Google and OpenDNS try to speed up the internet

The Global Internet Speedup effort promises to make web pages load faster by giving content delivery networks more detailed information about users' locations

Google, OpenDNS and various content delivery networks have formed the Global Internet Speedup initiative, a project aimed at helping web pages load faster than before.

Announced on Tuesday, the scheme changes the way domain name system (DNS) requests are made. The DNS translates meaningful web addresses, or URLs, into computer-friendly IP addresses, and the new idea is to make that happen as close to the user as possible.

"Google is committed to making the internet faster — not just for our users, but for everyone," Google engineer Dave Presotto said in a statement. "We will do that any way we can, by improving protocols, browsers, client software and networks."

The Global Internet Speedup group, which includes content delivery networks (CDNs) such as Edgecast and CDNetworks, has come up with a new standard called 'edns-client-subnet', which has been proposed to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

The proposed standard adds a part of the user's IP address to the DNS requests the user's computer makes to OpenDNS or Google Public DNS servers, if they are using those companies' services. The added data is just enough to provide the approximate location of the user, and helps participating CDNs to direct the user to their nearest content server.

As this process happens now, the user is directed to the content server closest to their DNS server, rather than to their computer. If the user and the DNS server are far apart, this can mean relatively slow page load times.

Google, OpenDNS and the rest of the project's participants have all implemented the new system, which Google first mooted in January 2010 when it published a proposal to extend the DNS protocol.

"We're very excited to team with Google and the world's leading CDNs on such a significant improvement to the speed of the internet," OpenDNS chief executive David Ulevitch said in the statement. "The initiative we've partnered on is based on open standards that any other network can adopt, making this technology available to anyone."

Privacy concerns

According to the Global Internet Speedup website, privacy concerns have been taken into account. People trying to visit web pages make two requests: a DNS request and an HTTP request, which results in the content being loaded from a web server.

The initiative we've partnered on is based on open standards that any other network can adopt.

– David Ulevitch, OpenDNS

"HTTP requests already include the full and complete IP address of the requester and always have," an FAQ reads. "Now, with edns-client-subnet, a portion of the user IP address is included in the DNS response. This is information that was not previously included in the DNS requests."

The FAQ notes that, if the website in question runs its own DNS, it will already know the extra information being disclosed. If it uses a different provider for DNS services than for web services, that DNS provider would get extra information.

"It's not clear if this is a good idea and therefore recursive DNS providers [who fully answer DNS requests by querying third-party name servers if needed] are encouraged to only implement edns-client-subnet with services who provide combined DNS and HTTP so that no new third-party is introduced to even a portion of the user IP address," the FAQ reads.

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