Who we are

NLnet Labs is a not-for-profit foundation with a long heritage in research and development, Internet architecture and governance, as well as stability and security in the area of DNS and inter-domain routing. For many years we have been responsible for three widely used and well respected DNS implementations: the authoritative nameserver NSD, the validating recursive resolver Unbound and the policy-based signer OpenDNSSEC. We also collaborate with several organisations on projects related to Internet infrastructure, such as the GetDNS library and the website for checking modern Internet standards, internet.nl.

NLnet Labs promotes open source software development and open standards. We actively contribute to the Internet Engineering Task Force, with several published RFCs carrying our name. We also play an active role in Internet governance, offering independent advice to governments and regulatory bodies to sustain a safe and stable DNS and inter-domain routing infrastructure.

All of our open source software is freely available under the BSD license on our website. Our work is supported by donations from users who support our mission and want to see the maintenance and development of our software continued for everyone. In addition, our work is supported by software support contracts through our subsidiary Open Netlabs B.V. who also provide software development, training courses, audits and consultancy.


The roots of NLnet Labs have their origins in NLnet. This story goes back to 1982, when a group of Europeans led by scientist Teus Hagen announced the European Unix Network (EUnet). This became the first public wide area network in Europe and the place where the Internet was introduced to Europe. The Dutch part of this network carried the name NLnet.

In 1994, the NLnet foundation created NLnet B.V., a commercial arm that pioneered the worlds first dial-in and ISDN infrastructure with full country coverage. In 1997 these commercial activities were sold to UUnet (now Verizon). Since that time the NLnet foundation has focussed on supporting the open Internet and the privacy and security of internet users. NLnet's core business is to support independent organisations and people that contribute to an open information society.

For long term research projects, NLnet Labs was founded in 1999 by the board members of NLnet and Ted Lindgreen. The first activities were focussed on creating an implementation for DNSSEC, as well as the Globe research project which focussed on the scalability issues of wide-area distributed applications.

In 2001, all 13 DNS rootservers ran BIND-8 software, which carried the risk that a single bug could affect all implementations. The RIPE NCC, as the maintainer of one of the rootservers (K-root), asked NLnet Labs to write a DNS implementation geared especially to rootservers, but not containing any code of existing software. This marked the start of the development of NSD, the authoritative nameserver package.

Over the following years the number of software and research projects expanded, such as the addition of Ldns, a C library aimed at simplifying DNS programming. NLnet Labs also deepened their involvement in Internet Governance and the technical community, participating in ICANN’s Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC), the ENISA Permanent Stakeholders’ Group (PSG), conferences such as IETF and RIPE meetings and becoming a member of OARC, the DNS Operations, Analysis, and Research Center.

In 2007, NLnet Labs started work on Unbound, the validating caching resolver. In collaboration with project members from Nominet, Verisign and Kirei, a C implementation was built based on the Java package from Verisign and Nominet. NLnet Labs used the same lean and mean design philosophy from NSD, which meant a highly performant package could be presented by the end of that year. In the mean time, NSD was being used in production on various rootservers such as the L and K root, as well as several top-level domain registries such as .DE, .BR, and .UK.

In addition to an increased interest in inter-domain routing research, NLnet Labs joined the collaborative OpenDNSSEC project in 2008. The initial members of the OpenDNSSEC project were .SE, Kirei, John A Dickinson, Nominet, and NLnet Labs, joined by SIDN and SURFnet. NLnet Labs initial contribution to the project had mainly been in supplying the elements that carry “DNS intelligence”. The cryptographic and management components had been produced by other partners in the project, but have since been taken over by NLnet Labs, who is now the sole maintainer of the project.