Google has entered the domain name resolution business, part of its ongoing effort to control just about everything you do on the net.
DNS - the Domain Name System - converts text urls into numeric IP addresses. This is typically handled by your ISP, but Google wants to keep the task to itself. It says this will bring your life more speed and more safety.
"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," reads a blog post from Google product manager Prem Ramaswami. "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."
Since 2005, a similar service has been available from a startup known as OpenDNS. One difference, Google says, is that its new service will not redirect you to landing pages if you mistype an address.
"Sometimes, in the case of a query for a mistyped or non-existent domain name, the right answer means no answer, or an error message stating the domain name could not be resolved," the company explains. "Google Public DNS never blocks, filters, or redirects users, unlike some open resolvers and ISPs."
Yes, that would seem to be a reference to OpenDNS, which redirects users to ad-laden pages when names don't resolve. Google, it seems, carefully avoided even mentioning advertising in announcing its Public DNS - it merely says it doesn't do "redirection" - but the subtext is there. In his own blog post, OpenDNS founder David Ulevitch seems to have heard the "a" word.
He's right, however, in pointing out that even if Google isn't redirecting users to ads through the service, it should hardly be viewed in the way Google would have you view it. "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," Ulevitch writes. "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."
Among other things, this gives Google access to even more of the web's data.
According to Google, it limits how long certain information is retained. Your IP address, it says, is stored but then deleted after 24 to 48 hours. "The temporary logs store the full IP address of the machine you're using. We have to do this so that we can spot potentially bad things like DDoS attacks and so we can fix problems, such as particular domains not showing up for specific users," reads its privacy page.
Some geographic information and various other data is keep permanently. "We do keep some location information (at the city/metro level) so that we can conduct debugging, analyze abuse phenomena and improve the Google Public DNS prefetching feature."
Google also says it will not combine DNS data with data the company collects elsewhere. "We don't correlate or combine your information from these logs with any other log data that Google might have about your use of other services, such as data from Web Search and data from advertising on the Google content network. After keeping this data for two weeks, we randomly sample a small subset for permanent storage."
We applaud Google for at least providing a detailed description of the service's data collection policy. But as we said, well, just last week: "Do we really want another monoculture?"
As Ulevitch puts it: "It’s not clear that Internet users really want Google to keep control over so much more of their Internet experience than they do already - from Chrome OS at the bottom of the stack to Google Search at the top, it is becoming an end-to-end infrastructure all run by Google, the largest advertising company in the world. I prefer a heterogeneous Internet with lots of parties collaborating to make this thing work as opposed to an Internet run by one big company."
Google is even building its very own physical internet. We can safely say the company is building its own servers, its own Ethernet switches, its own underwater comms cables, its own worldwide collection of brick and mortar data centers, its own truck-em-anywhere-you-want-em mobile data centers, and perhaps even its own Data Center Navy.
This morning, at the Supernova tech pow-wow in downtown San Francisco, Googler Craig Walker offhandedly referred to this as "the Google network."
In a recent presentation, Google said it is intent on expanding this infrastructure between one million and 10 million servers, encompassing 10 trillion (1013) directories and a quintillion (1018) bytes of storage. All this would be spread across "100s to 1000s" of locations around the world.
"The implications are a little disturbing," one Reg reader said in response to Google Public DNS. "This could easily be a valid attempt by Google to deal with certain holes in the extant DNS infrastructure. However it could just as easily be a bridge too far."
What happens, he asked, if Google starts preconfiguring Chrome OS and Android for its Public DNS service?
The company will tell you - time and again - that it's merely interested in making the web a better place for netizens everywhere. But as it works towards this ostensible goal, it's also doing its best to control, yes, just about everything.
Which is only what you'd expect from a Fortune 500 company.
Google will also tell you that its leaders are saints - that they would never use this sort of ubiquity for evil. But even if Sergey, Larry, and Eric are morally superior to everyone else in the world - which is just as ridiculous as it sounds - what happens when new leaders arrive?