Here in the Mad River Valley of Vermont, we are fortunate to have high-speed Internet access via the local utility, Waitsfield Telecom. Much of the system was just upgraded from 1.5 Mb/sec to 6 Mb/sec, some of us can upgrade to 12MB/sec, and some new constructions can even have fiber to their home or business.

Small Dog recently installed a new fiber connection, upgrading from a creaky old T1 that handled our web traffic and internal bandwidth needs. Despite my recent upgrade to 12 Mb/sec at home, it still takes a while for web pages to “resolve,” or begin to load, after entering the address and pressing return.

The Domain Name System (DNS) has many functions, one of which is to translate alphanumeric web addresses (www.smalldog.com) into Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. All internet-connected devices must have an IP address, and the IP address must be unique: no two devices on the internet have the same IP address.

All Internet Service Providers (ISPs) maintain their own DNS servers, designed for use on their network, but in many cases these servers are not especially speedy. I decided to ask Google for fast free DNS servers, and I settled on two: 4.2.2.1 and 4.2.2.2. Web pages now seem to resolve much faster, making web browsing a more satisfying experience.

There is a better way, though. namebench is an open-source utility from Google that seeks out the fastest DNS servers, and lets you graphically see just how much more speed you might get by switching to something faster. I gave it a try last night and did notice that pages seem to load a bit faster than before. Google also recently announced its own DNS server, and the terms and conditions say that browsing habits and history are not recorded. Give it a go!

Your DNS server settings can be changed in the Network Preference Pane under all versions of Mac OS X.

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