Dnsmasq wins the first BlueHats Prize

Dnsmasq logo consisting of a purple Zorro mask.

BlueHats prizes is an initiative by the French Interministerial Digital Directorate. They are awarded to maintainers of critical free and open source projects. In 2024 four prizes of € 10 000 each will be given out. We are happy to announce the winner of the first 2024 BlueHats prize is Simon Kelley, maintainer of the dnsmasq project. Dnsmasq provides network addressing for small networks: DNS, DHCP, router advertisement and network boot.

The jury, made up of public officials from the Ministries of Education and Youth, ANSSI and DINUM, recognised the importance of dnsmasq and its ongoing development for network security. The members of the Open Source Software Council wish to continue to highlight this type of initiative: discrete projects that are critical to software infrastructures, and maintained by reliable teams over the years.

In response to hearing he had won, Simon Kelley said:

I'm delighted to accept the prize. Like many Free Software projects, dnsmasq started as a creation for it's own sake, but it has been kept alive and developing for a quarter of a century because of the feedback that has come from its role in the outside world, and the recognition, small and large, that it makes a difference. This prize is valuable financially, but much more so as a mark of public recognition that dnsmasq is still something that's worth doing.

About dnsmasq

The dnsmasq project was started in the early 2000’s by Simon Kelley. He wanted to connect his laptop to the internet via his PC. The concept of a home router was new: connecting even one computer, via a telephone line, to the internet was a luxury. To let his laptop speak to the internet, the PC had to act as go-between for all the address information.

To make this happen, Simon started his own project and got it to run on his PC. He has been improving and expanding it ever since. And he has been so generous to publish dnsmasq as Free Software.

There is a good chance you are using dnsmasq since it is used in many home routers, some Internet of Things devices and included in the Android mobile operating system. Dnsmasq is a popular choice because it has low system resource requirements and fits a lot of functionality into one program. It does so in about fifty thousand lines of C code. That is a low number given all the different types of devices, each with its own quirks, that dnsmasq has to talk to.

Praise for dnsmasq

Anyone can nominate free and open source projects for one the BlueHats prizes (and nominations are still open). Dnsmasq was nominated by Samuel Bizien-Filippi, system administrator at Pôle d'expertise de la régulation numérique(PEReN) (Center of Expertise in Digital Regulation), motivated his choice by writing:

Dnsmasq is a versatile server: in a nutshell, it is both a DHCP server and a DNS proxy (that resolves domain names on local networks and internet). Dnsmasq is present in most routers ("internet box") and in several virtualization platforms (at least Proxmox VE). It greatly simplifies network configuration. Dnsmasq is a foundational - and overlooked - building block of networks for SMEs and public administrations. We use it at Pôle d'expertise de la régulation numérique(PEReN) (Center of Expertise in Digital Regulation).

When asked how dnsmasq is used at PEReN, Filippi answered:

"At PEReN, we strive to keep all network and system configuration as code in a version control system. Since dnsmasq is configured using flat text files, it's a perfect fit for us. In our setup, dnsmasq is used:
  • for network configuration of clients via DHCP
  • for automated installation of systems with DHCP and TFTP (both functionality provided by dnsmasq)
  • for local name resolution."

BlueHats logo consisting of three blue fedora hats

BlueHats prizes for maintainers of critical software

The BlueHats prize aims to place maintainers of critical open source software in the spotlight. It is a well-known problem in the free and open source world: The benefit of having open source software is enormous but there is not enough attention and resources for maintenance and maintainers.
Dnsmasq is a typical example of this state of affairs. Dnsmasq is a component used in many commercial products. Some of the vendors have been willing to pay Simon Kelley for implementing new feautures but there has been no funding for maintenance. The BlueHats prizes seek to encourage users of free and open software to invest in maintenance.

Nominations still open

Three more BlueHats prizes will be awarded in the upcoming months. You can still nominate your favorite project for one of the € 10 000 prizes. The BlueHats prizes are an initiative of the French public administration. The French Free Software Unit (an OSPO) has partnered with NLnet to put four notable projects in the spotlight and award them the BlueHats 2024 prizes.