Yesterday Google took another step towards controlling the internet with the launch of yet another free service, Google Public DNS – and I can’t help but wonder why it has made this move.
First a little background on DNS.
Domain Naming System (DNS) is effectively what allows the World Wide Web to work. Your computer needs to know the address on the internet where a website is located. After all, the internet is nothing more than millions of computers connected together by public networks.
Every time you want to visit a site like www.coastdigital.co.uk your computer does a DNS lookup. This means it will translate the domain into an IP address such as 18.104.22.168.
Once your computer has the IP address it can go to the correct server. Usually your ISP provides this service as part of your broadband package. If your internet is slow to find web pages, then a slow DNS service could be to blame.
There are several free alternatives such as OpenDNS. These often have drawbacks such as advertising and may redirect you to an unwanted page if it can’t find the right address. For example, if you make a spelling mistake and type www.c0astdigital.co.uk, you may land on a page full of adverts.
What is Google offering?
Google has an impressive infrastructure. Perhaps the biggest on the planet. As a result it can offer a super-fast DNS service that will leave other providers in the shade. Rather than taking 3 or 4 seconds to find that critical IP address, it takes 0.1 seconds. Suddenly your browsing experience is faster. Teamed with the incredibly fast Google Chrome – you have a better overall experience.
Additionally Google is not going to dump users on an ad-laden web page if it cannot find the IP address, searching for www.C0astdigital.co.uk will now produce an error message from your computer – ‘DNS error – cannot find server’.
What’s in it for Google?
Does there have to be something in it for Google? Can’t it just offer something for free with no strings attached?
Yes, but in this case it’s a very clever move. Google has an index of billions of web pages and it might like to know how often people access these sites without using a Google search. If you want to go to a website such as www.coastdigital.co.uk and you know the URL, you simply type the URL address in your browser and – bingo! – Coast Digital appears.
Until now Google couldn’t track this traffic unless Google Analytics was installed on the domain in question, or you were using the Google Toolbar on your browser. But now Google can track that a Google DNS user is looking up www.coastdigital.co.uk, allowing it to calculate the popularity of a website without having to rely on Analytics.
The next question is whether Google will use this information to refine search results. It’s certainly hard to believe that it wouldn’t.
If you would like further information regarding Google Public DNS, please head to http://googlecode.blogspot.com/2009/12/introducing-google-public-dns-new-dns.html