It’s days like these that make me really, really happy that so many Google services are so indirectly monetized. OpenDNS, the world’s most popular DNS service, makes money by hijacking 404 errors to show its own ads. Combined with revenue from filtering services for corporate users, OpenDNS made $20,000 per day on just 7 billion daily queries last year. Today, they handle 20 billion daily queries.
Sure, OpenDNS is a great service that offers lots of features, but DNS hijacking is an ethically questionable practice. Error pages full of ads might occasionally be useful, but they’re one step away from hijacking legitimate pages — for censorship, phishing, blocking competition, whatever nefarious purpose.
Enter Google Public DNS, which follows DNS protocols to the letter: absolutely no hijacking, even for error pages. If you misspell stuff in your address bar, or if the webmaster of your favorite site is a moron, then you get an error page and nothing else. If Google isn’t showing ads through Google Public DNS, then what do they gain from offering this service for free? Three things:
1. Data. The average Internet user makes 1,000 DNS queries per day. Imagine how Google could further tune its ads with just a fraction of that data.
2. Speed. A lot of a Web page’s load time is due to multiple DNS queries. I’ve been playing around with Google Public DNS, and it’s faster than any DNS service I’ve ever tried — including such market leaders as OpenDNS and DynDNS. Google makes all of its money in online applications, and leads its competitors by leaps and bounds in the consumer cloud computing space. They stand to gain the biggest and most immediate profits from a generally faster Internet. A rising tide lifts all boats, and Google is the biggest ship in the Internet ocean.
3. Goodwill. It’s a faster Internet for free, minus ads on the error pages. Everybody loves a freebie.
Of course, if you’re particularly sensitive about the privacy of your surfing habits, then you probably wouldn’t use a free public DNS service anyway. For the rest of us, it’s just a faster Internet without extra ads. For Google, it’s a win-win situation.