Google Expands Its Empire With Public DNS Service

It already handles your Gmail and eventually wants to have you surf its Wave. It hopes you’ll take a shine to Chrome. It assigns you a phone number so you can have a Voice. You use its applications to compose professional, smart-looking Docs when you’re not being a messy, profane Blogger. It has desires for the world’s Books.

Then there’s that whole web Search thing.

In addition to every other aspect of your technology-centric life where Google has planted its flag, the company on Thursday announced that it was launching Public DNS, its own domain name service. The move puts Google deeper into the Web’s very infrastructure, in the hope that Mountain View can actually improve the user experience.

However, critics could also say that Google now wants to be your Internet service provider too, and maybe the company is getting too big for its code-based britches.

“Our research has shown that speed matters to Internet users, so over the past several months, our engineers have been working to make improvements to our Public DNS resolver to make users’ Web-surfing experiences faster, safer and more reliable,” product manager Prem Ramaswami wrote on the Official Google Blog. “As people begin to use Google Public DNS, we plan to share what we learn with the broader Web community and other DNS providers, to improve the browsing experience for Internet users globally.”

The Obligatory DNS Primer

DNS is the “switchboard of the Internet,” according to Ramaswami. It routes calls from user to Web site by assigning Internet protocol addresses — series of numbers such as 12.345.67.890 — to the URLs that you type into your computer.

An average day of DNS lookups can create massive Internet congestion, so Google — which has always had the mission of making the Web faster — thinks it can find a better way of routing all those requests.

“Most of us aren’t familiar with DNS, because it’s often handled automatically by our Internet service provider (ISP), but it provides an essential function for the Web,” Ramaswami said. He invites users to check out the service and use it, but only if they’re “Web-savvy and comfortable with changing their network settings.”

Over the past few years, smaller companies have sprouted up to provide domain name service as a way to provide security from phishers and spammers while helping businesses speed up their Web operations. Google is now competing against them, although media reports have quoted company officials as saying they won’t use what Google learns through its Public DNS to send people to ad-riddled Web sites or stock up on private personal data.

One Competitor’s Answer

Google’s intentions with Public DNS may not be so public-minded, suggested David Ulevitch, the founder of OpenDNS — and he sent the world that message on the OpenDNS blog.

“When you use Google DNS, you are getting the experience they prescribe. When you use OpenDNS, you get the Dashboard controls to manage your experience the way you want for you, your family or your organization,” Ulevitch wrote. “It’s not clear that Internet users really want Google to keep control over so much more of their Internet experience than they do already — from Chrome OS at the bottom of the stack to Google Search at the top, it is becoming an end-to-end infrastructure all run by Google, the largest advertising company in the world.”

Although Ulevitch said he has to take Google’s claims that it won’t use Public DNS to redirect users to ad sites at face value, he predicted the temptation will ultimately be too strong.

“I don’t think they will pull a bait-and-switch,” he told TechNewsWorld. “They’re not a foolish company. But I think they will use the data on what Web sites are popular and what patterns they’re seeing, and use that to improve targeting and advertising and their ability to monetize traffic.”

Suddenly being in competition with one of the world’s technology giants is unnerving, Ulevitch admitted, but “at the same time we know we’re innovative, we’re very public with our timeline, and we talk about the thing we are building.”

Google has taken a page out of Open DNS’ playbook regarding security and cacheing, he said, and the pressure will be on his company to keep service quality high.

“One thing that’s nice for us is that we’ve felt all along that DNS is extremely important to the Internet,” noted Ulevitch. “We’ve helped people navigate the Internet and given them the best experience possible. It’s nice to see the largest Internet company in the world put DNS front and center, and show everybody just how important it is.”

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