November 19, 2007
OpenDNS ftw

Recently I'd been having trouble with resolving sites via ATT's DNS servers.

For those that don't understand that, let me try to explain. The interent operates based on what are called IP numbers or Internet Protocol numbers. Every computer on the internet needs an IP address to be found and find other computers. Think of it as a phone number.

For example, the IP address of Google is Go ahead, click it, you'll end up at Google.

To make the internet more understandable to humans, we use domain names. But computers don't use the domain names, they want to use the IP numbers. To translate a domain name into an IP address, you ask a Domain Name Server, commonly called a DNS server. The DNS server translates the domain name into an IP address so your computer can talk to it, kind of like a phone book that you look up a name to find a phone number.

It gets a bit complicated with things called Root Servers. The Root Servers kind of act like a master directory telling you which local DNS server has the info about the domain you are trying to reach.

The conversation goes some thing like this:

You: Computer,, please...
Your computer: ISP DNS Server, who do I talk to about
ISP DNS Server: I don't know that, talk to the DNS Root Server, she's smarter than me
Your computer: DNS Root Server, who do I talk to about
DNS Root Server: For, talk to this DNS nameserver For
Your Computer: DNS nameserver For, what is the IP address for
DNS nameserver For The IP address for is
Your computer:, please show me the site Sure thing, here you go...

That kind of conversation happens every time you go to a new web page. It's a bit more complicated in actuality, but for our purposes, it a clear enough explanation.

So my problem was that all these DNS requests were going slow or failing, making it hard to navigate the internet. ATT is my ISP and they provide the DNS services I use as my first step. For whatever reason, their DNS servers having been sucking lately. Not being about to complete Google searches because the DNS request is timing out is The Suck.

I was quite frustrated, until I stumbled onto allows you to use their DNS servers for free instead of your ISP's DNS servers. I switched over and my web response are markedly faster. I am impressed.

It's not hard to switch and OpenDNS has great guides to show you how.

Of course, TANSTAAFL. OpenDNS makes money by showing you a page of their own if you enter a domain name that doesn't exist. The page has ads on it and they hope you click. A fair price in my opinion for a good service.

OpenDNS will do a few more things for you like filter phishing or porn sites if you want. You can also block or allow any site you want via OpenDNS. I don't use that service, but I assume others might want it.

Posted by michael at November 19, 2007 09:01 PM


Hmmm - problem sounds familiar.
Great minds think alike.

Posted by: paul [] on November 19, 2007 10:57 PM

Paul, I bow down to your wisdom. If I had read your site earlier, I would have saved days of frustration.

Posted by: Michael [] on November 21, 2007 8:04 AM

I have also recently switched to OpenDNS since my ISP's servers have been acting up. The OpenDNS servers are quite speedy; the improvement is very noticeable especially when surfing via EVDO.

Posted by: jho [] on November 21, 2007 7:25 PM
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