Every time you use the internet to find a website you're using a Domain Name Server (DNS) to actually locate the physical server. The DNS is what translates the nice friendly URL (eg offbeatmammal.com) to the IP address which identifies the actual server.
The problem is that the DNS service isn't that clever, and hasn't changed much since its inception. It doesn't help with spelling mistakes (eg google.cmo or googel.com) and it doesn't do anything to protect you from phishing attacks
Well. That was until a year or so ago, with the arrival of OpenDNS. Up until then most DNS services have been provided by ISPs simply delivering a replication of the available information with no intelligence or added value. OpenDNS offer two very valuable 'add-ons'.
The first is typo correction. If you make a common mis-spelling for a URL that doesn't have a legitimate site assigned to then the OpenDNS service simply corrects your spelling behind the scenes and you go where you meant to.
The second is an active anti-phishing solution. Using information from third parties such as SpamHaus OpenDNS checks the request and warns you if you're heading into trouble. Because the check happens at the server there is no delay while a browser plug-in goes off to check if the site is good or bad.
As OpenDNS have a very sophisticated caching solution, with none of the requirements of the legacy DNS providers (and because it's their business after all) their DNS servers are very fast.
OpenDNS is very simple to configure. In fact, there is no software to download or install as every network capable computer (no matter what operating system) can simply be set to override the default ISP provided settings with the OpenDNS server settings (there are also options for quickly setting up home and corproate networks in a totally transparent way) - it took about 30 seconds when I switched my laptop to use their servers.
Although the OpenDNS service is free to end users they will be making money by delivering sponsored results if you type in a non-existent URL that they can match in a similar way to Googles AdWords.
While the idea behind OpenDNS isn't new, unlike solutions like DNS Redirector it's free and doesn't require an install.
At the moment the OpenDNS service doesn't include additional services such as ad blocking or customization (eg specific over-rides for suspected phishing sites or common typos) but over time I can see this service evolving. For now however it's a great little solution all of its own....