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Innovation

Google takes on the domain name system

The idea is to increase the speed, security and validity of Web page look-ups, "without performing any blocking, filtering, or redirection."
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

Full-fledged Google Derangement Syndrome has set in following the company's announcement it will provide Domain Name Service (DNS) to its customers.

A DNS acts as the Internet's "phone book." It turns the numbers that make up actual Web locations into domain names.

Even critics admit this is addressing a real problem. ISPs like Comcast have taken to using failed Web address look-ups as a marketing opportunity, throwing ads at victims of bad typing rather than the old "404" error.

When this first started, with Verisign's SiteFinder "service," early in the decade, there was a tremendous hue-and-cry that caused the company to back down. The moves by Comcast have mostly flown under the radar.

Until now. Now you can stop it. Just change your network settings so that Google's DNS, at 8.8.8.8 or  8.8.4.4, becomes your "switchboard operator" instead of the address given by your ISP. (Write the old address down so you can recover from any mistake.) Here are the directions.

Competitors like OpenDNS have thrown all the fear, uncertainty and doubt they can at Google's motives. As OpenDNS founder David Uletvitch wrote yesterday:

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.

Verdict first, trial later.

At the Google Code blog, product manager Prem Ramaswami writes that the idea is to increase the speed, security and validity of Web page look-ups, "without performing any blocking, filtering, or redirection."

By contrast, Ulevitch of OpenDNS freely admits his company offers censorship services to those who wish to keep users under their control from accessing specific Web sites (or general categories of them), and of course Comcast (among others) are routinely redirecting confused users to their own ad pages. Google's service will be ad-free.

The biggest weaknesses I see with the new offering are technical. It's not open source. How will it handle IPv6 addresses? What happens if Google decides to end its "experiment" and kill the service?

There are fears the Google DNS will kill competitors like OpenDNS, which supports itself just as Comcast does, by throwing up ads when you make a mistake.

But I find those fears overblown.

OpenDNS has a niche in filtering results so that, say, schools can keep kids from going to porn sites. Google has no interest in that business, and the hassles of entering it would be more than the extra profits are worth.

More likely Google will use the data that comes from running a DNS to improve its existing services, to make Google searches more accurate. I don't know how anyone could call that bad, but they do.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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