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Quick Tips Breaking It Down To The Bits: How The Internet, DNS, And HTTPS Work

Smashing Magazine is known for lengthy, comprehensive articles. But what about something different for a change? What about shorter, concise pieces with useful tips and bits that you could easily read over a short coffee break? As an experiment, this is one of the shorter “Quick Tips”-kind-of articles — shorter posts prepared and edited by our editorial team. What do you think? Let us know in the comments! —Ed.

The Internet is the foundation of our craft. But what do we actually know about its underlying technology? How do DNS, networks and HTTPS work? What happens in the browser when we type a URL in the address bar?

As web professionals, we all should have at least a basic knowledge of the building blocks that make up the web. The following resources are a good place to start your journey into the — not-so-dark — matter of networks and protocols:

If we want to build high performance applications, we have to understand how the individual bits are delivered.
If we want to build high performance applications, we have to understand how the individual bits are delivered. Image credit: Web Hosting Geeks1.
  • What happens behind the scenes when a user requests a website? If you always wanted to understand, but haven’t gotten around to yet, Web Hosting Geeks provides a comprehensive overview over the DNS2 (Domain Name System), the cornerstone for how we use the Internet.
  • Ilya Grigorik’s book High Performance Browser Networking3 is your gateway to the network. Its guiding principle: it’s essential to know how the individual bits are delivered in order to build high performance applications. To help developers get on track, the book dissects how the HTTP protocol works and investigates new networking capabilities in the browser — HTTP/2 improvements included. You can read the book online, for free.
  • Speaking of HTTPS, mixed content is often a problem. The HTTPS-Only Standard by U.S. Standards explains why browsers block mixed content and what you can do to improve your migration strategy4 and detect mixed content on your site. Mixed Content Scan5 can help you find issues on your site, and you can use report-uri.io6 to set up an endpoint7 that would be pinged once a mixed content issues is discovered — and reported to you automatically.

As web designers and developers, we invest a lot of time in staying on top of the latest techniques. Nevertheless, we should also remember to focus on the more general aspects of the web every once in a while. Once we have a working knowledge of the technology that keeps the Internet together, we can see our design decisions in a broader context, and, thus, build better products.

(cm, vf)

Footnotes Link

  1. 1 https://webhostinggeeks.com/guides/dns/
  2. 2 https://webhostinggeeks.com/guides/dns/
  3. 3 http://chimera.labs.oreilly.com/books/1230000000545/index.html
  4. 4 https://https.cio.gov/mixed-content/
  5. 5 https://github.com/bramus/mixed-content-scan
  6. 6 https://report-uri.io/
  7. 7 https://scotthelme.co.uk/fixing-mixed-content-with-csp/
SmashingConf Barcelona 2016

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  1. 1

    Love the idea of some more concise articles. As a front-end developer I like to take small, 5 minute breaks from my work and read up on some web dev, and this is exactly what I’m looking for!

    11
  2. 2

    I feel like this “Quick Tip” is actually “Go read these long articles/book”. I think this quick tip could be 3 quick tips that distill each of these items into short 5 minute reads pretty easy.

    57
  3. 3

    Agree with Justin. Didn’t learn a thing about: QUICK TIPS
    Breaking It Down To The Bits: How The Internet, DNS, And HTTPS Work.

    2
  4. 4

    Quick Tips is great! Can include graphics for pleasant reading…
    Adding to many links can distract the readers as it redirects them to move from this quick tip to those links. I also feel the content should be more friendly, easy to read, catchy, humorous under Quick Tips.

    0
  5. 5

    Would really love to see Quick Tips, but Justin is right, these are more “Quick Links”. Go and extract the essential bits in a short read for your readers, this would be awesome ;)

    7
  6. 6

    I love the idea of adding a second, shorter format. Reminds me of what A List Apart is doing with Articles (longer) vs. Columns (shorter).

    0
  7. 7

    Love the idea, but this article didn’t talk about the subject at all. 6 links to other websites is not a quick article I can read on the bus. I was hoping this would be a consise and informative article I could link for my non techy friends too since very few people actually know how this stuff works. I know I wasn’t taught it even 15 years ago and what I do know is from piecing it together as needed on the job.

    2
  8. 8

    It’s an awesome idea! Cool!

    0
  9. 9

    Good idea, but if the above is the first attempt then it fails. As others have pointed out, it’s just a bunch of links to longer articles elsewhere.

    Ideally the content should be hosted on Smashing Magazine and should just be shorter and more concise.

    1
  10. 10

    Marc Jay Bernovski

    February 5, 2016 10:09 am

    Yeah, this feels more like a cop out “hey, we need to publish something but have insufficient time”, lets do a linkdump and rehash some resources published in 2015 already.

    Not the usual standard luckily :-)

    2
  11. 11

    I agree with the others above.
    I expected a short article not a bunch of links with a longer explanation of the content.

    2
  12. 12

    I agree with Justin too. If you could put a resume of those link and only after that the link for a detalied reading it would be great. This is a nice idea but from this quick tips i don’t actually have learned anything.

    1
  13. 13

    Jonas Sandstedt

    February 6, 2016 12:16 pm

    Would be great with a 5min article that actually explained some larger topic. It will take a lot of work to write, and probable needs some info graphics in this case. But it would be great!

    1
  14. 14

    Is it just me, or is the article on DNS really… not good? Lot’s of bits like the following: “Meanwhile, IXFR highlighted the way data was to be communicated through records, notifying hundreds of changes instead of just the primary. It changed the system of sending central messages, as now, with each specific change, changes were enabled to be sent, rather than sending out multiple messages at a time.”

    No offense to the author, but it could really use some proofreading for clarity and context.

    0

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