There's value to possessing information, particularly when you know what to do with it. And that's what makes me think that Google's (GOOG) announcement of a public Domain Name System, or DNS, is far more about acquiring information that is pretty tough to come by any other way than it is an altruistic service for consumers.
For those who don't know, DNS is the telephone directory of the Internet. You type a URL into a browser or send an email and click send. Because the Internet routes traffic based on IP numbers, somewhere there has to be a translation between the text-expressed destination you typed and the corresponding set of numbers that you need to actually get anything anywhere over that mass of fiber, cable, wires, and duct tape.
Google already picks up massive amounts of information about people's interests, inclinations, and intentions from its search activities. It picks up even more from Google Mail and, for all I know, might also get information from Chrome. But what sort of information does Google miss? That generated by the still large number of people that aren't doing a search nor using Google services at any given time.
But having a public DNS changes that. The more people it can sign up for the service, the more it can track individually and in aggregate what those people who are opted in are doing on the Internet. That means knowing every email's destination address, every web site you might browse, every FTP site to send or receive a file. It's not as though Google would have access to the contents of everything that people are seeing and doing, but image what it would be like if someone could attach an accurate GPS to you for a day and see every place that you stopped. There's a lot you can tell by destinations, and Google's figured out how to get a good amount of that information for the asking.
Image courtesy Erik Sherman.