Google's launch into the Domain Name System space Dec. 3 is bringing criticism from competitors and cheers from users who find the service functions swiftly.
A DNS is basically a switchboard for the Internet, translating computer host names into IP addresses. When a user enters a URL for a Web page, the Web browser asks an ISP's DNS servers to translate the URL into the numerical Web addresses where the servers are and loads the Web page, fulfilling the user's request similarly to the way a switchboard operator connects a call. For example, DNS servers translate www.google.com into IP number 188.8.131.52.
This is out of sight, out of mind for the majority of Web users, and because Google is a search engine and Web services provider, many assumed this was also out of sight, out of mind for Google.
Here's why this assumption is wrong. Google, in trying to organize the world's information online, is trying to serve users search results more quickly than rivals such as Microsoft Bing and Yahoo. But Google faces the same limitations other businesses have in serving Web pages, which can get bogged down by any multitude of issues, including sludgy DNS servers.
This means Google may not be serving as many search queries as it would like, which means users have fewer ads to click on, which means Google is collecting less money. By virtue of its size and engineering resources, Google may be in a unique position to do something about it.
Hence, it has unleashed a free DNS that aims to be faster, more secure and reliable than those from OpenDNS, UltraDNS or Tucows, which make money from hosting and managing DNS servers.
Google DNS Product Manager Prem Ramaswami explained to eWEEK why Google sees its Google Public DNS as better than its rivals in a phone interview Dec. 3. Google also made it a point to steer clear of competitive associations and positioned Google DNS as something that will help the Web and other DNS providers.
OpenDNS President David Ulevitch said Dec. 3 while Google DNS validates and brings more choice to the market his company has toiled in for four years, OpenDNS is not only faster and more secure, but offers more flexibility:
""We run the largest DNS caches, the fastest resolvers, and we offer the most flexibility in controlling your DNS experience. 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.""
Ulevitch and others also questioned Google's claims that its DNS is better because it has no ads or redirection, when Google butters its bread by putting ads in front of users. After all, when users mistype a URL, DNS servers reroute the request to pages with search results that match the name you typed in plus ads. OpenDNS commented on this.
"To think that Google's DNS service is for the benefit of the Internet would be na???ve," Ulevitch wrote. "They know there is value in controlling more of your Internet experience and I would expect them to explore that fully."
How is Google Public DNS faring in the first two days? TechSutra explored it fully and found it came out on top:
""In my tests, Google DNS consistently outperformed both OpenDNS and Level 3. For Americans the Level 3 server (184.108.40.206) might offer as good performance as Google. But if you are living outside [the] U.S. and you care about your browsing experience you should switch now.""
Google Public DNS should drive competition in the DNS space, but it could also subsume the existing services if it proves to be a superior offering. It will be a while before we know the impact, but Ulevitch made clear that OpenDNS will not quietly go away. Google's offering, he said, "raises awareness about the importance of DNS and it motivates us to continue providing world-class services to a global audience and to keep innovating."