back to article Chromium cleans up its act – and daily DNS root server queries drop by 60 billion

The Google-sponsored Chromium project has cleaned up its act, and the result is a marked decline in queries to DNS root servers. As The Register reported in August 2020, Chromium-based browsers generate a lot of DNS traffic as they try to determine if input into their omnibox is a domain name or a search query. Verisign …

  1. ecofeco Silver badge

    Truer words...

    “All too often, technologists solve problems by introducing additional layers of technology abstractions and disregarding simpler solutions, such as outreach and engagement,” he wrote.

    1. gratou

      Re: Truer words...

      Having separate search and address fields was too simple.

      1. hoola Silver badge

        Re: Truer words...

        Ah, but it is all about revenue generation, by integrating the search and address bar you will automatically direct a lot of people to where you want them to go (based on money) rather than where they want to go.

        Most will simply click on the top result on the page without looking if the expected page does not appear.

  2. redpawn Silver badge

    Let's just use lots of public resources

    to make shiny. The commons belong to us!

  3. sabroni Silver badge

    hang on

    So google merge their search and address fields into an "omnibox" and it makes billions of unnecessary DNS requests. Now they've calmed it down a bit, that's an example of how great they are at engaging with "the community"?

    Shouldn't they have done the community engagement thing before merging the fields?

    1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

      Re: hang on

      I like the merged box. If nothing else it's simpler to explain to the mundanes. The fact that their initial implementation sucked is another matter.

      The fact that is sucked for somebody other than themselves is of course why it stayed too long.

      1. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: hang on

        "I like the merged box. If nothing else it's simpler to explain to the mundanes."

        Maybe I'm missing something, but "type address in the box marked 'address', and search in the box marked 'search'" doesn't sound all that complicated, and isn't something I've ever had trouble explaining to anyone. It is, after all, how things worked for quite a while, and somehow millions of ordinary people were perfectly capable of using the internet. Make no mistake, this was not a change made to simplify things for users, it was solely intended to drive more traffic to Google's search, and hence advertising, engine.

        1. ThatOne Silver badge

          Re: hang on

          He has a point though: Oversimplifying stuff, so the Great Unwashed only do what they are supposed to do (consume), is the trend. So an unique entry box where the subjects enter all their input and then let Google decide what to do with it sounds just right: "Don't you worry your pretty little heads, uncle Google knows best what you (should) want".

          1. Cynic_999

            Re: hang on

            Well, maybe there are people who would benefit from a combined oven and toilet, and let the device figure out what to do with what has been put into it. Like Chrome, it could start by assuming that it's food and cook whatever was deposited in it Then if it gets an adverse reaction, it knows that that was the wrong operation and it can flush it down the sewer instead.

            Most people however don't mind having to choose whether to use a toilet or an oven, and get it wrong about as often as they do in choosing whether to click on an address box or a search box before typing.

            1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

              Re: hang on

              "Well, maybe there are people who would benefit from a combined oven and toilet, ..."

              Those are *exactly* the same people who would benefit from the omnibox.

              I like to check the box in settings for separate search field, but some browsers don't make it easy. The thing I find especially maddening is when I type https:// in an omnibox and still get a search!

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: hang on

              There's a joke in there somewhere about chrome serving up hot turds, but it seems a bit obvious.

        2. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: hang on

          > it was solely intended to drive more traffic to Google's search, and hence advertising, engine.

          Suspect Google only decided to do something when they discovered DoH in Chrome meant even more traffic was hitting Googles own DNS servers...

        3. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          Re: hang on

          Maybe I'm missing something, but "type address in the box marked 'address', and search in the box marked 'search'" doesn't sound all that complicated, and isn't something I've ever had trouble explaining to anyone.

          "So you definitely typed it in the address box?"

          "What kind of moron do you take me for?! I know the different between the address box and the search box by now, and it's still not working."

          "Send me a screenshot."

          *looks at screenshot*

          "You've typed it in the search box."

          Users have a goal: they want to access a resource. DNS addresses, like IP addresses, have become behind the scene gubbins that they don't really care about.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: hang on

            "DNS addresses, like IP addresses, have become behind the scene gubbins that they don't really care about."

