PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

News

OpenDNS service is an alternative to major Internet providers

Elise Ackerman
San Jose Mercury News (MCT)

SAN JOSE, Calif. - You turn on your computer and try to log onto your favorite sites. Nothing happens. A message at the bottom of your screen tells you your computer is trying to connect, and trying and trying.

Various thoughts pass through your head, none of them comforting. "My wireless network is down." "Google is down." "The Internet is down." "Someone has hacked into my PC."

Relax. Your computer isn't broken. The Internet is still working.

Your problem most likely has to do with an obscure software program that functions as the Internet's phone book. Most people rely on their Internet service provider to connect them to the domain name system. If the software fails, they wait for the ISP to fix it.

But there is an alternative. A small San Francisco company called OpenDNS hosts a free phone book some say provides better and more reliable service than major Internet service providers. OpenDNS takes the name of a Web site, and matches it to the number of the computer where it is hosted, such as 209.203.69.2.

In addition, OpenDNS also provides a service that can make your computer more secure by filtering out dangerous Web sites.

"Everything is much faster," said Robert Drescher, an entrepreneur who changed his home network from Comcast to OpenDNS a few months ago after he had problems connecting to the Internet.

OpenDNS features step-by-step instructions for using the service on its Web site. Users can change the settings on individual machines or on their routers.

"It's as easy as setting up voice mail," said Wesley Frye, co-director of Celebrate Oklahoma Voices, a digital storytelling project in Oklahoma.

Frye likes OpenDNS because it lets him filter out pornography sites and block phishing sites, Web sites that carry malicious software that can hurt your computer. In total, OpenDNS lets people block 50 categories of sites, in addition to specific sites.

This makes OpenDNS particularly attractive to schools and school districts, which are concerned not only about security threats but also want to limit access to sites like MySpace and Facebook. There are 25,000 schools and school districts using the service.

The La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District in California, started using the service about a year and a half ago. Adolfo Aguilar, the network administrator for the district, said video sites and gaming sites used to regularly bring down the network. With OpenDNS that hasn't been a problem.

And the price can't be beat. "Every filtering solution we ran into had a huge start-up cost to either buy the software or the hardware and then, after that, there was a yearly subscription fee," Aguilar said.

OpenDNS's free service is supported by surprisingly lucrative advertising. When Web sites go down, instead of showing the standard error page, OpenDNS shows a page with search results and search ads that are provided by Yahoo. The ads are the company's only source of revenue.

David Ulevitch, OpenDNS's founder and chief technology officer, said the ads are effective because, like search, they are targeted to what a person is looking for at a particular moment.

Indeed, Ulevitch, 27, believes he has found one of the Internet's sweet spots - an unexploited business opportunity that makes money and makes people's lives better. A domain-name system geek, this is Ulevitch's second DNS company. He started his first, EveryDNS.net, in his dorm room at Washington University in St. Louis. Ulevitch received $2 million in funding from Halsey Minor, founder of CNet Networks, to found OpenDNS in late 2005.

Ulevitch said the company is profitable.

OpenDNS works, Ulevitch said, because DNS software tends to get minimal attention from big Internet service providers until something goes wrong. In contrast, OpenDNS focuses obsessively on the domain name system. Ulevitch bragged his service has never gone down and said by the end of 2009 he will have expanded from seven to 14 data centers around the world.

"We design for failure," Ulevitch said. "We can take an entire data center offline and nobody would notice."

The snafus of other service providers are one of the key drivers of OpenDNS's growth. The service has 10 million users who submit about 10 billion DNS queries a day, and the World Wide Web is littered with sites recommending OpenDNS as a solution whenever there is a major outage.

In December, OpenDNS got a particularly big boost after 1.2 million subscribers to Time Warner Cable found themselves unable to access the Internet. The Los Angeles Times posted a link to the site on its technology blog. In February, Computerworld recommended OpenDNS as a defense against the Conficker worm.

If you do decide to try OpenDNS, it's important to follow the directions on the Web site exactly and not to change any other settings on your computer or your router. It's easy to use but requires precise instructions.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.