What is website propagation?
When a website is launched, it will go through a process of “propagating,” and this is what may prevent you from seeing it live immediately. Think of it in terms of a new apple tree. In an apple orchard, a farmer will graft a small young cutting of an apple tree onto a rootstock to create a new tree. In the online world of propagation, a brand new website is essentially grafted onto the large root ball we know as the internet. From there, things simply take some time to get established. This is a normal process. No one can control it or rush it. And thankfully for a website, propagation doesn’t take as long as an apple tree takes to grow!
How does website propagation work?
Every website works through a DNS (Domain Name System) which translates a numerical IP address into a domain name. This is essential since this allows you to use a simple website name (www.companyname.com) rather than a long line of gibberish. When someone searches for your website, behind the scenes a DNS server processes the IP number attached to the domain name and directs them to the right place on the internet.
Now, propagation has to take place with these DNS servers whenever your domain name is being launched for the first time or a change in domain name has been made. In either instance, every DNS server across the globe needs to update its records. Think of it as moving from one home to another and having to notify the post office of your change of address. It takes time for your new address to cycle through all the post offices (in this instance, the DNS servers) and be recorded. Again, the speed of the online world is much faster than apple trees and post office record systems, but it will still take some time to take hold.
How long does it take for a website to propagate?
Under normal circumstances, the projected length of time it takes for a website to propagate from one side of the world to the other is anywhere between 2 and 48 hours. However, even after the 48 hour period, there’s no 100% guarantee the process is complete. Your next door neighbor might be able to see your new site before you can. Actually, your sales associate on the other side of the world might see your website before you’re able to pull it up. It all hinges on the physical location of the launch and its path through the complex web of internet service providers across the globe.
Here’s the good news. Now that you know there’s some lag time before a new website or change in domain name is fully functional, you can plan accordingly. If you need your website live by a specific date, you’ll know just when to launch it (graft that cutting) so it has time to propagate (grow that tree). But maybe more importantly, you’ll simply know not to panic if you don’t see your site right away. Any farmer will tell you propagation, like most things, takes time and patience.