            But, um, WHO is driving that dumbing-down of the users of our systems? It ain't those of us who are running and maintaining those systems. It's those who stand to profit from having even the most ignorant hick still able to consume their goods and services. Just because they can, doesn't mean they should.

        4. Glen 1
          Holmes

          Re: hang on

          "millions of ordinary people were perfectly capable of using the internet"

          Before the omnibox shenanigans, how many of us regularly witnessed people type the full domain into google, then click the link for domain they have just typed in?

          1. John 110

            Re: hang on

            "regularly witnessed people type the full domain into google"

            One of my users has been doing just that since 1996 (except it was excite)...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: hang on

              "One of my users has been doing just that since 1996 (except it was excite)..."

              It's very, very common, particularly among domestic and home micro business users. I show them, they say "Ohh, right" but next time I see them they're still typing the URL into Google and clicking the link. Eventually, I just give up and let them get on with it.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: hang on

                Change the settings to a blank home page.

                I shudder to think of all the aggregate unnecessary traffic from non-blank default home pages.

                1. ThatOne Silver badge

                  Re: hang on

                  True, but how would people find Google if it isn't there allowing them to search for it?...

          2. Wayland

            Re: hang on

            There are 10 types of people, those who understand binary and those who don't.

        5. Rhyd

          Re: hang on

          It certainly doesn't sound complicated, but I don't think Chrome has ever labelled the address bar. I find that people completely ignore the address bar and, having finally managed to open Chrome, type the internal hostname into the search box on the start page.

          If they get completely stuck, I'll offer to help with Quick Assist. Generally that goes along the lines of:

          "Click the start button"

          "What's that?"

          "The Windows icon at the bottom left"

          "Where?"

          "The button at very bottom left of the screen, it used to say Start, but now it's just a Windows logo"

          "Ok, it says Apps and Features, Power Options..."

          "No, left click"

          "On what?"

          "The start button"

          "I can't see it, that list is in the way"

          "Just click anywhere to close the menu"

          "OK, it's opened Device Manager"

          "OK, now left click on the start button and type Q"

          "Where do I type it?"

          "Nowhere, just press Q on the keyboard after you've left clicked on the start button"

          "Oh, yes I see"

          "Now click Quick Assist"

          "Now it says Run as administator, Open file location...."

          Every time, guaranteed.

      2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Re: hang on

        I like the merged box

        And I absolutely really REALLY [insert string of expletives here] hate it.

        I'm really peed off with typing a valid URL into the box, only to find it's done a search (and needless to say, not found the internal resource I'm after). I'm also peed off with typing a search that the browser decides looks like a URL (yes, they do exist) and then tells me that the URL can't be found.

        If you think teaching users to use a search box for search and an address box for addresses is hard - try teaching them the intricacies of whether they should type https or http (yes there are still legitimate sites not using the "s"), and yes they do have to put the "://" exactly like that ...

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: hang on

          I have this sudden urge to hack bash so that if you enter a URL it starts a browser instance with it, and for any failed path search it starts a browser instance with the command line as the search query.

          Address bar + search box + bash.

          I mean, I wouldn't use it. But I'd enjoy inflicting it on my enemies.

          Of course it's entirely likely someone has already done this. (I mean, people create readline plugins for filename completion that do network searches, so you know there's someone to add any daft thing to command-line processing.) I'd look but it would just depress me.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: hang on

            Not bash, but some (many?) terminals do recognise hyperlinks (and local file paths) and you can click / interact with them.

            If you want to open a URL directly from the command line, you're probably after kde-open. It will do its best to recognise the URL and how to deal with it (e.g., it launches Dolphin for a file:// URL pointing to a directory, Kwrite for one pointing to a text file, Kaidan or similar for a xmpp:// URL and so on).

    2. TeeCee Gold badge
      Facepalm

      Re: hang on

      WHAT? You mean design the thing and look for possible inefficiencies and cockups before building it? It'll never catch on.

