Offerings such as Google Public DNS, OpenDNS and other public domain name system services promise increased security and privacy but can fall short on Web performance, according to a Northwestern University research team that has developed a tool it says can address that shortcoming.

The researchers say their "namehelp" tool, which you can download here, can speed Web performance by 40% by working in the background on users' computers to optimise their setups and by forging better interaction between public DNS services and content delivery networks. The better DNS-CDN interaction can result in users getting their content from the nearest possible copy.

The new tool is the result of a study involving 10,000-plus hosts across about 100 countries. Northwestern's namehelp is designed to address an issue involving the very behind-the-scenes process of DNS look-ups that help users connect with websites.

The researchers found in their study that while public DNS services offer benefits over private services that are frequently misconfigured and go down more often, they aren't perfect either due in large part to messy interactions with CDNs, which most of the popular websites use.

The paper describing the research is titled "Content Delivery and the Natural Evolution of DNS: Remote DNS Trends, Performance Issues and Alternative Solutions." The team's findings will be presented at the Internet Measurement Conference (IMC 2012) in Boston this November. In addition to Bustamante, authors on the paper are lead author John S. Otto, Mario A. Sanchez, and John P. Rula, all of Northwestern.