provide any encryption for e-mails themselves, nor does it provide any actual control over whether mail is received or not, unlike SPF. Mail is always received and accepted, regardless of whether it is correctly signed. The main value of it is for senders with large mailing lists who wish to avoid being throttled by large systems such as Yahoo, Hotmail or Google, all of whom support DKIM. Please see TXT record.

DNS is an acronym for Domain Name System or Domain Name Server. DNS service is, in essence, the central directory for the internet, which directs traffic to the appropriate servers for the different functions of a domain. If someone is trying to access your webpage or send you e-mail, their computer first looks to the DNS to find out what servers are responsible for those functions of your domain.

DNS Caching
DNS caching is the length of a time that a DNS server will retain existing DNS records before checking for updates. The length of time that records are cached is usually determined by the TTL (see definition below) set by the authoritative nameserver, but some Internet Service Providers may have their DNS servers set to cache records for a longer period of time. This delay in updating DNS cache is commonly called DNS propagation.

DNS Propagation
This term is generally used to describe the time taken for the cache of nameservers to be updated after changes are made to a domain name's authoritative nameservers. For example, after changing your domain's nameservers, the TLD nameserver may still direct queries to the old authoritative nameservers until it's cache has expired. DNS propagation is also used sometimes to describe the time taken for Internet Service Providers to update their own local DNS caches, since some Internet Service Providers do not always update their local cache based on the TTL of authoritative nameservers.

DNSSEC - Domain Name System Security Extensions - is a means of securing the authenticity of the DNS response. Since DNS lacks security, and with the prevelance of cache poisoning for phishing, DNSSEC is a way to authenticate the DNS response.

Domain Hijacking
Domain hijacking is domain theft. This is when a domain's registration is stolen from the proper registrant and likely transferred to another registrar making it very difficult for them to gain access back to the domain. This is why it's important to make sure your domain is locked and you keep your access credentials up to date and private. See Registry Lock

Domain Name Resolvers
Across the internet, there are thousands of servers strategically located amongst ISPs that routinely cache information from the rootservers. They respond to queries to resolve a domain name.

Domain Slamming
This is a scam employed by duplicitous domain registrars by sending out false renewal notices to another registrar's customer base. The hope is that the customer will make payment on this and unintentionally start an authorised registrar transfer. Fortunately, registrar locks and transfer codes often prevent this going much further than the payment.

Domain Tasting
The practice of registering a domain under the initial 5-day grace period - domains can be cancelled and fully refunded. This can lead to front running via Whois lookups. Someone will run a Whois lookup via a registrar and that registrar will go ahead and register the domain in hopes of selling it at an inflated price.

DoS / DDoS
DoS - Denial-of-Service - is an attack against a network to cause disruption or unavailability for the website/domains. A DDoS - Distributed Denial-of-Service - is a coordinated attack from multiple sources causing an overwhelming amount of traffic for a network to handle. DoS / DDoS typically target high profile websites.

Dynamic DNS
A method of updating a static hostname which is pointed to a dynamic IP address automatically. This is done with software or programmed commonly in a router.

EPP stands for Extensible Provisioning Protocol. A protocol that provides communication between registries and registrars. This has created uniformity amongst the domain industry. This protocol is now used by a vast number of ccTLDs. The EPP transfer code/key is used for transferring a domain between registrars.

EPP Code / Auth code
EPP [Extensible Provisioning Protocol] code or key is an essential requirement to transfer a domain between registrars. This is now mandatory for .COM, .NET, .ORG, .BIZ, .INFO and many ccTLD [Country level] domains. The EPP code [or Auth code] is obtained through your current registrar and provided to the gaining registry during the transfer process.

Failover DNS / Host Monitoring
These are services ZoneEdit provides to monitor your domain name [or provided hostname] where we check for a positive response from the destination IP [HTTP, HTTPs, FTP, Ping, SMTP, SSH]. If a failure is detected, we will notify you via e-mail. For Failover, you provide us with a backup IP address so we can revert the hostname for further DNS queries.

FQDN - Fully Qualified Domain Name - is the full hostname that directs to a server [web, e-mail, etc]. It must consist of a host and domain name. For example, is a fully qualified domain name - www is the host, zoneedit is the second-level domain and the .com part of the top level domain (TLD).

FTP - file transfer protocol - is used to transfers files between computers/servers on the internet.

