Google DNS Benchmarking and Rationale

by Jon on December 7, 2009

Google just announced that they are making available their own public DNS server.  For those that don’t know, that stands for Domain Name Server, one of the central services that makes the Internet work.  It basically takes a domain name like “” and translates it to the numeric IP address, which allows you to connect to services by name.

My initial gut-reaction was: “Brilliant!  Since they’ll have access to enormous amounts of information on every Internet service people are connecting to, including non-Web services, they’ll have a map more accurate than Alexa, Comscore, etc. of how people use the Internet!”  I’m sure that privacy-mavens would find that a bit alarming.  However, it turns out that they are not planning to do anything like that, and you can read the Google DNS privacy policy online.

The stated goal is that they want to make using the Internet faster and more secure.  I think those are great goals.  Making it faster is important to a larger number of companies who depend on fast response-times to increase revenue.  While at, Greg Linden has reported that:

In A/B tests, we tried delaying the page in increments of 100 milliseconds and found that even very small delays would result in substantial and costly drops in revenue.

Now, we don’t know how much this would impact individual websites, because DNS is something you only need to check once—not for every page you visit (because your computer caches DNS data once you’ve visited a site). It might help smaller sites (who you haven’t cached) appear faster when you click on random links from a Google search results page.

I wanted to know whether the Google DNS is actually faster than what I’m already using, and there’s a good DNS benchmarking tool for this purpose.  You can download it for free.  Unfortuantely for Google, I found that:

  • My existing DNS provider (offered as part of my Verizon FIOS service) is pretty damn fast — faster, in fact, than Google and every other public DNS server that the benchmarking tool makes available.  FIOS has really engineered one hell of a network; phone companies take a lot of criticism, but in this case, Verizon should be congratulated.
  • Google was also slower than 30 other public DNS services I tested against.
  • Still, it is faster than a lot of other servers.  In some cases, much faster.  So the Google DNS might be an improvement for you.
Results of Google DNS vs. Verizon FIOS and other DNS providers

Results of Google DNS vs. Verizon FIOS and other DNS providers

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{ 9 trackbacks }

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Dario MeloniNo Gravatar December 7, 2009 at 11:45 am

i started using goggle dns not much for the speed it may claim, but for the non-redirection on wrong names! I hate that!

David FisherNo Gravatar December 7, 2009 at 11:52 am

Nice post Jon!

I’m going to give it a shot. Too bad I can’t calculate on the fly which will be faster and use that one. A commenter on Slashdot mentioned that using Google is a decent way to get around RCN throttling, which I have hit occasionally, so I’m going to give that a shot.

christopherNo Gravatar December 7, 2009 at 11:54 am

Knocking Verizon, or any Baby Bell, about network *connectivity* is futile. They have the world’s best infrastructure at this scale, and it’s rock-solid, over-engineered in many spots. A nice gift from AT&T in 1984, that still keeps on giving…

BrainNo Gravatar December 7, 2009 at 11:55 am

This benchmark doesn’t mean anything for the rest of us. Verizon FIOS’s DNS Server probably performed well for you because they assigned you a DNS server that’s very close to you. Every ISP does that. It’s not a real indication that Verizon did anything better than any other ISP.

JonNo Gravatar December 7, 2009 at 11:59 am

@Dario Good point. There are plenty of non-performance reasons why Google DNS might be fantastic. I haven’t been able to explore those.

@Brain You’re right that Verizon FIOS’s DNS would perform better for me than others. More instructive are the 29 other DNS providers (not including Verizon’s) which also performed better for me. As with anything on the Internet, your mileage may vary!

BobNo Gravatar December 7, 2009 at 12:16 pm

Another important element is reliability. Having a super fast DNS server from your ISP does you no good if it occasionally goes down or gets overloaded.

BarfooNo Gravatar December 7, 2009 at 12:27 pm

@Bob: actually it can be fine to have a mostly-reliable DNS server as your first choice and a slower but more reliable on as a second choice (in your network settings or router configuration you can usually specify at least 2, often more, in descending order of preference).

