DNS is the New Browser War

googleToday Google decided to go head-to-head with a smack to OpenDNS, announcing their own “Public” DNS which users could integrate to bypass their own DNS provider, get faster speeds, and “improve the browsing experience for all users.”  The announcement comes head-to-head with their announcement a couple weeks ago that they were creating their own operating system built around the browser.  Let’s make no doubt about it that this is a play by Google to take one more step to having their hands in every bit of the internet experience for users that they can.  This is just one more “building block” for them.

The move sounds eerily similar to that of Microsoft’s early days, who, with Windows 98 (or was it 95?), started bundling Internet Explorer as the default browser for the OS, making it impossible to uninstall, and difficult to replace as the default browser.  Anti-compete lawsuits ensued from the likes of Netscape and eventually Novell and other companies seeing similar moves.  Microsoft’s browser is still in place as the default today.  Becoming the “default”  and controlling the experience is a natural move for any company building an operating system, except that this one has the internet as its foundation.

While at the Kynetx Impact conference a couple weeks ago (ironically during the Google Chrome OS announcement), Kynetx had set up their rule engine on the network so that everyone who joined the network would have their internet experience customized to brand Kynetx into the experience.  Every page I visited had a little link I could expand to view the schedule for the conference.  Every time I visited Facebook.com a little piece of code popped up on Facebook asking me to fan Kynetx, and also showed the latest Tweets for the conference.  All of this was built on the Kynetx engine.  It was pretty cool to see the potential!  The advantage of Kynetx was that it was all dependent on users installing the code to customize the experience.  While maybe untrue for the conference as a whole, it wasn’t intended to be controlled by one single entity over the entire internet.

Now that you see the potential for controlling the network, you realize that on the “open web”, he who controls the network controls the entire internet.  That’s powerful from a monetization and marketing, and especially advertising standpoint (which Google has a vested interest in).  When one company controls DNS, that company has the potential to control those that connect through that DNS.  Now what happens when Google makes this “Public DNS” the default DNS for its users of the Chrome OS?  Now, not only will Google have an edge in the desktop market, but they also now have an edge on the internet itself.

I predict DNS will become the new Browser War.  Now that we have the players in the window to the internet (IE, Firefox/Mozilla, Chrome, Safari), the competition is now shifting to the internet itself, and who controls the actual browsing experience for the user.  You’ll see players like Microsoft and maybe Apple, and maybe even Facebook enter this race.  Let’s hope Google continues to follow its model, “Do no evil” as they approach this.  I hope they build open architectures allowing users to control their data and control the experience rather than Google itself.  I hope Google stays competitive, rather than knocking services like OpenDNS out of service.  I hope they find ways to work with others as they do this.

There’s a new “war” a-brewing and we’ve moved beyond the browser to who controls the web itself.  Does Google get first-mover advantage?

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19 thoughts on “DNS is the New Browser War

  1. […] Jesse Stay says that DNS will become the new browser war and compares today’s announcement to the fight between Netscape and Microsoft. Steve Rubel says that the Google DNS is all about ads. You might be wondering why Steve says that this is an ad-play. It’s simple. Using my example above with moo.com, let’s say you accidentally type in “moopiet29595.com”. Since there is no website at that address, the DNS server is lost out there in cyberspace. When that happens, most DNS servers will reroute you to a page that typically is a search page with search results that match the name you typed in plus ads. […]

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  2. While Google does have the slogan “don't be evil,” I'm growing more and more wary of their increasingly pervasive ways of getting at everyone's personal data. The trouble, perhaps, is that the average user won't care if Google has all this sensitive information about them, because they implicitly trust Google. And anything that integrates seamlessly with all the other Google products they use is an obvious winner in their eyes.

    I sometimes wonder if Google is making concerted efforts to take over all these internet markets or if they're just a thousand whirling tornadoes coincidentally all under one roof (as Craig Burton put it at the Kynetx conference) that just happen to make disjoint advances in a seemingly unified direction.

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  3. I agree with just about everything you write here. And I've felt this way (about DNS being a strategically important piece of infrastructure) since I started my first DNS company about eight years ago. 🙂

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  4. I don't think Google's new DNS offering is a shot at OpenDNS. It's a reaction to recent behavior by Comcast.

    You may remember back in August, when Comcast decided to break with the standards and rolled out DNS Redirection, by default, to their entire customer base. That is, if you use Comcast systems, then you can't get an NXDOMAIN response anymore, it redirects to their website which has a search system and advertising. Yes, there is an opt-out, but it works pretty badly and is generally a pain to use (it relies on you getting your IP info via DHCP and you have to provide them with your cable modem's MAC address).

    The people at Google are no fools, and they realize that this sort of behavior by ISPs undercuts them. As long as the ISPs have control of a customers view of the DNS namespace, then they control your web experience. Google basically wants to provide everybody a way to access the full internet, so that they can keep their main business flowing. Presumably they've optimized hell out of their DNS servers, distributed them for fastest response, and are prepared to handle outages of other systems and such. And that's all well and good, but their main focus is not to get control themselves, but to prevent anybody else from doing so quite so simply.

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  5. While Google does have the slogan “don't be evil,” I'm growing more and more wary of their increasingly pervasive ways of getting at everyone's personal data. The trouble, perhaps, is that the average user won't care if Google has all this sensitive information about them, because they implicitly trust Google. And anything that integrates seamlessly with all the other Google products they use is an obvious winner in their eyes.

    I sometimes wonder if Google is making concerted efforts to take over all these internet markets or if they're just a thousand whirling tornadoes coincidentally all under one roof (as Craig Burton put it at the Kynetx conference) that just happen to make disjoint advances in a seemingly unified direction.

    Like

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