- Internet pioneer Paul Vixie publicly ranted about Google this week after he bought a Chromecast device and tried to stream videos to his TV over his home network.
- The Chromecast was trying to do something Vixie hadn’t allowed any device on his home network to do: blab about his network to an outside entity, in this case, to Google.
- It led to an ironic situation where the streaming stick was trying to circumvent some of the very internet technologies that Vixie helped to invent.
- Of course Vixie found a way to outsmart the Chromecast, for now, and he explained to Business Insider why he got so ticked off.
“Google, this is bogus as hell,” Paul Vixie ranted on Internet Engineering Task Force mail list this week. The IETF mail list is where the people who create the internet’s technologies converse.
And it is how Google was using DNS in its Chromecast Ultra streaming device that ticked him off.
DNS turns the words you type into your browser, like businessinsider.com, in the numerical internet address that computers use to find webpages, videos or whatnot and deliver them to your device. Home networks typically use their ISP’s DNS server, unless a network professional, like the guy who invented DNS, has told the network to use a different one. Google offers a free public DNS server to the world, too, at address 184.108.40.206.
Not only did Vixie help create the modern version of DNS, he’s also known for making it secure. He co-created the first internet reputation system to blacklist bad actors, the Real-time Blackhole List (RBL). And then he went on to found the first anti-spam organisation, MAPS (for “Mail Abuse Prevention System”) as a nonprofit.
He’s one of reasons we can safely use the internet today for everything from our banking to our jobs.
No way, Google
Vixie wanted to enjoy the fruits of his internet-inventing labors in a perfectly ordinary manner: streaming YouTube to his TV.
So he bought a Google Chromecast. But when he went to set it up, he found it doing something no device in his network is allowed to do: It wouldn’t use his own, private DNS server. It would only use Google’s public server.
He was miffed. Chromecast was telling the father of DNS that he couldn’t control the DNS it would use, so Chromecast would choose for itself.
Vixie wasn’t going to have it.
“No, this device I’ve paid for, will NOT be allowed to send you any information, other than what I personally approve, which will never include DNS traffic. If you don’t like that deal, buy it back from me and I’ll find some other video appliance that doesn’t twist my arm,” Vixie wrote publicly to Google.
It’s a “data leak”
We reached out to Vixie and asked him why he was so ticked off. What’s the big deal if Google Chromecast uses Google’s own DNS?
This wasn’t about fearing that Google would be able to spy on him. “They have no power to do [that] kind of rerouting or hijacking,” he said.
But he was concerned that it was giving an outsider a peek at which devices he uses on his network, something he doesn’t allow. In this case, the device is telling Google that he’s got a Chromecast Ultra.
“It’s a data leak – I don’t allow application-level DNS queries to leave my network, because I don’t want any outsider to know which device or application here asked which DNS question,” he told us.
He’s also sure that Google has very deliberately hardwired its own DNS server into the Chromecast device, not allowing anyone to change that setting.
To be fair to Google, there are valid, not-evil reasons why the company would do this.
For one, the typical homeowner isn’t an internet genius. If their internet-provider’s DNS server was having issues and Chromecast didnt work, people would blame the device and go to Google’s support people.
And maybe there’s a worry that cable-company internet providers don’t want people streaming to their TVs. Cutting them out is one way to sidestep them. (This is what net neutrality is about and the current White House administration has given much power to the cable companies/ISPs in the area.)
“Their motives are not obvious,” Vixie said of Google. “It’s obviously their intent to ignore my DNS settings, not an oversight of any kind.”
Since Vixie is an internet genius, he’s been able to trick Chromecast into thinking it’s using Google’s DNS service. If that ever changes, he’ll get rid of the streaming stick, he says.
“As I often said back in the late 1990’s when running MAPS, the first anti-spam company, after co-inventing the RBL, the first distributed reputation system: ‘My network, my rules,'” he told us.
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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