RayNo Gravatar December 7, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Looking at the list it looks like Open DNS is also faster than Google.

OpenDNS servers ( and

And with Open DNS you get security options

DougNo Gravatar December 7, 2009 at 12:34 pm

all fine and good be now I don’t have to screw with RoadRunner doing their own DNS-redirect when or if a site is slow to respond. This is something very few ‘regular’ users even know about so they would not know how to disable it. And even if they did disable it, I’ve had it reset back to ON without any notice or indication it occurred. Google has a better _brand_ than OpenDNS so it might be easier to get some people off their ISP DNS.

ComsarcasticNo Gravatar December 7, 2009 at 12:42 pm

@Bob, amen, you sound like another loyal comcast customer. (Or like me, stuck with no other alternative.) Comcast has had such regularly broken DNS that I long ago abandoned their DNS and switched to a 3rd party and happily switched again to Google.

Mark DragoNo Gravatar December 7, 2009 at 1:28 pm

I should point out that Google’s DNS offering (any opendns, probably others) is using anycast routing. So your performance is going to be depend largely on your geographic region, how many other people in your region are using the service, how close you are physically to the particular server you’re accessing, how close the servers are to you in a network topology sense, etc. Because of this, these results should not be published as definitive stats about the speed of google’s public DNS offering and other public DNS offerings.

Brian SNo Gravatar December 7, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Google’s name servers are the fastest name servers available to me that don’t redirect to a web page on error. Thus, they are now my default.

Eric RosenberryNo Gravatar December 7, 2009 at 1:37 pm

This is awesome testing data, though I would have to agree with the poster above that the google DNS servers may be farther away from you network wise and hence slower. It would be interesting to be able to break down how much of the slowness is due to server processing time and how much of it is due to network latency.

I actually am located in Portland Oregon and my work Internet is peered at NWAX ( which means I am 3-4ms round trip away from a node that services out If you want to provide me the test software and config setup I can run it from here to compare results.


Nilson Santos F. Jr.No Gravatar December 7, 2009 at 1:44 pm

For international users (I’m from Brazil), the new Google DNS is awesome. There are no such services around here and we need to rely on our ISPs DNS servers, which can’t be trusted to be updated and with security holes fixed.

I used OpenDNS, but the response times were around 140ms, which is noticeably slower than my own ISPs DNS servers.

Now it seems Google has local DNS servers in Brazil, so I get 20-30ms response times which is much better.

BrandonNo Gravatar December 7, 2009 at 1:47 pm

@Jon, have you or can you post the data from your tests? Who are the other providers and how do they all stack up?

JonathanNo Gravatar December 7, 2009 at 2:36 pm

I agree that Comcast’s DNS is abysmal, but oddly enough faster then Open DNS in the DC Metro area. I have tried and compared Comcast to Open DNS at multiple locations on various machines and noticed a significant lag with OpenDNS. Not sure why other then Comcast is doing something screwy. Google’s have been fairly speedy so far.

Stefan MNo Gravatar December 7, 2009 at 2:43 pm

It’s about 100ms slower than my ISP name servers but like an american friend told me, it’s probably meant for people with dumb ISP’s who redirect them to ad-sites.

This does not happen here in Sweden.

Richard PittNo Gravatar December 7, 2009 at 3:23 pm

The problem with publishing only a couple of addresses is that latency from me to those addresses is suspect in most slow-downs. If there were a regional set of addresses or we could rely upon backbone providers to route those particular addresses to a local server as would be done with a name, rather than an IP address (which of course would break the resolver as it would have to resolve the name to resolve the name….) then this could be OK – but you can’t do that with DNS :(

My local DNS service on my servers and desktops is faster – which is why I run them.

