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SiteFinder vs. Engineers: Our Mistake Is Ignorance

We, as the Internet engineering community, have made a great mistake. Actually, it wasn’t even one large mistake, but a series of small ones. Engineers are busy people, and most of us work under the constraints of the organizational entities we serve (be it ISPs, non-internet corporates, or even non-profits). Few of us have time for politics; even fewer have the desire and motivation for politics, and those of us who do try usually end up facing a brick wall of stubbornness, lack of understanding of the underlying technical issues, or just a deaf ear.

In the meanwhile however, the Internet has made its way into many homes, businesses, and organizations. Today, one can easily state that the Internet has become a social framework, a business infrastructure, and most of all, a critical global communication network. The way the Internet works affects great and many people, in great and many ways; the Internet has power - and where there is power, there are struggles to take control over that power, and exploit it. This is apparently one of the beauties of democratic capitalism (under which I will be so bold to presume many of us live). Yet, with capitalism in mind, as a society we come together and place limitations, protocols, and procedures in order to limit the extent on which a single capitalist or a corporate entity can disrupt the life, safety, and freedom of society at large for their private agenda. Most democratic capitalistic countries have strict controls over issues such as environment, business practices, and public safety (I don’t think many of us would like to visit a shopping mall built with no other considerations in mind besides the cost of construction materials, as we realize some engineering principles need to be put into practice during construction for the building to be considered reasonably safe.)

Our mistake is that of ignorance.

With all this said, and in nothing more than my own humble opinion, I would like to bring the following to your attention:

The current situation with VeriSign is unacceptable, regardless of SiteFinder (even though the former serves a good example as for *why* it is unacceptable). The DNS (applicable RFC and IETF documents) provides very clear definition of country-specific top level domains, such as “.nl”, “.jp”, or even “.tv”. It is the full right of the governing body of each country to assign a commercial or non-commercial entity to manage the assignments of such domains in a way in which their political system sees fit. The United States of America has the ‘.us’ top level domain for that specific purpose.

Many people argue that “.com”, “.net”, and “.org” are of American origin (and date back to ARPAnet and DoD), this is a sensible and true argument, however - real life practice is such that those 3 top level domains are used by various internet-connected entities worldwide. There is *no reason whatsoever* the control over those entities will be in the hands of a commercial entity. They constitute an integral part of the “Internet fabric” at least as much as the TCP/IP protocol itself from the social and usability POV. They are global, and integral to the correct operation of the Internet at large. In fact, those 3 domains exist “in cyberspace”; they do not have geographic or political borders, and the management of those TLDs has to be in the hands of a non-profit organization which is interested in *technical and organizational management*, not in making a dollar.

If there are (and we can all see there are, else VeriSign wouldn’t have such a successful stock) dollars to be made on those top level domains, or more specifically - the .net and .com domains currently managed by VeriSign, those dollars should be contributed back to the Internet community - and used to resolve technical and organizational issues (and there are many of those, from spam to security, or even basic coordination of effort), rather than benefit a handful of capitalistic shareholders.

Root servers, and the .net, .com (as well as .org) domains belong to the world now; Welcome to the global democracy, brought to you by the ability to send packets across the globe at the speed of light. We all rely on them, and their management should be done in a way appropriate for their status. There are many capable organizations worldwide which could assume such a task. ISC (previously mentioned in this context) would indeed be a fine choice as it has proven itself to be reliable and politically independent over time.

I would recommend all of you to rally your organizations and companies behind you, and advocate a change toward the previously mentioned direction. Power is a dangerous thing, especially in the wrong hands. We will all suffer to different extents for many years down the line if nothing is done today to put things straight. It’s time to put an end to quasi-science, quasi-politics, and power struggles in favor of strict engineering with social and technical considerations in mind.

We all know it’s the only way to make it right.

By David Monosov, Business development and ICT consultant, IP engineer, social entrepreneur

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Roger Collins  –  Feb 18, 2004 3:58 PM

Companies trying to make a dollar are not the problem. Most of the complaints I hear are about unaccountable government bureaucracies and the monopolies they award.  The for-profit registrars do an amazing job.  Some sell registrations on margins so low we wonder how they do it.  Then they give away email forwarding, website forwarding, DNS service, even free websites.  Some registrars make less than $3 per registration and still offer free 24/7 phone and email support!  (Some use labor from India so they’re helping poorer countries as well.)  They’re creating jobs.  They’re paying taxes instead of spending your tax money. All this goodness comes from registrars trying to make a dollar.

This success story can be told because we moved some control from government (and/or its monopoly) to the free market. Moving control from one government to another goverment won’t do it.

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