OpenDNS to yank ads from its free consumer services

After pivot to the enterprise, OpenDNS decides ads and security don't mix

OpenDNS yesterday said it would drop in-browser advertisements from its free consumer services next week because its pivot to an enterprise security provider has been successful.

OpenDNS is best known to consumers for providing alternate DNS (domain name service) server addresses to those offered by their Internet providers. DNS is the Internet's addressing system, sometimes described as a phonebook of sorts, that interprets domain names into numerical IP addresses to get content requests -- for a Web page, say -- from the user to the destination.

To fund the free consumer service, which has long included other features, such as an anti-phishing and adult content filters, OpenDNS has run ads on the search page customers see when they type in a non-existent URL, most often because of a typo.

Those ads are going to vanish in a week.

"On June 6, the OpenDNS Guide will cease to exist," David Ulevitch, the founder and CEO of OpenDNS, said on a company blog Thursday. "If OpenDNS users type a phrase that isn't a website address into their browser address bar, they'll get whatever experience the creators of their browser intended."

The OpenDNS Guide is what the company calls the landing page users see when they mistype a URL; ads are displayed on the Guide alongside those search results.

Ulevitch said that the decision to yank the ads stemmed from the company's turn several years ago to the security space. The company's "Umbrella" service, marketed to enterprises, leverages the data trove from its millions of users. Combined with OpenDNS' in-house researchers, that data helps Umbrella predict and spot threats, including ones traditional antivirus vendors haven't yet seen, and block them from reaching a business's network.

"Ads and security don't mix," said Ulevitch. "It's clear to us that they are fundamentally incompatible. "We're a security company first ... [so] anything that weakens our security offering by introducing vulnerabilities is a conflict. As we've become more and more of a security company, it was clear ads couldn't stay."

Ulevitch declined to say how large a financial hit the company would take by dumping ads, putting it only as "millions of dollars annually."

OpenDNS has published an FAQ on its site that includes additional information about the disappearance of the Guide and ads.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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