General Availability
For the new gTLDs, after all the pre-registration periods, the domain is now available to everyone (with the exception of special presence requirements) on a first come first served basis.

Geolocation is the identification of the real-world geographic location of an Internet-connected computer, mobile device, website visitor etc. IP address geolocation data can include information such as country, region, city, postal/zip code, latitude, longitude and timezone. Geolocation may refer to the practice of assessing the location, or to the actual assessed location, or to locational data.

Glue Records
A glue record will assign an IP address to a specific domain name or subdomain at that domain name's respective registry. A .COM domain name glue record would be created at the registry Verisign while a .CA domain name glue record would be created at CIRA. The most common use of a glue record is for domain name holders that would like to run their own DNS servers (nameservers) based on host records on their own domain names (i.e.

Glue record host names must also be added to the nameserver list for all foreign registries. This must be done if you want to delegate a .CA nameserver to a .COM domain name for example.

Greylisting (or graylisting) is a an anti-spam measure. A server with greylisting enabled will temporarily reject any e-mail from a sender it does not recognize. This is done with a 451 temporary error, requesting the server to try again. Spam servers operate in large batches and will rarely retry an IP that has rejected it, whereas legitimate servers will, and the message will be accepted on the next attempt.

gTLD (Generic Top Level Domain) [also knows as nTLD New Top Level Domain]
Outside of the core group of gTLDs like .COM and .NET, there is now a new expansion of a 1000+ domain extensions. These cover a wide range of themes and uses from buzzwords, industries, brands and geo-locations. Some examples are .GURU, .NYC, .UNIVERSITY, .ROCKS, .ADULT, .FINANCIAL, .EMAIL, .LINK, .DENTIST, .PRESS, .CLUB, .BERLIN, etc.

A section of an e-mail detailing the path the e-mail took from sender to recipient, including servers, the time the servers were reached, and any messages they returned when dealing with the e-mail.

A host is any system connected to a network and assigned a unique IP address and/or name. The name, for example, is a host with the IP address of and the host name Mail hosts, webhosts and so forth are all specific types of hosts.

Hosts File
The hosts file is a text file in your computer's operating system that you can use to override external DNS records. It is similar to a zone file, but it is local to your computer system. You can edit your hosts file to force your computer to use a specific IP address for a domain name. Editing your hosts file should be done with extreme caution. If you change your hosts file to point at, for example, then your computer will ALWAYS use for This will prevent you from being able to load a website if the server IP address changes in the future, until you remove or edit the entry in the hosts file.

Please see Proactive Nameservers below.

HTML - Hypertext Markup Language - is the programming language of the World Wide Web and HTML software turns a document into a hyperlinked web page.

HTTP - Hypertext Transfer Protocol - is a protocol used to transmit data like webpage components over the internet. When you're going to a website, your browser will send a request to the webserver and that server will respond back with an HTTP status code. Codes can include 200 which means a success request, 301 which means moved permanently, 401 is for an unauthorised request, 403 means forbidden access and 500 indicates an internal server error likely caused by a misconfigured server/file.

IANA - Internet Assigned Numbers Authority - are the authority originally responsible for the governing of IP address allocation, the management of DNS and the oversight of the root name server system amongst other things.

ICANN - The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers - is an international non-profit corporation that is responsible for Internet Protocol (IP) address space allocation, protocol identifier assignment, generic (gTLD) and country code (ccTLD) Top-Level Domain name system management, and root server system management functions.

IDN - Internationalised Domain Names - are domains that contain character sets outside of the standard ASCII format, normally reflecting the registrant's local language such as Arabic, French, Cyrillic, Greek, Chinese and Korean. An example of an IDN is: é (in punycode:

IMAP - Internet Message Access Protocol - is the two way e-mail management preferred by users with multiple devices (mobile smartphone, laptop, tablet, etc). If you are viewing your e-mail via your mobile phone, then it will show as viewed on any other device you check your mail through. All e-mail management is synchronised cutting down time if you happen to check e-mail from multiple devices. IMAP normally uses port 143 and 993 over SSL.

Intellectual Property 
Domains are considered the intellectual property of the listed registrant. According to WIPO, 'Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.'. Further to that, intellectual property is protected by law. IP can also include patents, trademarks and copyrights.

IP Address
IP address - Internet Protocol Address - is a numerical address assigned to computers and servers on the Internet. It's like a civic address for a computer. Computers need to have an IP address in order to find and communicate with each other over the Internet. There currently are two popular versions of Internet Protocol, IPv4 and the newer, IPv6.

