OpenDNS opens for business (and Steve Jobs' blog?)

Namaste. This is IT Blogwatch, in which a very boring -- yet utterly vital -- part of the Internet infrastructure gets a kick in the pants. Not to mention The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, Aged 51 1/2...

There's a new DNS sheriff in town, as Marshall Kirkpatrick explains:

OpenDNS is a new start up that wants users to redirect web traffic through its DNS nameservers, where an unusually large cache and an aggregated list of sites deemed guilty of phishing will make our web surfing faster and safer. It's free and as simple as changing your DNS address from your ISP and to OpenDNS ...

... The revenue model is advertising on search pages offered when a misspelling or otherwise unrecognizable URL is entered by users. The company says it will offer additional services on top of its enhanced DNS service as well - suspicious users would probably like to know what those will be before engaging with OpenDNS ...

... The service has already come under heavy criticism from bloggers who allege that it takes too much control away from end users, that it's susceptible to gaming by malicious parties and that its claim of superior speed is unrealistic. Some have also warned that centralizing DNS services would give too much power to one party.

Vash the Stampede fills in the blanks:

Every one of us uses DNS every time we connect to the internet, yet it's been decades since anyone has made any improvements to the end-user experience. In case you're scratching your head (or saying, "DNS? Isn't that the thing that happens when Internet Explorer can't connect?"), DNS is the system that, among other things, translates the addresses you type into your browser into the IP numbers that let your computer to connect to web (or e-mail, or IM, etc.) servers. So how can such a basic service be improved for the end-user? Direct your gaze toward OpenDNS, which adds some features to DNS that immediately make the lives of users easier.
Angsuman Chakraborty wonders if there's a business model:

OpenDNS is a startup which offers DNS service to any user accessing the internet. DNS is normally a hidden service. Yet OpenDNS carved out a business model which is very viable. But first how do you benefit as an user? OpenDNS aims to makes your internet experience safer, faster and smarter. In plain English it will warn you of phishing sites ... Also it will automatically correct small spelling mistakes and guide you to the proper site. In case where it is not sure about the site you want to go to it will present you will a list of alternatives. This is where it earns revenue. It will also add advertisements to these pages.

... OpenDNS will know all the sites you are visiting and your browsing patterns. It tracks which items you are clicking on the search results. How will they use this data? This data is a goldmine to advertisers and I am sure they will make a fortune by simply selling this data.

... My concerns are elsewhere. If OpenDNS is hacked, it will pretty much instantly disable internet access to all of their users (unless they change DNS manually). Worse, users may be directed to malware or phishing sites en masse. You cannot even trust your banking sites with proper url. The control you are giving to a single company is way too much in my humble opinion. Thanks, but no thanks.

Brit Paul Howard hopes it will improve his performance:

As anyone who uses BT as an ISP will know, their DNS servers are often slow and a bit unreliable. I have tried a few free DNS servers before but they get swamped as soon as they get popular and I end up switching back to BT's standard servers.

Today I found out about a company called OpenDNS ... who provide not only a free DNS service but tools that let you block phishing attempts and suggest sites when you mistype domain names.

Kitesurfer direwolff sees the value:

As I think about the value for OpenDNS providing this free service, I ask myself, "how valuable is it to know users clickstreams?". If we consider companies like ComScore and Nielsen who have made their living from providing statistically significant information about the traffic to web sites, then I'd have to guess the answer to my question is "a lot". While I don't know the details on OpenDNS' ability to identify users of its service, to the extent that they can even do this at a minimal level (ie. just know users by their clickstream not by any personally identifiable info), then they begin to enter the realm of behaviorial ad targeting companies too. Hmmm ... sounds like they could be at the intersection of some pretty significant business models with what seems to be a lil' harmless phishing blocker and spelling correcter.

Would love to read the business plan that justified the likely infrastructure that they have had to build to provide their service as this could be very telling of their plans.

Chris Pirillo loves it:

Open yourself to OpenDNS. They have configuration pages for your OS or hardware router. Both Scott Beale (LaughingSquid) and I have seen dramatic differences in speed since going through their DNS servers. Matt's happy about it, too.
Tom Raftery found it sped up his feed reader:

They claim to be much faster by enabling huge DNS caches (does this mean changes to a sites DNS settings will propagate more slowly?) and by having their caches "at the major intersections of the Internet" - so far U.S. only.

... The speed difference of using the OpenDNS servers isn';t especially obvious for anyone based in Ireland. Browsing to any of my regular sites is in fact, initially, a little slower then normal (most are not in their cache yet I suspect) but speeds up on second load. However, one place I did notice a definite speed bump was in my RSS reader ...

... Browsing websites might not seem much faster but my NetNewsWire RSS reader refreshed my >200 feeds in a fraction of the time it normally takes. Maybe this is how they should be promoting their service.

Buffer overflow:

    Around the Net

    Around Computerworld

And finally... The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, Aged 51 1/2

Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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