You probably know the popular Google DNS server IP addresses by heart: 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199. Before those were around you might have even used Level3’s 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206. Of course, everyone else uses these too, which means these popular servers are under a pretty heavy load.
Fortunately, there are faster public DNS servers out there. Much faster.
101 DNS Servers
I’ve compiled a list of 101 public DNS servers (PDF), sorted in order of fastest to slowest (for me).
A few things to keep in mind
This is not an exhaustive list of all public name servers, nor are these necessarily the fastest servers that exist. But if you’re using one of the more popular public name servers, you can easily see how other servers rank against those in terms of speed.
Not all DNS servers behave the same way. Some will return intentionally incorrect responses, usually if the query is for a malicious domain. Others will return inconsistent results, which can be problematic if you’re testing for recently changed records.
One name server in particular seemed to rate-limit my queries, and this behavior seemed to change based on the query type. For instance, queries for * (all) would time out, while queries for SOA records would work. After waiting a little while and trying again, the server answered all my queries quickly.
The lesson here is test the server thoroughly and get familiar with its quirks before using it everywhere.