DennisNo Gravatar December 7, 2009 at 3:23 pm

There’s one other factor here that I think Google is counting on. This is the first time I’ve remembered a DNS server’s address after a weekend without doing a lot of memorizing or thinking about it. 4 8s? It’s so easy I wonder how many admins will find themselves typing that rote instead of their ISP’s address?

FlubtasticNo Gravatar December 7, 2009 at 4:19 pm

@Comsarcastic, I feel I must ‘defend’ comcast – their DNS actually *works* for me, at least 90% of the time, WOW :( isn’t one 9 almost as good as 5 ???

BradNo Gravatar December 7, 2009 at 4:43 pm

I use OpenDNS, and turned off their annoying redirection feature. Works fine, and is apparently faster than Google’s own.

FremanNo Gravatar December 7, 2009 at 5:54 pm

Well, if nothing else, Telstra users here in Australia will appreciate it, they can bypass Telstra nxdomain breaking advertising heavy service and use one that will nxdomain when a domain is nxed.

Drug'ed Up and ProudNo Gravatar December 7, 2009 at 6:22 pm

With me its not about DNS and craptastic, but their poor QoS on the line staying up. Have played with it for years, and without question Verizon FIOS is sooooo much better, problem is they are not available where I moved. Cable and thus ISP monopoly should be torn down, and thus as much as I don’t care for Google fingers in my pie and holes, they are better than my ISP.

JonNo Gravatar December 8, 2009 at 12:12 am

@Brandon, you can reproduce my test by downloading the tool from the original post. All of the DNS providers are preloaded with the tool (except that I added my FIOS DNS server, and Google’s DNS server to the defaults).

Andrew LueckeNo Gravatar December 8, 2009 at 12:25 am

At least Google DNS doesn’t break IPV6 web browsing support when its used as OpenDNS does. I’d rather support a slightly slower DNS (google DNS), then to ever promote a DNS provider who provides “Premium DNS” (as OpenDNS calls themselves), and being the only DNS provider on the planet which actually discourages people from migrating to newer standards.

Whilst I haven’t given Google DNS a try yet (because I’m in Aus), I do plan to do so. All I know though, is that until OpenDNS pulls their heads out of the ground, I regret that I ever recommended them to clients.

Andrew LueckeNo Gravatar December 8, 2009 at 12:30 am

Btw, I just pinged OpenDNS and Google DNS, and here in Australia, Google DNS is quicker (not sure about DNS response though). The DNS servers for my ISP obviously respond quicker, but I trust google more than optus..

Imran MalekNo Gravatar December 8, 2009 at 8:37 am

I’d also recommend Namebench:

It’ started off as a 20% project at Google and it’s a pretty good DNS benchmarking tool.

Eric RosenberryNo Gravatar December 8, 2009 at 3:03 pm

Here are the same test results as run from my Internet connection in Portland Oregon. This connection comes from an ISP that is located in the Pittock building which is the same place is located which is peered with Google. Net result is 3-4ms round trip times to

Google’s DNS servers are the fastest (or on par with the fastest) as run from this location.


Two sim card phoneNo Gravatar December 8, 2009 at 5:41 pm

Wow very interesting results, =) keep them comming…

Jeff YablonNo Gravatar December 8, 2009 at 5:48 pm

Of course there’s always this: It’s a plot. Google just wants us to using their DNS so they can model traffic according to their nefarious plans (bwah ha ha).

I wrote about this yesterday, by the way:

Jeff Yablon
President & CEO
Answer Guy and Virtual VIP Computer Support, Business Change Coaching and Virtual Assistant Services

digitalFlackNo Gravatar December 9, 2009 at 10:20 am

I don’t see any reports from people with AT&T service in their home (DSL or Uverse), Also would using Google on an iPhone make much difference?

Thanks for any info.

ZakariaNo Gravatar December 23, 2009 at 5:36 am

I believe most blogger, got it wrong. The real reason google makes public DNS is to destroy all ad-based DNS hijacking whether by ISP or others like OpenDNS. Well it’s good for the customer.

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