CNET just rehashed a report (pdf of report) that our friends over at Nominum commissioned to look at the speed and reliability of ISP DNS servers. The verdict won’t shock any of you: ISPs are pretty bad at providing DNS.

Some of the numbers they put in the report are surprising. The report says that Verizon drops 3.14% of all DSL subscribers’ DNS requests. That is some messed up DNS! 😯

The report goes on to talk about other ISPs including SBC, RoadRunner, Comcast, who all do relatively poor jobs at providing such a critical service. I’m bummed they didn’t review Speakeasy, an ISP I’ve always really liked and whose DNS servers have always performed reasonably. The report states that Comcast only drops 0.51% of queries which is amusing because most people tend to attribute bad DNS service with Comcast. We know that the reliability of the DNS is important and we keep our system reliability statistics totally open and accessible. I challenge Verizon or Comcast to do the same.

What’s the point of all this? This report really shows that there is a lot of room for improvement in the DNS space and it clearly starts with reliability and performance, two things we cover well. Reporters still don’t understand the importance of DNS because it’s much more than just about speed. That’s one important part but the other is that DNS is a major part of the Internet and just like there are firewalls and anti-spam solutions, users needs tools to manage their DNS too.

Bringing this issue to light is a good thing. Even though we didn’t pay for or commission this report, I can’t help to think it was made to open ISPs’ eyes to our service. We’ve created an opportunity for ISPs where there was none before. OpenDNS provides these kinds of tools to users.

As much as I would love an ISP like Verizon to work with OpenDNS to make their users’ Internet better I would be upset if it was done arbitrarily and not on an opt-in basis. If I were a Verizon user currently using their three-percent-query-dropping DNS I’d switch to OpenDNS in a heartbeat. It’s easy to get started with OpenDNS right now.

  • pd

    Add to that list TPG in Australia, their DNS servers routinely fell over at 1am nightly thus resulting in me maintaining my HOSTS file with 50+ entries. This was over 2 years ago as since then I changed ISP’s purely on their lack of response to my complaints and general bad service.

    If only OpenDNS was around back then!

  • I really find this service you guys are offering to be a big community service of sorts. What I don’t understand is why you haven’t offered us the option to search google when the domain is typed wrong. Don’t take this the wrong way but your search page isn’t the best known and an unknowing user would assume they had been redirected to a spyware site.

  • Lane,

    That’s a good comment. I think we’d be wise to let users pick the search engine that handled our page too. I’ll see what we can do.

  • Ed Cooper

    David, good idea, but many of us have quite dynamic IPs, Im not really sure how your settings system intends to work with those, I think its important to get the best settings as the default, and also to detect dynamic ips, so as the service grows as our IPs change we don’t keep getting Open DNS in different modes so to speak. Looking forward to the London hosts!

  • stu

    There is a distinction that I’m missing with this article. What tests are being conducted? Is this simply a test from a client of the network or at the server itself. DNS typically uses UDP which is a best effort service and, yes, you will get packet loss in this case. If you’re simply looking at it from the client side and you don’t really know what the server is doing, you might be blaming the wrong thing.

    Any more info on this before you spread the FUD too far?

    stu =)

  • Zak

    I just noticed OpenDNS through this article and it looks interesting. Out of curiousity, how would I mirror DNS information (either from this project or another server) and run a DNS server on my own network?

  • Rudi Pittman

    I would love to have opendns store a username or a cookie so that my settings “stick”…I’m also on a dynamic ip that gets dropped alot so everytime it does I revert to default settings which are still good but I prefer the .cm to .com fix which is not a default anymore.

  • At my last company, we had Verizon Business DSL. For two weeks solid we had constant DNS issues, as did a lot of the internet (according to a large amount of complaint posts on dslreports). Verizon denied that there was any issues on their end, so we ended up going with Speakeasy DSL (small company, 7 people) and never looked back.

    I too was a speakeasy customer at home (before I moved). Wonderful company.

    Verizon is a joke.

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