OpenDNS – trying to improve your surfing experience

A recent ArsTechnica article provides more details and insight into the OpenDNS project which we have recently mentioned here.  Jeremy starts the article by noting that DNS isn’t something he (nor most other surfers) even thinks much about.

Thus, the announcement of a new, free DNS replacement service took me somewhat by surprise. Why would I want to change my DNS provider? What would I gain by doing such a thing? And more importantly, what was the catch?

According to David Ulevitch, founder of OpenDNS, the experience he gained starting and running EveryDNS (a free DNS service for web site hosts) taught him a lesson about the state of DNS services in general and the increasing problem of spam, phishing scams, and botnets. He noticed that nefarious groups were using EveryDNS as a vector to perpetuate these sorts of attacks. He added code to EveryDNS that would search for and deny these attempts, and shared information about the perpetrators with other DNS services. While he noticed the attacks no longer targeted his system, they simply moved elsewhere to find easier targets.

His idea was to attack the problem from the other end. Instead of trying to fix every web hosting DNS service, he thought about providing a DNS service for end users.

. . .

To attract people to this new service, Ulevitch promises that it will speed up DNS resolution, making for a faster web browsing experience. If that wasn’t enough, the service is designed to catch common typos, delivering the URL you want rather than the one you typed, and putting an end to sites that try and deceive users by typo-squatting.

So how well does it work? The answer depends very much on your current service provider. I’ve never had to spend much time waiting for DNS resolution, mostly because my provider, Shaw, keeps a very large cache of DNS addresses on a high-speed server. However, this can have its drawbacks when sites shift IPs too often and the cache isn’t updated quickly enough.

So, is OpenDNS something worth using?  Well, Chris Pirillo seems to think so.  Jeremy, the author of the above-quoted ArsTechnica article has this to say:

Is the site useful or not? With phishing filters coming in IE 7 and Firefox 2.0, it may be a solution looking for a problem. Still, it’s nice to have a backup option in case your ISP’s DNS services flare out temporarily. The one really nice thing about the service is that it requires no software installation (merely setting your DNS settings for your network connection) and if you decide you don’t like it, it’s trivial to change back to your ISP’s DNS service. Having a no-hassle “opt-out” clause is definitely a good thing to have with any new service you wish to try out.

[tags]OpenDNS, Faster surfing[/tags]