DNS as a Search Engine: A Quantitative Evaluation

DNS as a Search Engine: A Quantitative Evaluation. (June – July 2002)

In the course of the Internet’s growing popularity, many Internet users have come to use the domain name system (DNS) as a directory and search engine: When trying to reach the web site of a new or unknown company, users often request the web page at the address http://www.companyname.com, replacing “companyname” with a guess as to a site’s likely domain name. However, this DNS-based method is imperfect in that users may fail to correctly guess or remember a given company’s domain name, instead typically receiving errors or sites operated by other entities.

The research described in this article suggests that alternative search mechanisms, such as leading search engine Google, provide the content of interest with greater accuracy and reliability than does the DNS. This finding supports the claim offered by, among others, DNS software designer Paul Vixie, that DNS “is not a directory service and was never intended to be used as one.” This finding also quantifies Dan Gillmor‘s “Google effect” whereby Google replaces DNS as the preferred mechanism of locating content online.

Research further suggests that, while DNS offers what some might consider relatively high accuracy when conducting searches for top brands, companies, and organizations, DNS is substantially less accurate in searches for smaller brands, companies, and organizations.