All that is wrong with the world…

December 8, 2009

Google DNS and others

Filed under: Tech — Tags: , , , , — allthatiswrong @ 6:06 pm

There has been a lot of reaction lately to Google offering public DNS servers for use. More than you might expect considering OpenDNS has been available for years, but then this is Google we are talking about. Google has a primary server at 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4 as a secondary.

The performance seems to be sufficient, and may well be better than many ISPs own DNS servers. Combined with an increasing number of ISPs breaking the DNS standard to try and maximize profit, and ISP’s still vulnerable to the kaminksy bug, this seems like it can only be a good thing.

Indeed, it mostly is a good thing. Especially for Germans, where internet censorship is implemented with DNS blacklists. Having many people use a publicly available DNS service “because it’s faster” or for some other innocent reason will give a little bit of additional protection to those who feel they need to use alternative DNS services to get around archaic censorship laws.

It is important to clear up one misconception though. I have seen many comments from people that seem to think if their ISP is untrustworthy, that using Google’s DNS servers will somehow circumvent your ISP. This is not entirely true. In most cases, your ISP won’t probably care. If they do though, there is nothing stopping them from snooping your outgoing DNS traffic, and perhaps even modifying or redirecting it.

What is interesting is how this compares to existing public DNS servers. The founder of OpenDNS has some thoughts on Google’s DNS server here. I have avoided using OpenDNS in the past because of their tendency to break the DNS standard. This is purely selfish behaviour, and it should not be accepted by anyone whether from free DNS providers or ISPs. Even if there are no problems with application compatibility as such, it’s just annoying to get ads instead of an error page.

I am well aware this behavior can be changed if you sign up and configure the service, however I have never felt the desire to do so. A DNS server should just work, without the need for extra configuration(from the users point of view). For that reason, I have been using the Level 3 DNS servers for the last few years. They are in the range of 4.2.2.1-9, and being the DNS servers of a tier-1 ISP, they are blindingly fast. The difference between using the Level 3 DNS servers, and those of Google or OpenDNS, is that the Google and OpenDNS servers are explicitly public and for use by anyone.

It is also interesting to wonder just why Google is offering public DNS servers. They have promised to erase IP records every 24 hours, which means they will still keep a list of domains resolved. I can’t help but wonder how Google will use this information to improve their search products, and if it were elementary why other search providers have not done this in the past. With IP records being erased a day after use and not being tied to Google accounts, privacy or security concerns do not seem to be a valid argument against using Google’s DNS servers.

At the moment having explicitly public, widely available, fast standards compliant DNS servers that don’t require registration can only be considered a good thing.

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