IPv4 / IPv6
There currently are two popular versions of Internet Protocol, IPv4 and the newer, IPv6. IPv4 was developed back in the 1980s and has a limited capacity of IP addresses, around 4 billion. [ is an example of IPv4]. The most recently deployed IPv6 has an impressive 340 undecillion [1036] addresses. IPv6 allows for 128-bit address space and 2001:1838:f001::10 is an example of IPv6.

ISP - Internet Service Provider - is a company that provide internet access to individuals and businesses.

IXFR - Incremental Zone Transfer - is a zone transfer request of a given zone but only the differences from the previous serial number. 

Landrush Period
Landrush period is not mandatory for new gTLDs. Landrush is often open to anyone to submit their application prior to General Availablity at a premium fee. This is the phase when the most sought after domains will be secured. The registry will often block off some premium domains and put special terms and higher price on them for registration.

MailForward allows you to forward email with a number of powerful options to manage forwards.
MailForward sets up hidden “MX” records pointing to our email servers. When we receive email for one of your addresses, our server forwards the email to the specified addresses. MailForward is included free with Managed DNS.

MX Record
The MX - Mail Exchange Record - record specifies where e-mail should be delivered. For example, easyDNS' MX record is An MX record also contains a numeric priority. The lower the priority number, the higher the priority (yes, it sounds a little backwards). Some mail systems have different MX records for different inbound servers. If the first server is busy, the e-mail gets routed to the next available server.

Nameservers, or DNS servers, are the computer systems that use the Domain Name System to translate hostnames into IP addresses that can be used by computers to communicate with each other over a network or the Internet. The fully qualified domain name,, is not recognizable to a computer system until it queries the nameserver and finds out that the IP address for is Computers locate each other using numbers, while human beings are better at processing and understanding language. Domain names registered with ZoneEdit are pointed to our nameservers by default (i.e., ZoneEdit's nameservers are Unicast.

NAPTR Record
NAPTR - Name Authority Pointer Records - are often used for internet telephony such as voice or video calls [SIP Session Initiation Protocol].

NS Records
NS records are used to delegate a subdomain to another set of nameservers outside of what the root domain is using. For example, is delegated to ZoneEdit's nameservers and to have be handled by another set of nameservers, an NS record would be set up for pointing to the 3rd party nameservers.

nTLD (New Top Level Domain)
See gTLD above

Park Page / Parked / WebPark
WebPark allows you to park your domains with ZoneEdit and display either an “under construction” or “domain for sale” page. Included is the ability to set the page title, add text, and add meta information for search engines. WebPark is included free with Managed DNS. 

Phishing attacks are a technique used to steal consumer's personal identity data and banking information. Often engineered using a spoofed e-mail address leading consumers to counterfeit websites - which then request information like banking, passwords and other critical information for a person's identity. Another technique is to plant crimeware onto personal computers via Trojans to steal credentials.

POP - Post Office Protocol - is a one way ticket. You connect to your provider's server in a one time pop and download a copy of your e-mail before disconnecting. With a POP set up, you can't be managing your e-mail via multiple devices (mobile smartphone, laptop, tablet, etc). There is no two way synchronisation between the provider and your device like IMAP. You have to delete or file the same e-mail on every device. POP normally uses port 110. The default port for SSL enabled POP is port 995.

Port Numbers
Besides the IP of the server itself, any given function of the server will also have an associated port number specifying which port to connect to. HTTP connections are made through port 80, SMTP through port 25, and so on. Every type of service has its own standard port number. The standard list of what ports are used for what protocols is maintained by the Internet Assigned Names Authority (IANA).

Proactive Nameservers
Proactive Nameservers is an easyDNS patent-pending system that optimises the nameserver delegation for your mission critical domain names. It defines a backup or spare nameservers and populates your domain's zone data on them. These servers are monitored and in sync with the primary nameserver. If it finds that the current nameservers are unhealty, degraded or non-responsive, it automatically switches over the nameserver delegation to backup or spare nameservers. When your main nameservers are back in business it will switch it back. Also called HotDNS / Hot Swapple Failover DNS. Click here for more information and an instructional video.

