It's not exactly a surprise that Google wants to be involved with everything that has to do with the Internet, even marginally, and so far it's been building towards this goal. From the front end, the web browser and now even a dedicated operating system
, to the very basics
of Internet communications, the HTTP protocol, Google has its hands on everything. Now it's taking it one step further by launching its own DNS service, Google Public DNS, which it says can be faster and safer than the ones provided by the ISPs or the other DNS providers.
The vast majority of users aren't even aware what DNS (Domain Name System) is, not to mention why they would want to switch to Google's offering. In a simplified view, DNS translates domain names like www.google.com into IP addresses which is what computers and networking hardware use to identify themselves in a network environment. Regular, everyday web browsing involved hundreds, even thousands of DNS lookups, but these are handled by the ISPs, most of which provide their own DNS services, so the process is invisible to the user.
“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. 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,” Prem Ramaswami, product manager, explains
Google's motivation behind the project.
But if your ISP already provides the service, why is there a need for a Google one and why should you use it? Google lists several reasons why it believes its service is superior to the ones provided by ISPs and even other open providers. The first one is speed, Google says that it has implemented a number of methods to make things faster and that, even though DNS lookups are just a small portion of the time a site needs to load, it can add up to a lot of wasted time.
The other big reason to switch providers, Google says, is security. Though rare, DNS servers are vulnerable to a number of attacks which could poison the cache in turn sending users to potentially malicious sites instead of the site they wanted to visit. Google claims
it has taken several measures to ensure that its service is safer.
Finally, Google claims its service will always provide its users with accurate results and “never blocks, filters, or redirects users, unlike some open resolvers and ISPs.” This last reason may be the most important but also the most controversial. Some ISPs or DNS providers engage in the shady business or redirecting a misspelled domain name to a landing page filled with ads and perhaps some sort of search. Of course, some go even further and redirect even valid domain names or block them altogether, but these cases are a lot rarer.
However, Google's latest venture isn't without its opponents especially as more and more voices are starting to question Google's increasing power. The main argument is that, even though the company claims the best intentions, it would be naïve to think that its intentions are purely philanthropic, there is a lot of money to be made from a DNS service. A commercial version would be an option, though this sounds a bit unlikely. But, even if it won't redirect users to its search engine or something similar, it could still benefit from all the usage data it's bound to gather. Google has come out with a very detailed description of what data it stores and for how long, but there are still those who believe that it would be hard for a company, with the kind of power Google controls at the moment, not to be tempted to abuse it, or at the very least, use for its advantage.