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Recombinant Communications Reality Check: Google Now Runs Its Own Domain Name Server

2009 December 3

Google_logoAccording to this post on the “Google Code Blog”, the giant advertising-based search and media serving company is taking a major step into the communications routing business as well.

In the name of reducing the time it takes to navigate the Web, Google is now operating its own version of what it calls “the Internet’s phonebook.” Instead of leaving navigational matters to chance, or at least to a version of the DNS housed in your ISP’s (Internet Service Providers’s) cloud, Google is now providing instructions for changing your personal computer’s settings to do its lookups at 8.8.8.8 or 8.8.4.4. The full set of instructions can be read here.

The change is simple and belies the huge change that it is proposing to foster in the name of speeding up individual Web browsers. Google’s post would have us believe that it has simple substituted its “faster” phonebook for a slower alternative. In point of fact, a DNS is both the phonebook and the switchboard (routing resource). The paranoid among us see operation of a DNS as Google’s way of capturing more metadata surrounding the activities of Web browsers. On the benign side of things, such information can be fed into its vaunted algorithm to help refine its delivery of search results. On the flip side, such information can be blended with search histories and other Web-based activity and be used to support optimization of delivery of advertisements that accompany search results.

As a self-described “telco head”, I look at a combination of network-based directory and routing engine as a IP-telephony “switch”. If enterprise and personal users point their softphones or browser-based telephony clients at Google’s “public DNS”, they are, in effect making Google their telephone company. The ISP becomes the dreaded “fat, dumb pipe” that it has been making great efforts to avoid and, rather than the intelligence moving to “the edge”, meaning at the control of the general public, it moves into Google’s cloud where it can be more closely linked to other resources, run-times and routines.

This is yet another case where the general public is called upon to accept the fact that Google’s guiding principle, “don’t be evil”, is in full force. In this case, the issues are more complex and less black-or-white. I may want to have faster browsing, but not want to elect to have Google handle all my look-up and routing activities. Applying the same logic to Google Voice, I may want to have fast routing of voice communications, but not elect to have Google be my next-gen phone company.