The process by which changes to a domains DNS settings are picked up through the internet. This is determined by the domain's SOA record and the variables for each zone. If the domain's TTL is set to 3 hours, then you should allow up to 3 hours for DNS changes to fully propagate.

PTR Record
PTR records - Pointer Record aka Reverse DNS Record - are the opposite of A records; rather than pointing the name to the IP, they point the IP to the domain or hostname.

Redemption Grace Period
Redemption Grace Period (RGP) occurs when a domain has either surpassed the registrar grace expiry period or has been deleted. Redemption is typically a 30 day period when the registrar can redeem the domain on behalf of the registrant. Registrant requestors will be required to provide identity. The domain will not function during Redemption period. Redemptions of domains are subject to a service charge.

The owner of the domain name.

The organisation who manages the domain reservation for the registrant. Domain management for the Whois record and nameserver delegation is done through the registrar. easyDNS is the accredited registrar and ZoneEdit is the reseller.

The organisation that manages the TLD/gTLD or ccTLD domain extensions - they employ registrars or resellers to handle the retail administration of the domain management.

Registry Lock
Registry Lock is a service that provides and extra layer of security for your domain. There are certainly higher risk domains that can have attempts of hijacking and registry lock helps prevent this. The domain is locked at the registry level - it can't be deleted, transferred or have any domain name information changed. In order to change any of this information would require a series of processes to take place from the proper authorised contact for that domain name.

Reverse DNS
Reverse DNS is a means of checking that a computer/server claiming to be a specific server isn't actually faking it. When people send out spam, viruses, and so on, they don't tend to use their real names and e-mails. To cut down on the amount of spam that comes in, many mail servers use reverse DNS to confirm that the server trying to deliver mail to them is genuine. A reverse zone is a zone whose purpose is the mapping of IP addresses to names. Nearly all reverse zones are descended from the IN-ADDR.ARPA zone.

Root Servers
These are the authoritative servers of the DNS root zone - it is a network of hundreds of servers all across the globe. They are configured into 13 named server authorities.

Secondary DNS
Assigning a second delegation of nameservers that slave off of the primary nameserver for that zonefile to create redundancy over two DNS systems.

SEO - Search Engine Optimisation - is how your webpage appears in search engine results. It's ranking in the results of a specific lookup of a name/word/expression/etc.. The higher a site is ranked, the likelihood of more visitors. It is an important marketing component to get properly indexed with keywords and search terms.

SOA Record
SOA Record - Start of Authority Record - is the first record in every zone file that contains the serial number and how nameservers get the zonefile information. SOA record includes Refresh, Retry, Expire and TTL.

SMTP - Simple Mail Transfer Protocol - is the protocol for sending e-mail messages between servers. This is by far the most common method e-mail providers use to send mail. The method of receiving e-mail is done either by POP or IMAP. SMTP is normally implemented through port 25, yet there are other non-standard ports that can be utilised.

Spam / UBE
Spam, or junk e-mail or unsolicited bulk e-mail [UBE], is unsolicited bulk commercial e-mail, basically advertisements sent over e-mail to extremely large numbers of people at once. Also used sometimed in reference to other intrusive forms of online advertising, eg. usenet spam or comments spamming on online journals.

SPF Record
SPF - Sender Policy Framework - is an anti-spam measure that attempts to block messages that come from senders pretending to be someone else (called spoofing). SPF records are entered as a TXT record in your domain's zonefile.

SPOF - Single Point of Failure - is when a domain is relying on a single provider or network to handle all of the DNS. This can be especially troubling when a domain is high traffic and critical to have 100% uptime. This is why easyDNS has integrations with Amazon's Route53, CIRA's D-Zone, Linode and Digital Ocean so we can team with these systems to insure your domain is always up. ZoneEdit plans to offer this in the near future.

The practice of falsifying e-mail headers to disguise the origin of an e-mail for the purpose of spamming.

SRV Record
A SRV record - Service Record - is a general record that can be used in a generic fashion rather than creating protocol-specific records such as MX.

SSL Certificates
SSL certificates - Secure Socket Layer - provide security by encrypting the data between the web browser and the web server. This is especially important to e-commerce websites and websites requiring sensitive data. Having a SSL certificate will provide confidence to web users that they are dealing with a secure website. SSL Certificates are verified by the issuer via Domain Validated [DV], Organisation Validated [OV] and Extended Validated [EV].

