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There are other hostname-to-IP directory services in use, mainly for LANs. But because DNS is the directory service for the Internet (and can also be used for LANs) it is the most widely used.
UNIX LANs could always use DNS instead of NIS, and starting with Windows 2000 Server, Windows LANs could use DNS instead of, or in addition to, WINS.
DNS, of course, is the distributed, hierarchical naming system that allows us to map what would be IP addresses to much more humanly digestible addresses.
An authoritative name server is just what it sounds like: It is the original and conclusive source of DNS zone information for a particular domain.
A zone is merely a portion or set of administrative space.
As a service, DNS is critical to the operation of the Internet.
When you enterhost name and translates it to an IP address.
A telephone book allows you to look up an individual person by name and get their telephone number, their unique identifier on the telephone system's network.