Domain Name Servers (DNS) are the Internet's equivalent of a phone book. They maintain a directory of domain names and translate them to Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. This is necessary because, although domain names are easy for people to remember, computers or machines, access websites based on IP addresses.
Information from all the domain name servers across the Internet are gathered together and housed at the Central Registry. Host companies and Internet Service Providers interact with the Central Registry on a regular schedule to get updated DNS information.
When you type in a web address, e.g., www.example.com, your Internet Service Provider views the DNS associated with the domain name, translates it into a machine friendly IP address (for example 126.96.36.199 is the IP for example.com) and directs your Internet connection to the correct website.
After you register a new domain name or when you update the DNS servers on your domain name, it usually takes about 12-36 hours for the domain name servers world-wide to be updated and able to access the information. This 36-hour period is referred to as propagation.