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12/3/2009
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Google Accelerates Internet With Public DNS Service

By taking on Internet traffic direction, Google aims to make the Internet more responsive while also deepening its access to valuable traffic data.

Opening up a potentially vast source of business intelligence, Google on Thursday introduced a public Domain Name Service (DNS) resolver, a service that allows Internet users to rely on Google rather than their ISP to take them to the Web sites they wish to visit.

DNS is the Internet's equivalent of a phone directory: It takes domain names, like example.com, and translates them into associated numerical IP addresses (192.0.32.10, in the case of example.com) to connect the client's Web browser to the Web server at that address.

Google Public DNS aims to provide improved security (in the form of resistance of cache poisoning attacks but not content blocking or filtering), better performance, and "more valid results," a reference to ISPs that filter content or use NXDOMAIN redirection to monetize mistyped domain names.

"The average Internet user ends up performing hundreds of DNS lookups each day, and some complex pages require multiple DNS lookups before they start loading," explained Google product manager Prem Ramaswami in a blog post. "This can slow down the browsing experience. 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."

Google is aware that its involvement with a core Internet protocol may prompt concerns from those already worried about the company's power. Its product documentation stresses that Google Public DNS is not a top-level domain service like what Verisign provides, is not an authoritative host for other domains or authoritative name service, and is not a filter of any kind.

In a blog post, Lauren Weinstein, co-founder of PFIR - People For Internet Responsibility and founder of PRIVACY Forum, notes that Google has established a separate Privacy Policy for Google Public DNS that promises to delete temporary logs -- which, unlike permanent logs, contain IP addresses associated with DNS queries -- within 24 to 48 hours.

"Google has obviously recognized the sensitivity of this issue," said Weinstein. "Their separate privacy policy for the Google Public DNS strikes me as utterly reasonable, particularly given its very rapid (24-48 hours) deletion of what I would consider to be the key privacy-sensitive data."

Other experts on Internet protocols also suggest that Google's move on the whole appears to be a positive one, though they note that it is not without some potential pitfalls.

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