Sunrise Period
Sunrise is a pre-registration period that is mandatory for all new gTLD launches. This is a limited period where parties interested can submit an application to register as they are holders of a validated trademark record from Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH). There may be extra requirements but this can be different from registry to registry.

Thick Registry
This is the information provided in a Whois output for a domain name. Similar to a Thin Registry which displays the registrar, status of registration, registration and expiry dates, the Thick Registry will include a broader set of information. These include contact information for the registrant along with the administrative and technical contacts. An example of Thick Registy's is .BIZ, .INFO, .ORG, .PRO, .ASIA, .COOP. Thick Registry most often includes EPP extensions.

Thin Registry
This pertains to the Whois output for a domain name. A Thin Whois output includes only a minimum amount of registration information - this identifies the registrar, the status of the registration, the registration date and the expiry date. This will likely also include the namservers currently delegated to the domain. An example of Thin Registry is .COM and .NET.

The TTL - Time To Live - defines the time a server should hold onto the DNS information for a particular record before checking to see if there's been an update. This information is measured in seconds and is usually lowered before a change in DNS. However, lowering this value can cause a significant increase in bandwidth costs so the TTL for a static page should be kept higher. ZoneEdit nameservers have a minimum TTL allowance of 5 minutes. This means that other DNS servers are instructed not to query our nameserver more frequently than every 5 minutes for new DNS updates. Typically a static zonefile would really just require a 3 or 6 hour TTL setting.

TLD (Top Level Domain)
These would include the popular .COM, .NET and .ORG domain extensions. See also ccTLD and gTLD.

TMCH - Trademark Clearinghouse - is a centralised global database of verified trademarks that are used in the launch of the new gTLDs. Once your trademark[s] are registered in the TMCH, then you'll be able to take part in the Sunrise period launches of new gTLDs.

TXT Record
TXT Record - Text Record - is a free form field that allows any text to be entered of up to 255 characters. Mostly used for verification such as SPF and DKIM records.

UDRP - Uniform Domain-Name Dispute Resolution Policy - is an ICANN policy for the resolution of disputes regarding the registration of a domain name. This procedure has three components: the domain is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark, the registrant doesn't have any rights or legitimate interests in the domain, and the domain is registered and being used in 'bad faith'.

Unicast Nameservers
Nameservers with a single network destination. Unicast nameservers are not as reliable and fast as Anycast nameservers.

URL - Uniform Resource Locator - is a reference/address on the internet. There are two components: protocol identifier [HTTP for example] and resource name [].

WAP - Whois Accuracy Program - is an ICANN based registration verification program that will require the listed registrant contact to verify their first name, last name and e-mail address. Changes to the domain can trigger this 15 day verification program - the changes are updating registrant information, transferring the domain and registering the domain. If the registrant does not act swiftly and the 15 days pass, then the domain will have it's DNS suspended until verification is accomplished.

WDRP - Whois Data Reminder Policy - is a annual reminder to domain registrants that providing false information in the Whois record can be grounds for cancellation of their domain name registration. Corrections must be made to avoid further action. If the registrant's e-mail address bounces back indicating it is false/inoperable, then this will trigger the WAP process.

WebForward or URL Forwarding
WebForward allows you to forward web addresses to the URL of your choosing. WebForward sets up hidden “A” records pointing to our servers. When we receive a request for an address set up with WebForward, we forward the visitor to the specified URL. WebForward is included free with Managed DNS.

Whois - “Who is?” - is a utility used to look up information on domain names. This includes contact information as well as some technical information such as the domain’s nameservers used for DNS service. Whois also includes status information such as if the domain is locked, when it was registered and when the domain next expires.. To see if a domain is available through a Whois search please click here.

WIPO - World Intellectual Property Organisation - is part of the United Nations. They are an intergovernmental organisation based in Geneva Switzerland tasked with the responsibility for the promotion of the protection of intellectual rights worldwide.

XMPP - Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol formerly named Jabber - is an open, XML-based protocol originally aimed at near-real-time, extensible instant messaging (IM) and presence information.

Zone File
The concept of a 'zone' within DNS is somewhat broad but for the purposes of most users, the best definition would be "the range of hosts and systems defined by and responsible for the domain name referred to." It helps to understand that a 'zone file' is the basic DNS blueprint that defines the servers responsible (for example) for e-mail, web and any other services based off that domain name. So for the zone '' the zone file will include such information as our webserver, our mail server, and any other subdomains that we have created. 

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