Yesterday Google announced the release of Google Public DNS, the company’s free domain name resolution service (if you’re unfamiliar with DNS, it’s the system that translates the human-friendly google.com domain to the computer-friendly 126.96.36.199). This news came as a surprise to everyone, and has generated a ton of coverage by technology bloggers and journalists as a result. Unfortunately, lots of it is utter crap, and gets the story all wrong while instead propagating endless fear, uncertainty, and doubt.
Claim #1: Google is EEEEVVVIIILLL!!
Google’s critics were quick to jump on this story as proof that, despite its code of conduct, the company is engaged in some evil games. The attacks come down to a few different themes:
- Google is trying to further embed itself into the fabric of the internet
- Google is going to data mine the DNS records and use that information to show you lots of ads
- Google already knows everything about you, but now it’s going to know everything about you
Here are a few examples. Kris Smith at TechStartups:
To be honest, this product has to be about one of the scariest things that I have read about in the last decade. Google already sits on mountains of data about usage, traffic patterns, search, documents, phone calls, publisher content creation from its immediate publication and I’m missing about half a dozen other things.
Ryan Singel at Wired’s Threat Level:
Maybe this is Google trying to show ISPs how to do it right.
But instead, the news just feels like Google inserting itself into one more layer of the net — just because it can.
Now I can use Google DNS to look up Google.com on my Google Chrome browser running on a Google Chrome OS. And Google DNS will get me to Gmail and Google Books and Google Voice and maybe soon it will even tell my browser where my Google Toothbrush is. And it will do so faster and better than Comcast’s DNS could.
We get it, Google. You are smart. You can do anything better than anyone else (except say social networking and online video). We get it already.
But you are starting to get annoying, and you won’t be running my DNS anytime soon, no matter how nice your privacy promises are.
It’s still called the internet, not the Googlenet.
These arguments ignore a few very important facts, however:
- You have to explicitly opt-in to Google’s DNS service by manually changing your network settings on your computer
Claim #2: Google is Taking on OpenDNS and Other Providers!!
This argument was more prevalent for a couple of reasons:
- It’s common for tech writers to frame everything as a battle since it’s exciting and everyone loves a good fight (Mac vs PC, iPhone vs Android, Microsoft vs Linux/open source, etc.)
- Google can’t introduce any new product without stepping on someone’s toes
DNS had been a forgotten commodity for years until a few years ago when OpenDNS offered a faster service than most ISP-run DNS servers along with content filtering and other capabilities. It’s by far the biggest player in the market (I’m currently a happy user of OpenDNS). So when Google announced its free DNS service, some people automatically took it as an attack on them. OpenDNS’s own David Ulevitch:
Google claims that this service is better because it has no ads or redirection. But you have to remember they are also the largest advertising and redirection company on the Internet. To think that Google’s DNS service is for the benefit of the Internet would be naive. They know there is value in controlling more of your Internet experience and I would expect them to explore that fully. And of course, we always have protected user privacy and have never sold our DNS data.
And, blogger Jesse Stay decided to take the battle theme to its logical conclusion and declared DNS the new browser war:
Now that you see the potential for controlling the network, you realize that on the “open web”, he who controls the network controls the entire internet. That’s powerful from a monetization and marketing, and especially advertising standpoint (which Google has a vested interest in). When one company controls DNS, that company has the potential to control those that connect through that DNS. Now what happens when Google makes this “Public DNS” the default DNS for its users of the Chrome OS? Now, not only will Google have an edge in the desktop market, but they also now have an edge on the internet itself.
I predict DNS will become the new Browser War. Now that we have the players in the window to the internet (IE, Firefox/Mozilla, Chrome, Safari), the competition is now shifting to the internet itself, and who controls the actual browsing experience for the user. You’ll see players like Microsoft and maybe Apple, and maybe even Facebook enter this race. Let’s hope Google continues to follow its model, “Do no evil” as they approach this. I hope they build open architectures allowing users to control their data and control the experience rather than Google itself. I hope Google stays competitive, rather than knocking services like OpenDNS out of service. I hope they find ways to work with others as they do this.
There’s a new “war” a-brewing and we’ve moved beyond the browser to who controls the web itself. Does Google get first-mover advantage?
Wow. Talk about reading a lot into Google’s announcement. Jesse is making some pretty big mental leaps to arrive at those conclusions. Bringing this back to reality, there is zero chance of Microsoft, Apple, or Facebook(!) spending the cash and effort to roll their own DNS services. Zero. There is no war here. The battle is for what will run in the browser.
It’s All About Speed.
Google Public DNS is, quite simply, all about making the web faster. In Google’s eyes, a faster web experience is a better experience that will lead to more time spend online, more viewed pages, and ultimately, more ad revenue for itself. Kottke nails this.
So, I don’t see this as some nefarious plan to spy on users and gain control of the internet (again, Google’s DNS is completely opt-in). Instead, I’m once again impressed at how Google has aligned its own interests with those of the web as a whole. Sure, a faster, standards-based internet might result in more income for Google, but it ultimately creates a better browsing experience for everyone, even if they don’t use all of Google’s tools and services.