HTML5 DNS prefetch

I often get into some fringe areas of micro-optimizations of website performance, DNS prefetching is another one of those topics.

To understand how this can help, you must first understand the underlying concepts that are used within the communications used to build your web page.

The first of these is a “DNS Lookup”, where the domain name ( is converted into a numerical address, the IP address of the server that contains the file(s).

In many websites, content is included from other domains for performance or security purposes.

When the domain names are known in advance, this approach can save time on the connection as the lookup can fetched in advance, before it is required on the page to retrieve assets.

This can be particularly useful for users with slow connections, such as those on mobile browsers.

<link rel="dns-prefetch" href="//" />

Supported in:

  • MSIE9+ (MSIE10+ as dns-prefetch)/Edge
  • Firefox
  • Chrome
  • Safari
  • Opera


DNS Prefetching

DNS is much like a phone book for the internet. For each domain name (or subdomain like ‘www’), there is an IP address that resembles a phone number. Getting the matching number for each domain can take some time and make your site appear slow, particularly on mobile connections. Fortunately, you can pre-request this information and speed up your site in most cases.

To enable a domains DNS lookup to be performed in advance of the request, you can add a single line to the <head> section of your page.

<link rel="dns-prefetch" href="//" />

If you want to explicitly turn on (or off) this behavior, you can add one of the following, or their HTTP Header equivalents:

<meta http-equiv="x-dns-prefetch-control" content="on" />
<meta http-equiv="x-dns-prefetch-control" content="off" />

This is supported in all modern browsers:

  • Firefox 3.5+
  • Safari 5.0+
  • MSIE 9.0+

If should be noted that a similar method can be used to prefetch as page, but I will save that for a different article:
<link rel="prefetch" href="" />