      Simpler to just chuck together a prototype, lob that into beta, fix the serious user gripes and chuck hardware at any performance issues.

      Costs so much less and makes the development process more......erm......agile. Yes. That's a good word, agile. Makes it sound like a method rather than just a massive fuckup looking for a place to happen.

      1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

        Re: hang on

        It's one of those irregular verbs.

        I'm agile. You parrot buzzwords. He does a random walk.

        1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

          Re: hang on

          Yes, thank you, Bernard.

        2. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

          Re: hang on

          It's an *agile* random walk.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: hang on

        It works for SpaceX. But then I suppose they aren't really affecting others when their development rigs RUD in big fiery flames :-)

      3. MrNigel

        Re: hang on

        .......which is EXACTLY Microsoft policy for Office 365 new features/functions. We are all unpaid beta testers now - never would have worked in on-prem only days where what you did with their software was your business only.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Chris Collins 1
          Facepalm

          Re: hang on

          The modern software world.

          Rapid software release policies where we in perpetual beta and constant updating mode.

          I started using office365 two weeks ago, was previously using the now obsolete office 2010.

          Within 30 minutes I discovered 6 bugs (enough that I started listing them to prep a bug report), 3 of them were moderately serious.

          1 - Renaming custom ribbon items didnt work.

          2 - Creating rules randomly crashed outlook.

          3 - Accessing addin options crashed outlook.

          I then noticed was an option to change update channel from current to a two monthly one, I switched to it and the bugs I listed above all fixed. The default channel seems akin to Windows 10 where the users are all beta testing.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: hang on

            It's not a crash it's a feature.

    3. AdamT

      Re: hang on

      Also, why were they hitting the root servers? Shouldn't it just be using whichever DNS the machine it is on is configured to use?

      Disclaimer: I only have a basic understanding of the DNS infrastructure so there may well be a good reason for this!

      1. John Riddoch

        Re: hang on

        If I'm searching for a term, say "widget", it's probably trying to find widget.com, widget.org, widget.co.uk, widget.net and a whole bunch of other domains. Yes, those queries will go to my "local" DNS server (which could be a corporate one or my ISP). Unless they've cached that information already, they need to look to the root servers to find the answer, hence it hits the root servers eventually. They should cache that for future requests by the next person searching for those domains reducing future traffic, though.

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: hang on

          And also search for the TLD w, then wi, then wid, then widg, then widge, then widget

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: hang on

            It's only those tld lookips.

            If it was searching widget.co.uk etc. the extra traffic would go to the .co.uk servers. Ditto for subdomain lookups for other tlds

        2. Cynic_999

          Re: hang on

          "

          They should cache that for future requests by the next person searching for those domains reducing future traffic, though.

          "

          Not sure that caching non-existent domains would be a good idea. There are going to be so many different search terms that the cache will get very big very fast. And probably still not reduce traffic by a great deal, because with a few exceptions, not many people will be entering the same search terms within the cache entry expiry period.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: hang on

            Caching non-existent domains is a very very good idea. So much so it's been part of the DNS protcool for nearly 25 years. RFC2308 was published in 1998.

            DNS caches might get big very fast, but not very big. They usually stabilise in a few hours and stop growing after that because the rate of cache entries tends to match the rate of cache expirations. Even the biggest DNS caches at a huge ISP are unlikely to fill more than 1-2 GB. What does that much RAM cost these days, $50?

            It's also a very good thing that the zillions of DNS lookups for fuckup.whatever in your network hit the cache of your local resolver instead of going to the root.

      2. noboard

        Re: hang on

        Any query that can't be resolved locally will hit the root servers for a definitive "go here and ask them". Obviously "corking cakes" never resolves and it probably makes a request for each letter.

        1. stiine Silver badge

          Re: hang on

          Bingo! Is the send every fucking letter to google one at a time in packets of 1k...its the ultimate amplification attack, so they can send you back matches for each keystroke, lookup up the resultant cacaugphony (sp?) every time. This plus their 'generate random string and query it to determine if dns is being hijacked'

          The only reason they fixed it is because, today, even Google employees are working from home and no longer have 1G-100G sub-millisecond connections to their servers. I would love to have been able to listen in on the bitch sessions for every time someone said "but it worked just fine on friday in the office, not its not responding at all"... serves you right, bastards.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: hang on

            [...] and no longer have 1G-100G sub-millisecond connections to their servers [..]"

