The internet security and infrastructure firm CloudFlare announced Sunday that it will launch a new Domain Name System service, or DNS. The company says the service, known as 126.96.36.199, will increase browser privacy by screening addresses from internet service providers, and also help websites load faster.
A DNS service helps the internet’s routing infrastructure turn web addresses like Fortune.com into machine-readable numbers. But these services, as Cloudflare lays out in a post announcing its new service, can send browsing data to network operators, including commercial ISPs like Verizon. Cloudflare’s service will take that data away from ISPs, and Cloudflare is promising to not collect the data itself. Cloudflare has hired the auditor KPMG to keep it true to that commitment.
Using the service requires changing the DNS server settings on your desktop or mobile device. A detailed guide can be found at the service’s website, which is also 188.8.131.52. On top of its privacy advantages, Cloudflare says 184.108.40.206 is now the fastest DNS resolver available.
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Cloudflare’s announcement comes at a moment when internet users are perhaps more concerned about privacy than ever before – but the timing could also be confusing to some. Public anxiety in recent weeks has been focused on Facebook’s handling of data, but Cloudflare’s DNS service is aimed at hiding browsing data from ISPs. DNS protection alone wouldn’t stop Facebook, or other services, from collecting data about the “likes,” posts, or other behavior of logged-in users.
Wide adoption of protected DNS lookup could have significant impacts on the evolving business models of internet providers. Early last year, President Donald Trump signed a resolution allowing ISPs to collect user data, reversing Obama-era rules preventing it. Moreover, the legislation limited the FCC’s ability to protect user privacy from ISPs in the future.
The legislation cleared the way for ISPs themselves to do exactly what Facebook has come under intense public scorn for — selling user data to advertisers. Even more concerning is that this data — like pretty much all user data in the digital realm — would be at risk of being leaked, hacked, stolen, or otherwise compromised. And while some argue that the new rules make privacy a competitive battleground for ISPs, the truth is that most Americans have little flexibility in choosing between broadband providers.
All this points to immense potential demand for Cloudflare’s new service. While it won’t be charging for the DNS lookup, the company says it will provide the biggest speed boost to websites that are paying CloudFlare clients. That should be good for users, and the company’s bottom line.
Finally, for those really paying attention, Cloudflare insists that this isn’t an April Fool’s prank. It’s launching the new service today because it’s 4/1 – and there are four ones in 220.127.116.11.