MaraDNS is a small and lightweight cross-platform open-source DNS
server. The server is remarkably easy to configure for someone
comfortable editing text configuration files. MaraDNS is released under
a BSD license.
Table of contents
* What is DNS
* MaraDNS' History
* Other DNS servers
* MaraDNS' future
What is DNS
The internet uses numbers, not names, to find computers. DNS is the
internet's directory service: It takes a name, like "www.maradns.org",
and converts that name in to an "IP" number that your computer can use
to connect to www.maradns.org.
DNS is one of these things many take for granted that is essential to
using today's internet. Without DNS, the internet breaks. It is
critical that a DNS server keeps the internet working in a secure and
MaraDNS was started in 2001 in response to concerns that there were
only two freely available DNS servers (BIND and DjbDNS) at the time.
MaraDNS 1.0 was released in mid-2002, MaraDNS 1.2 was released in late
2005, and MaraDNS 2.0 was released in the fall of 2010.
MaraDNS 1.0 used a recursive DNS server that was implemented rather
quickly and had difficult-to-maintain code. This code was completely
rewritten for the MaraDNS 2.0 release, which now uses a separate
recursive DNS server.
MaraDNS was fully maintained and actively developed without needing
contributions from 2001 until 2010. MaraDNS 2.0 is the final release
that will be made without significant financial support being made.
Security and other critical bugs are still taken care of, but there is
no guarantee of any technical support above and beyond that.
MaraDNS 2.0 consists of two primary components: A UDP-only
authoritative DNS server for hosting domains, and a UDP and TCP-capable
recursive DNS server for finding domains on the internet. MaraDNS'
recursive DNS server is called Deadwood, and it shares no code with
MaraDNS' authoritative DNS server.
In more detail: MaraDNS has one daemon, the authoritative daemon
(called "maradns"), that provides information to recursive DNS servers
on the internet, and another daemon, the recursive daemon (called
"Deadwood"), that gets DNS information from the internet for web
browsers and other internet clients.
A simplified way to look at it: MaraDNS puts your web page on the
Internet; Deadwood looks for web pages on the Internet.
Deadwood has its own webpage and release schedule. When new MaraDNS
releases are made, they bundle the current stable version of Deadwood
in the source code tree; the build scripts compile both MaraDNS and
Deadwood at the same time.
Since MaraDNS' authoritative daemon does not support TCP, MaraDNS
includes a separate DNS-over-TCP server called "zoneserver" that
supports both standard DNS-over-TCP and DNS zone transfers.
Neither MaraDNS nor the UNIX version of Deadwood have support for
daemonization; this is handled by a separate program included with
MaraDNS called Duende. Deadwood's Windows port, on the other hand,
includes support for running as a Windows service.
MaraDNS also includes a simple DNS querying tool called "askmara" and a
number of other miscellaneous tools: Scripts for processing MaraDNS'
documentation, a simple webpage password generator, some Unicode
conversion utilities, scripts for building and installing MaraDNS,
automated SQA tests, etc.
MaraDNS is a native UNIX program with a partial Windows port. Deadwood,
MaraDNS' recursive resolver, is a fully cross-platform application with
a full Windows port.
MaraDNS 2.0 has full (albeit not fully tested) IPv6 support.
MaraDNS 2.0's authoritative server uses code going all the way back to
2001. The core DNS-over-UDP server has a number of components,
including two different zone file parsers, a mararc parser, a secure
random number generator, and so on.
MaraDNS is written entirely in C. No objective C nor C++ classes are
used in MaraDNS' code.
MaraDNS 2.0's "Deadwood" recursive server was started in 2007 and has
far cleaner code. Its random number generator, for example, uses a
smaller, simpler, and more secure cryptographic algorithm; its
configuration file parser uses a finite state machine interpreter; its
handling of multiple simultaneous pending connections is done using
select() and a state machine instead of with threads.
Deadwood's source code can be browsed online, and there are a
number of documents describing its internals available.
Other DNS servers
The landscape of open-source DNS servers has changed greatly since 2001
when MaraDNS was started. There are now a number of different DNS
servers still actively developed and maintained: BIND, Power DNS,
NSD/Unbound, as well as MaraDNS. DjbDNS is no longer being updated and
the unofficial forks have limited support; notably it took nearly five
months for someone to come up with a patch for CVE-2012-1191.
MaraDNS' strength is that it's a remarkably small, lightweight, easy to
configure, and mostly cross-platform DNS server. Deadwood is a tiny DNS
server with full recursion support, perfect for embedded systems.
MaraDNS' weakness is that it does not have some features other DNS
servers have. For example, while Deadwood has the strongest spoof
protection available without cryptography, it does not have support for
As another example, MaraDNS does not have full zone transfer support;
while MaraDNS can both serve zones and receive external zone files from
other DNS servers, MaraDNS needs to be restarted to update its database
of DNS records.
It would require some large company or government agency paying me a
full-time living wage to add significant new features to MaraDNS. Since
this is unlikely to happen, especially in today's economy, I am
declaring MaraDNS finished: While I will still fix important security
bugs in MaraDNS, and will probably still fix other critical bugs, I
currently have no plans to add new features to MaraDNS.