            A customer made postcode look-ups a central server function - with client iterative requests doing the licensed database accesses. Worked ok on the lan in head office. Helpline staff on a 2mbps connection complained that they could go and make a cup of tea while their PC found the caller's address.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: hang on

              > Helpline staff on a 2mbps connection complained that they could go and make a cup of tea while their PC found the caller's address.

              They don't like tea?

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: hang on

            > cacaugphony (sp?)

            Cacophony. Close enough.

      3. DaveFlagAndTenDigits

        Re: hang on

        As far as I understand, it will speak to the local DNS, but if it doesn't recognise the domain in its cache it escalates it 'to the manager' who knows everything.

        1. AMBxx Silver badge

          Re: hang on

          It's not that simple. If my local DNS doesn't know the answer, it doesn't just go straight to root. It goes to another level (often the ISP DNS). If that doesn't know the answer, it will look elsewhere, eventually getting to root. Any organisation that goes straight to root is being very rude.

      4. Cynic_999

        Re: hang on

        When you do a DNS lookup on the local DNS server, and the query is for a domain that the local server does not have cached (which will usually be the case when the query is in fact a search term and not a domain at all), then the local DNS server has to forward the query to the root server. So you are impacting on the traffic to both the local DNS server and the root server.

    4. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: hang on

      How is it any different to the Window’s 10 search that defaults to the internet before looking locally ??

  4. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    well how about...

    If the user starts an entry with http(|s):// or even www. or ends an entry with .blah, it gets treated as a URL and triggers a DNS search.

    If not, the query goes to the search engine of choice.

    One might reasonably expect that Google actually have a list of URLs that could be tested for before troubling the DNS servers, no? But that would be using Google's hardware rather than the commons, and perhaps they don't like that.

    1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

      Re: well how about...

      No. I switch off every option to have my URL/search terms/whatever sent to be indexed by the surveillance machine. (At least, every one I can find.)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: well how about...

        You're also smart enough to use a search bar to search and an address bar to enter an address. I think the suggestion was for more sensible omnibar behavior for the "just go where I want" crowd.

    2. AMBxx Silver badge

      Re: well how about...

      I think you'll find Google's public DNS is at 8.8.8.8 and knows pretty much everything. I'm surprised it ever has to go to root.

      1. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

        Re: well how about...

        Except that unless you specify to use 8.8.8.8 you would not send DNS requests to that address.

    3. Ben Tasker

      Re: well how about...

      > If the user starts an entry with http(|s):// or even www. or ends an entry with .blah, it gets treated as a URL and triggers a DNS search.

      >

      > If not, the query goes to the search engine of choice.

      But then the user has to enter a scheme and/or www, and it won't work for other subdomains.

      I've a simpler solution: have one box for addresses, and another for searches.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: well how about...

        even simpler solution ...

        Don't use chrome, use FF!

        1. Natalie Gritpants Jr Silver badge

          Re: well how about...

          FF has the awesome box which probably does similar bad things

          1. AliBear

            Re: well how about...

            Yes, and IE, Edge, Opera, Safari, - in fact just about ANY browser in common usage has the same search box. So if all of the browser devs fix it, will that sort out the remaining 59%?

            1. NeilPost Silver badge

              Re: well how about...

              ... and the Windows 10 search that defaults to the web before local. Bonkers.

        2. Alumoi Silver badge

          Re: well how about...

          You do know that FF comes with the freaking awesomebar enabled and no search box?

          You have to go to options/customize to enable the search box. Then you have to go to about:config and disable a bunch of crap in order to get rid of the monster.

          Now tell me how many ordinary people even bother to customize their browser. Yeap, that's what I thought.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: well how about...

