August 31, 2011, 3:57 PM — Two big developments could have your Internet connection screaming along the pipes it just glorps through right now, though only one of them will have any kind of immediate impact.
The first started this morning as one of the first steps in what participants call the Global Internet Speedup.
It's a tiny, subtle and elegant change implemented this morning by Google, alternative DNS-resolution service providers including OpenDNS and Comodo's DNS.com and content-delivery networks including CloudFlare.
Normally the content you get from sites big enough to employ CDNs comes more quickly because the CDNs cache it in strategic spots around the world so they can deliver it to you from a location closer to you than the site's home server.
From a physicist's perspective based only on the speed of light (or electricity), data cached in Toronto should get to you in New York only a couple of microseconds faster than from the site in Hong Kong where it originated.
The networked reality is that there are a lot of iffy, narrow or busy connections between New York and Hong Kong, so the speed at which content pops up on your screen has a lot more to do with the efficiency and number of network hops between you and the data than it does the speed of light.
Until this morning, placing an order on that cheap-gadget site meant sending the request with your entire IP address to Hong Kong, which would then decide which CDN caching location would respond to you.
Under the new rules, only the first three sets of digits in your IP address go all the way to the site you're asking.
Those three sets of numbers (192.168.55) – the truncated IP address –tell the site enough about your location to identify a nearby CDN site and get the information delivered ASAP.
Unfortunately, only Google and a few smaller CDNs and DNS-resolution companies are participating: EdgeCast, CDNetworks, Comodo and CloudFlare.
The big ones, incluyding Akamai, Limelight and Amazon, have not yet signed on.
You can switch into the higher-speed lane of the DNS network by choosing one of the DNS-resolution services that has already switched to the new scheme: Comodo's DNS.com, Google Public DNS and OpenDNS are all up and looking for customers.
You have to open the network configuration interface of your browser and/or router and add the IP addresses of Google's DNS servers (18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124), according to Sebastian Anthony at ExtremeTech.
More speed from material that's not quite science fiction
The other big speedup for the Internet is a little farther in the future.