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A few words on VeriSign's sitefinder

  • From: David Monosov
  • Date: Tue Feb 10 14:57:46 2004

Sorry for barging in to this fine mailing list like this; long time reader,
first time contributor.

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 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.

David 'wEEkAY' Monosov
david dot monosov at futureinquestion dot net