By Joe Levi | November 1, 2011 12:30 PM
You may have noticed that the “new” version of the Android Market can take a long time to load when you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network. Oddly enough, it doesn’t take nearly as long when you’re connected via cellular data.
One theory points toward DNS resolution as the cause of the problem. What’s DNS, and why can it take a while to resolve URLs?
Computers on the Internet have IP addresses which are basically just big numbers. Since it’s very difficult for us humans to remember numbers, we came up with a way to associate easy-to-remember names with those hard-to-remember numbers.
When you visit this site, pocketnow.com, that’s all you have to type into your browser. In the background your DNS server looks up the IP address for pocketnow.com, and tells your browser where to go to look for your latest smartphone news and reviews. It’s pretty slick, but just can take a little time, similar to the way you look up someone’s phone number in a phone book.
The address to the new Android Market is something like this: v11.lscache3.c.android.clients.google.com. Since that’s a very unique URL, and something that likely hasn’t been cached on your ISP, the lookup has to go all the way up to the source, then all the way back down — chances are the address for the name hasn’t already been cached by your ISP’s DNS server.
Some people are reporting the lookup (“DNS resolution” in geek terminology) to take as much as 10 seconds for the Market’s very unique DNS name. That’s a long time to sit and wait — and it doesn’t include the time it takes to actually load the information!
Mobile networks aren’t affected as much as Wi-Fi networks, presumably because they have a lot of Android users who have recently loaded the Market, and your carrier has remembered (or “cached”) the DNS for the Market.
What can you do to fix it?
Ultimately, the fix should come from Google and the way they are requesting data from the Market. Until then, you can simply use a faster DNS server, one that presumably already has the URL to the Market cached. OpenDNS and Google DNS come to mind as particularly fast DNS servers.
There’s an upside, too! Using a faster DNS service will probably speed up DNS resolution for the other sites and apps that you use. Win-win!
Lucky for you, there’s also a pretty easy way to change the DNS servers on your Android-powered smartphone or tablet: Set DNS.
Set DNS is an app that lets you pick your DNS server from a list, or set your own. It comes in two flavors: a trial version that’s time limited (so you can see if it works for you), and a pro version that costs less than two bucks.
In my tests, the Market opens and loads significantly faster over Wi-Fi using OpenDNS set by this app, and other sites seem to resolve noticeably quicker, too.
Alternately, if you have access to your network’s modem or router, you could override the default DNS settings there, replace them with the OpenDNS servers, and get the same results (on all the devices on your network, not just your smartphone). True, it’s a bit more technical, and way beyond the scope of this article, but the results should be the same.