Understanding Networks: Trace Routes

Our assignment this week for Understanding Networks class was to use the traceroute service at http://www.yougetsignal.com/tools/visual-tracert/ and follow the trail to several of our most visited sites. This allows us to determine the major tier 1 providers essential to our lives.

Here are a few of my results, generated by using both the site’s “Host Trace” and “Proxy Trace” methods, connecting both from my home and from NYU.

NYTimes

Proxy trace from NYU

Host trace from my home

Facebook

Proxy trace from NYU

Host trace from home

ITP.NYU.EDU

Proxy trace from NYU

Host trace from home

GMail

Proxy trace from NYU

Host trace from home

One of the first things I noticed was that many of the traces went through Montreal, Quebec’s as6453.net. Doing a WhoIs search on them, it came back with a company called VSNL International. According to Wikipedia, they are an international telco and a subsidiary of India’s Tata Group.

Two other big names that I often saw were Dreamhost and Cogent Communications. Cogent is an international provider with offices all over the world. The traceroute doesn’t seem to place Cogent’s servers on the map. With Dreamhost, the connections always come through Brea, California outside of Los Angeles.

Comcast also comes up in the traceroutes, usually through their Florida address. Comcast is an entertainment and media company with a background as a cable provider.

Two final, interesting points on the traceroute were tfbnw.net and 1e100.net. The first is apparently Facebook’s content delivery network, while the second is owned by Google. I found this interesting thread about Google here:

Back then, Tedster, the administrator at the forum said:

Some thoughts about the domain name itself. Google probably wanted to use 10e100, since that character string means 10 to the 100 power – in other words, a googol. Not sure why they settled for 1e100, because that only comes out to a measly 1.

The Register today reported that this domain, 1e100.net, “is now visited by nearly three per cent of all net users, making it the 44th most visited domain on the interwebs.” 

Google also posts its own information about this server, saying:

1e100.net is a Google-owned domain name used to identify the servers in our network.

Following standard industry practice, we make sure each IP address has a corresponding hostname. In October 2009, we started using a single domain name to identify our servers across all Google products, rather than use different product domains such as youtube.com, blogger.com, and google.com. We did this for two reasons: first, to keep things simpler, and second, to proactively improve security by protecting against potential threats such as cross-site scripting attacks.

Most typical Internet users will never see 1e100.net, but we picked a Googley name for it just in case (1e100 is scientific notation for 1 googol).

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