OpenDNS and Google team to speed up the web

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A few million Americans may find their YouTube requests get delivered faster on Tuesday as Google,  OpenDNS, VeriSign  and several content delivery networks announce the Global Internet Speed Up effort.

As the web scales and bandwidth demands rise, finding ways to deliver faster content is pushed out to the edge of networks, because the aggregated demand at the core would be too much to support and would add delays in delivering content. The Speed Up effort tries to take this another step further by making sure a user’s request for a content goes to a server near her, making delivery faster and more efficient from a bandwidth perspective.

At the center of the partnership between DNS providers and participating CDNs is the creation of a standard that attached location data to a DNS request so a user’s request for content goes to server nearby. Typically, a CDN or content provider routes a user based on the address of the DNS server, as opposed to the user’s location, but they aren’t always in the same region.

So now a user in Austin, Texas who types in the URL for a YouTube video will share part of his IP address as part of the DNS request. That way, the domain name system server can route the request to a Google data center in Dallas, as opposed to one in Ireland. It’s a simple idea, but it could result in faster access to content for ISPs and CDNs that elect to implement the open source code that makes this possible. David Ulevitch, CEO of Open DNS says the standard has been submitted to the IETF, but has not been ratified. The IETF is a standards body that governs protocols for the Internet.

For now, only users of Google’s Public DNS service, OpenDNS and Verisign will send out DNS information with a snippet of information gleaned from the user’s IP address. That will help the domain name servers that direct traffic around the web to send that traffic the closest provider. As for privacy concerns about attaching IP addresses to a DNS request, Ulevitch says the information only goes to companies that would see the IP address in a typical HTTP web request, so it’s not sharing any more information than is typical.

On Tuesday, when the new code is implemented, the 30 million Open DNS users and Google’s Public DNS service users visiting content hosted on the participating CDNs will immediately benefit. Ulevitch didn’t have a sense of how much improvement users might expect, although he did say it wouldn’t get worse for anyone. He hopes ISPs will also adopt the standard as well as more content delivery networks. Right now, Edgecast, Contendo, BitGravity and a few others are on board, but leaders such as Limelight or Akamai are not.

So perhaps this could be the beginning of an open effort to improve the web, or perhaps it becomes another niche effort that makes web sites a bit faster for a few people when they visit selected sites. With Google on board, however, that’s still a lot of sites.

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