Services & Software

OpenDNS attaches keywords to your router

OpenDNS makes it possible to create local network-wide keywords.

OpenDNS is rolling out an addition to its alternative DNS service I covered last September: Its new Shortcuts feature lets you program it to recognize keywords typed into to browser's address bar. For example, "w" could redirect to You can also add simple variables to the keywords, so "st" followed by a ticker ("st ibm") would look up a stock price on your favorite financial site, not just the Google default. Keywords can even fire up applications on a PC and pass parameters to the application.

Sounds clever, and it is, but it's not unique. As CNET's Declan McCullagh points out, there are plenty of address bar keyword tools out there. There's also a spectacular keyword-company failure that everyone in the industry knows about: RealNames. It was a victim of unfortunate timing and a partnership with Microsoft (for access to the Internet Explorer address bar) that dissolved.

Setting up a few local keywords. CNET Networks

What's different about the OpenDNS solution is that once you program in a shortcut, it will work for everyone on an entire local network. If you change the router at your office to use the OpenDNS service, and map "HR" to your internal human resources Web service, everyone on the network, no matter what browser they are using, will be able to take advantage of the keyword. You can also set it up so multiple local networks share the same pool of keywords.

The problem, though, is that when computers leave their home networks--as laptops are likely to do--the keywords will stop working. Maybe that's a good thing for secure corporate intranet sites, but it's not that useful for sites that people will be accessing from anywhere. Also, using company-wide keywords to fire up local applications might cause confusion for users of PCs that don't have the applications installed.

I like the original OpenDNS service. My home network uses it, and I appreciate the speed and antiphishing features that it has. But I don't really get the Shortcuts feature. It ties its users down. We're all mobile now. Our keywords should go with us.

See also this post by Paul Stamatiou.