Cloudflare launches a privacy-first DNS at 1.1.1.1


Which Domain Name System provider are you using, gerbils? Most folks are relying on the Domain Name Service (DNS) offered by their internet provider, although some savvy folks are using Google's DNS or perhaps OpenDNS. A new option from Cloudflare just appeared on the public DNS landscape yesterday, and it's simply named after its IPv4 address: 1.1.1.1.

Cloudflare promises that the new service will be both the fastest public DNS as well as the most secure. DNSs are a very easy way for a provider to track and manipulate users' traffic. According to Cloudflare, this idea came about after the US federal government discarded rules restricting ISPs from selling users' browsing data. The company says that its DNS service discards all logs after 24 hours. Cloudflare might have a much harder time building the kind of detailed profile that third parties might be interested in.

Furthermore, DNS services have been used for some time now to manipulate users' traffic. Users have been redirected to sites they didn't intend to visit for commercial reasons, and DNS has been used for censorship, too. As an example, Cloudflare points out how the government of Turkey ordered the country's ISPs to block the entirety of Twitter in 2014. Since Turkey doesn't operate a China-style Great Firewall, users could get back to tweeting by changing DNS providers.

The 1.1.1.1 address—along with the service's backup address 1.0.0.1—were owned by APNIC, the regional internet registry for the Asia-Pacific region. Thanks to their simplicity, the addresses were apparently being continually overwhelmed by nonsense traffic. Cloudflare discussed its goal to set up a public, high-speed DNS with APNIC, and was offered the use of the addresses. Cloudflare isn't being 100% altruistic; the company also gets the chance to analyze and interpret the garbage data. Still, that seems a generous exchange considering what's on offer to the public.

The decision to launch the new service on April Fool's Day is a curious one. Cloudflare says that since 1.1.1.1 has four 1s, it was an obvious choice. Given the date, most people naturally thought it was a joke, though it's clearly not. The company did indeed launch a new privacy-focused, high-speed public DNS on a Sunday that happened to be April Fool's Day, Easter, and smack in the middle of Passover.

If you're keen to try Cloudflare's new DNS for yourself, you can do it right now. The site at https://1.1.1.1/ has explicit instructions on how to set up the service for Windows devices, Apple machines running macOS or iOS, Linux and Android devices, and even a vague set of steps for setting up routers. Users shouldn't expect a dramatic change in performance, but they might rest easier knowing that their ISPs could have a harder time tracking their presence on the web.

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