Hostnames and Wildcards and DDEV, Oh My!

March 28, 2024 8 min read

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Hostname resolution with DDEV Create An illustration showing a simplified and stylized representation of the internet with various devices (computers, tablets, and smartphones) displaying local development websites, all connected by dotted lines to a central server labeled "DDEV". The server has a large, glowing globe above it, symbolizing global DNS, with several dotted lines branching off to represent the resolution of wildcard hostnames. The background is digital and abstract, suggesting connectivity and network infrastructure.

A very cool thing about DDEV is that most of the time you don’t have to worry about IP addresses, HTTPS, SSL, TLS, DNS, or name resolution in general and most of you will never have to. You don’t even have to understand the rest of this article to use DDEV.

Most of you will never need to understand anything in this article.

This article attempts to unwind what DDEV does for you in name resolution, and what to do when things require a bit more effort.

Name resolution for browsers and URLs

The first thing to understand is the structure of a URL used by your browser. A URL like is divided into three main parts, the protocol (usually HTTPS), the hostname (like, and the URI, (like /search?q=nothing). Every URL that your browser can visit has at least the protocol and the hostname. Sometimes the protocol is hidden implying the default HTTPS. The URI may be the default “front page”.

When your browser gets a URL, the browser has to parse the URL, turn the hostname into an IP address so it can find it on the internet, and then do a proper HTTP request including the URI. The key take-away for us is that it has to look up that hostname.

With a local development project in DDEV, we’ll usually see URLs like Everything is handled like that so that your local project will work with real URLs and real HTTPS, and essentially behave like a real site. In the past, local development environments often used URLs like `, which isn’t easy to look at and definitely doesn’t behave the same in the browser as a “real” URL.

DDEV’s ddev-router uses the hostname in the URL to determine which project will receive an HTTP request from your browser, which is why you can have so many different projects with different hostnames on one computer.

How DDEV hostnames get resolved

DDEV URLs have to have a hostname that a browser is able to resolve. How do we accomplish that? How can we get a URL like

When a browser tries to resolve it looks up the hostname That is usually a lookup in the Domain Name System (DNS). You don’t have to know about DNS to understand that. The browser asks the internet “What does resolve to, and the internet DNS system says “Oh, anything with has the IP address”. So the browser knows how to reach and connect to your local machine - that is what or localhost always stands for. This process is invisible to you, and works because the DDEV project maintains the DNS records for on the internet. You don’t have to know it and you don’t have to think about it.

What is and where does it come from?

Your domain as well as every subdomain, like and are all records in the Domain Name System, maintained by the DDEV project as long as you have a working internet connection. You don’t have to spare a thought about them. You can ping -c 1 and it will show that it is pinging

What happens when you don’t have an internet connection?

When no internet connection available, or the DNS name resolution is broken, as a fallback DDEV tries to add the hostname to your hosts file during startup (ddev start). This is /etc/hosts on a Linux or macOS based machine and C:\Windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts on a Windows based one. This is one of the very few times that DDEV will ever try to change the configuration of your local workstation. In general, the philosophy is never to do that. DDEV knows how to edit the hosts file properly and does it when you give it permission with your sudo password.

If you lose your internet connection after ddev start, then your browser is going to struggle because it doesn’t have a way to resolve the hostname. This can happen when you are, for example, working on a project and get on a plane. ddev restart will force the update of the hosts file, ddev hostname can do that directly, or you can manually edit the hosts file.

Why does my project use anyway?

You don’t have to use as your “top-level domain name” or TLD. You can use anything you want… but we can’t manage your DNS for you. For example, you can globally change your TLD to with ddev config global and DDEV will immediately start trying to use URLs like If you prefer to use a domain name that you manage in your own local network DNS or in a DNS zone that you manage, you can do that too.

What happens with wildcard hostnames?

DDEV supports wildcards in additional_hostnames in your .ddev/config.yaml. For example, this works great when you have internet and DNS working, because DDEV’s will return for any domain name you give it, including So if you use additional_hostnames: *.anything then will work fine, as will

However, wildcards don’t work in /etc/hosts so DDEV has no way to provide a resolvable set of hostnames when you don’t have an internet connection with working DNS entry available. As a result, you’ll need to use explicit hostnames in this situation. For example, use additional_hostnames: [a.anything,a.b.anything]

Can I stop using the regular DNS setup with

Of course. There are two easy ways:

  1. Turn off the use of DNS in your .ddev/config.yaml by adding use_dns_when_possible: false
  2. Use a different project_tld. If you are using for example project_tld: then DDEV will try to use <projectname> for your projects. Since that is not resolvable, DDEV will resort to using hosts file manipulation.

Can I use my own local-machine DNS?

Yes, you can set up a DNS provider on your own computer. blocky and dnsmasq are traditional choices. I don’t recommend this for most people, because it means you need to understand much more about networking and extra software than you would normally need to know. But if you do this, you can provide wildcard services that you’re in control of and that work even when your connection to the internet is broken.

Can I set up a domain name on my local network or company network?

Yes, this is exactly the same. Normally you would have every DDEV-related domain name return for the DNS name you’re supporting. However, some people use this technique to share DDEV sites inside a local network.

Can I set up my own domain in DNS like

Yes, if you have the ability to configure an internet DNS zone, you can set it up the same way is set up, resolving to and with a wildcard that resolves to

What happens on WSL2 and why do I have to take action on the Windows side?

On WSL2, when you don’t have internet, or your DNS is broken, or you’re using a hostname that can’t be looked up in DNS, DDEV has to request the hosts file change from the Windows side of things, because your browser is almost always running on Windows, so editing the hosts file on the Windows side is what has to happen. The way DDEV currently does this is requests a Windows version of ddev.exe to escalate and edit the hosts file. That’s why WSL2 installations also ask you to install Windows DDEV using choco install -y ddev.

No matter what, DDEV always wants to edit my hosts file (No DNS Rebinding)

There is one DNS server configuration that disallows looking up any hostname that resolves to It’s called preventing DNS Rebinding, and it happens most often to European users who have Fritzbox routers. The fix for this is covered in the DDEV Docs and it’s easy and will make your life much easier.

However, if you don’t have control over your router, there’s another easy fix, and that is to use a trusted DNS server outside your network. To do this, you would change your DNS server on your computer to for Cloudflare’s public DNS server, or for Google’s public DNS. Those will both do ordinary DNS resolution. There are lots of articles on the internet explaining how to change your computer’s DNS servers, here’s one of them. Unless you’re on a corporate network with private DNS, this is unlikely to cause you any trouble and may resolve other difficulties, like removing some advertisements.

How can I tell if name resolution is broken?

Try ping -c 1 If it doesn’t ping, it is broken. Please see the above for troubleshooting and resolution.

What about using additional_fqdns in DDEV configuration?

DDEV provides additional_hostnames, which works nicely most of the time, but there is also additional_fqdns. With a setting like additional_fqdns: [] a DDEV project will respond to, but DDEV will need to add to the hosts file for it to work. The docs explain how to use it and what the consequences are.

Be exceptionally careful with “masking” real sites this way. It can be really confusing to add for example additional_fqdns: [] to your configuration, because DDEV will then put into your hosts file and you’ll no longer be able to reach Google.

Keep in touch!

I’d love to hear your experience. Join us in Discord or open an issue or send an email if you have success (or failure 😀). We’re always trying to make DDEV better for you.

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