Google Becomes Largest Public DNS Provider
Search giant's DNS service, now handling 70 billion requests a day, also makes Google more knowledgeable about what people are doing online.
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Google software engineer Jeremy K. Chen likens DNS to a phone book for the Internet, a comparison that presumes a familiarity with phone books that might be absent in many younger Internet users. "If you had to look up hundreds or thousands of phone numbers every day, you'd want a directory that was fast, secure and correct," he said in a blog post. "That's what Google Public DNS provides for tens of millions of people."
Although Google's stated goal with its DNS service might be to make the Internet faster, more secure, and more easily organized through search, its advertising business is likely to perform better as a consequence of that goal.
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DNS stands for Domain Name System. It is a service that maps numeric 32-bit IPv4 and 128-bit IPv6 addresses, such as 188.8.131.52, to alphanumeric domain names such as Google.com.
Providers of DNS service have considerable power: They can disassociate domain names and IP addresses, making websites unreachable by those using domain names.
When DNS providers do so, it tends to be at the direction of law enforcement authorities. But such takedowns are not always considered just or well-executed. The recent controversy surrounding proposed anti-piracy bills SOPA and PIPA was partly because the draft legislation would have forced ISPs to implement DNS filtering to protect copyrighted content.
Cricket Liu, vice president of architecture at Infoblox, a maker of networking control hardware, says that whether one is concerned about Google's growing power as a DNS provider depends on whether one has a charitable or skeptical view of the company.
"Google is providing fast, unfiltered DNS," he said, "and all of that is good. But they're also grabbing this huge stream of data, generated by all those people who use the company's DNS service."
Having access to that information reveals a lot about what people do and where they go online, he said. Companies such as OpenDNS have recognized the value of DNS data and have built businesses by delivering paid advertising in place of a browser-generated error page when users mistype URLs and by providing additional security and filtering services.
Google states explicitly that Google Public DNS "never blocks, filters, or redirects users, unlike some open resolvers and ISPs."
However, Open DNS founder and CEO David Ulevitch took issue with this claim in a 2009 blog post. "Google claims that [its] service is better because it has no ads or redirection," he wrote. "But you have to remember they are also the largest advertising and redirection company on the Internet."
Google says it does not share public DNS data with other services, though it's not clear whether this data firewall will persist after March 1, when Google consolidates its privacy policies. A Google spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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