Many techniques are used to reduce Internet traffic jams. But one of most popular ones sometimes runs into a bottleneck, which Google and other Internet companies are announcing plans to tackle.
Where communication carriers can expand the Net's underlying capacity--think of adding more lanes to a freeway--another approach is to reduce the number of long-distance trips data has to travel. So companies called CDNs, for content delivery networks, have long operated data centers near major cities to store duplicate copies of videos and other files that customers call up frequently.
The other key piece of plumbing to keep in mind is the Domain Name System, which is often described as the phone book of the Internet. Companies operate what are called DNS servers, translating user requests to call up dot.com sites into specific sets of numbers--known as Internet protocol numbers--that computers use to recognize each other.
Most DNS servers that carry out this translation are operated by big Internet service providers. But some other companies, including Google and startups such as San Francisco-based OpenDNS, maintain alternative DNS services.
The trouble stems from the fact that the various servers involved make choices about how to deliver content based on the the location of DNS servers that serve a particular user, not the user's own IP address. And sometimes the users and DNS servers happen to be pretty far apart, slowing the delivery of content, says David Ulevitch, chief executive of OpenDNS.
"The Internet is looking at some level of exponential growth, but capacity is not growing exponentially," he says. The only way to decrease the time it takes to call up content "is to bring content closer to users."
So his company and others on Tuesday announced what they call the Global Internet Speedup initiative, which is based on adding a shortened version of a user's IP address into a request for a Web page. With that extra information, Ulevitch says, better choices can be made about which servers to use to serve up content based on a user's actual location, speeding up the process. Google and Neustar/UltraDNS discussed the underlying technology in January 2010.
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