Google offers free, public DNS server

Google says its DNS server will make the Web faster and safer -- but is it too much power in Google's hands?

Google is planning on offering a free, public DNS server, adding yet another prong to its many-pronged attack on making the Web faster. With this move, anyone would be able to set up a browser to access Google's public DNS server, rather than using an Internet Service Provider or corporate DNS server.

To be sure, the Google Public DNS, announced on Thursday, is still in an experimental phase. But Google thinks that its DNS offering can not only make the Web faster (with improved caching for instance) but also safer. Google thinks it can do a better job of determining which Web sites have been compromised, which are being spoofed, trying to dupe users into visiting malicious Web sites.

Downside is ... wow, what a lot of control this gives Google. It already has the power to make a site a big hit or hard to find though its search engine. This would give it the power to determine which sites it deems safe enough for people to visit and should be blocked.

Google isn't the first to offer free public DNS ... small companies like OpenDNS have that honor. Indeed, OpenDNS could be badly hurt if Google's DNS takes off. OpenDNS Founder David Ulevitch had some interesting comments on Google's plans and while they are biased toward protecting his turf, I do agree with the general sentiment. He writes:

"When you use Google DNS, you are getting the experience they prescribe. When you use OpenDNS, you get the Dashboard controls to manage your experience the way you want for you, your family or your organization. ... For example, IT folks want to block malware in the DNS, parents sometimes want to block certain content from kids. All of that and more is possible with our DNS. It is not with Google DNS. Of course, we don’t force those things, we offer them as controls that you manage the way you see fit. Providing people with choice is core to our offerings.

... 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. 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."

(Irony alert: Ulevitch's above statements were posted in his blog and his blog is based on Google's Blogger ... just goes to show you how much control Google already has over the tools many of us use.)

Given how Google has behaved in other areas, is this a good idea? I'm not so sure. I think of Google offering free-text versions of news stories that the publishers of said news stories wanted to charge for, and its scanning of books in Google Books (practically grabbing by default the copyright to so-called Orphaned Books ... books not old enough to be in the public domain, but whose authors are not known).

Can Google really be trusted ... or are we looking at a wannabe Big Brother in the making?

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