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Google's public DNS gets attention

Google's public DNS gets attention

You've probably heard that search giant Google (www.google.com) introduced another new addition to its growing library of consumer products last week, with the announcement that it would be providing a free public DNS service.

The essence of the service is that anyone can use Google's DNS servers to resolve web addresses, and its purpose, according to Google, is the faster and more secure operation of the web for everyone.

"We believe that a faster DNS infrastructure could significantly improve the browsing experience for all web users," wrote Google DNS team member Prem Ramaswami, in a blog post. "To enhance DNS speed but to also improve security and validity of results, Google Public DNS is trying a few different approaches that we are sharing with the broader web community."

Users who want to use Google's Public DNS product can point their network DNS settings at the IP address 8.8.8.8 or 8.8.4.4. The company provides a detailed set of instructions for users on its website. Google has also opened a phone support line for the product.

Google's Public DNS isn't a product that can be used by ISPs - or perhaps even one that ought to be used in a corporate environment - because it doesn't have a service level agreement attached. But the product definitely has people talking, including others in the DNS space. Google has a well recorded history of throwing things against the wall to see what sticks. And of course, there is a potential marketing angle in anything the company does.

One of the immediate concerns raised around the web was the opportunity that mistyped domains would provide the DNS operator (Google, rather than the user's ISP) to display a page of its own design. ISPs sometimes redirect mistyped domain traffic to custom pages that include advertisements, a practice that has been controversial in the past.

The other concern raised immediately by many (in this PC World column by Michael Muchmore, for instance, in which he conducts a setup and thorough speed test of the service) was the potential benefit to Google in tracking and logging user data.

Google has worked to dispel these concerns, in part with the publishing of a detailed description of its privacy policies. Google says it only temporarily stores specific user data, and only keeps general, anonymous data permanently.

DNS industry operators are nevertheless taking notice - undoubtedly a good move when a company the size of Google starts eyeing your territory.

Many of the user reviews, including the PC World test mentioned above, don't show a noticeable difference in performance or speed using Google's DNS service.

"Overall, I don't see speed as a reason to switch to Google DNS, as local ISP DNS servers will usually be adequate, and OpenDNS (www.opendns.com) is marginally faster than either," writes Muchmore.

And some reviews show an even greater performance benefit by using other services, such as this Lifehacker report, which shows a performance improvement of 46% versus Google's DNS by using UltraDNS (www.ultradns.com) - a report pointed out to the WHIR by UltraDNS's PR folks.


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