            Any ideas what you need to disable in about:config to switch it all off in Firefox 85? I accidentally "upgraded" from 84 and it all reappeared. Despite disabling everything again, I still have an extra line which appears below the address bar offering to send the string I'm entering to a search engine with one simple click. No, allowing me to choose which search engine it goes to isn't sufficient, I want to switch it off. And the address bar gets slightly bigger when I type into it for no reason that I can fathom.

            But I did manage to re-enable the search box (which, until you type into it, still has "Search" written in grey to let you know what it does) at least.

            Firefox can be hard to like sometimes.

            1. manicmoose

              Re: well how about...

              See this: https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/questions/1213978

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: well how about...

                Thanks for taking the time to post this link, and I'll check it out later when I'm at home to see if it helps. I do have to mention that the link points to a two-year-old page, so won't determine what changed between version 84 and 85 though.

                Again, thanks for the help.

          2. keith_w

            Re: well how about...

            Version 85.0.1 of FF has an address bar ("Search with Google or enter and address"), a "Search" box on the address line AND a "G search the web" box on the Firefox home page.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: well how about...

        >I've a simpler solution: have one box for addresses, and another for searches.

        Whilst that would mean no DNS lookup on query searches, it doesn't solve the partial address lookup problem as the browser searches for autocomplete suggestions.

        It would seem that until you have a 'full' URL ie. user has hit return, either none of the autocomplete lookups should be going beyond the local DNS server's cache or they get treated as a query search with the search engine just returning a set of URL's. That way 'www.b' would most probably result (in the UK) in only the URL www.bbc.co.uk being offered.

    4. rg287 Silver badge

      Re: well how about...

      If the user starts an entry with http(|s):// or even www. or ends an entry with .blah, it gets treated as a URL and triggers a DNS search.

      It also checks for a trailing /

      Browsing to 192.168.1.n gets got a Google Search.

      Browsing to 192.168.1.n/ will actually allow you to access local resources.

      You can also go and type the whole http:// bit as well for the same effect, but a trailing slash is quicker (there's even one on the numpad!).

      EDIT: Just checked and actually, the trailing slash is no longer necessary. Looks like some bright spark thought it'd be a good idea for Chromium to check whether the entered string looked like an IP address before doing a search. And not before time...

  5. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    There was never any need for the excess root server DNS queries. It was just lazy programming. For Google or the Chromium project to claim otherwise is disingenuous to say the least.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You are a lot more trusting then me. I always assumed it, in conjunction with 8.8.8.8, was another way for Google to snoop on what you were typing into the address bar. Who knows what interesting info or internal URLs might get entered into that bar and then erased before hitting enter.

  6. Blackjack Silver badge

    And to think....

    Web Browsers used to have a SEPARATE search bar.

    Great way to improve things, totally genius!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And to think....

      They also used to have real menus, but not sandwiches.

      And they used to offer to do helpful things like clear your download history every time you close the browser, WITHOUT having to nuke your entire browsing history at the same time.

      It's like things used to be separate in the bad old days, but streamlining and collapsing have made things soooo much better now. We have such a bright future ahead of us.

  7. gnasher729 Silver badge

    Interesting. Safari had a combined box for ages. I suppose with a bit of cleverness this can be done without killing DNS.

  8. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Considering the UK and other countries use the DNS lookups to block access to illegal sites then you could run the risk that a innocent search term you start to type might actually send a DNS query for an illegal website.

    Think typing a search for 'dog sex in a Labrador pup' would at some point send a DNS look up to your ISP for dogsex domain which could actually exist and be on the banned list

  9. sitta_europea

    Does this mean that Google will stop emailing me cr1m1nal cr@p now?

  10. James 47

    Surely, Google would have a list of pretty much every domain known to man.

    Why didn't they query this instead of hammering DNS servers?

  11. ecofeco Silver badge
    Facepalm

    It did WHAT?!

    Oh FFS.

  12. Gwyneth Llewelyn
    Holmes

    Hm! That explains why some pages seem to load faster these days: I tend to forget that DNS queries, even if superfast, take a _bit_ of time to resolve — especially if there are a gazillion of them.

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