Back in 2014, I wrote about the US government’s control of the Internet via ICANN and DNS. US meddling with other countries’ web sites threatened to fracture the Internet. Behind the scenes, negotiations were afoot, and now after a couple of years of talks, the Internet belongs to the world — or at least, to multiple stakeholders. It will be interesting to see what happens next time there’s a major spat over DNS.
[Note: This was submitted to RISKS digest but rejected.] A WSJ op-ed quoted in RISKS digest: This means, effective next year, the U.S. will no longer oversee the “root zone file,” which contains all names and addresses for websites world-wide. If authoritarian regimes in Russia, China and elsewhere get their way, domains could be banned and new ones not approved for meddlesome groups such as Ukrainian-independence organizations or Tibetan human-rights activists.
There’s a kerfuffle ongoing about whether the UN is trying to take over the Internet. The problem proposal: “31B 3A.2 Member States shall have equal rights to manage the Internet, including in regard to the allotment, assignment and reclamation of Internet numbering, naming, addressing and identification resources and to support for the operation and development of basic Internet infrastructure.” What nobody seems to be talking about is why this proposal has been brought forward.
A lot of people are concerned about SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act. There are plenty of pages that say that it will destroy the Internet, but very few that explain clearly exactly why. It has also become clear that the politicians writing the law have no idea how the Internet actually works. So here is my attempt to explain it all. Let me start by explaining DNS, using a situation that doesn’t involve computers, that hopefully anyone can understand.
Once upon a time, back in the ancient history of the Internet–before the 1990s–domain names were carefully controlled and regulated. A single organization controlled each top level domain. If you wanted a domain name, you had to meet their requirements. Often the policies enforced were quite picky. If you wanted a .uk domain name, you were required to actually be in the UK, for example. If you wanted a .org domain, you were required to be a non-profit organization.
My web hosting provider exploded. The company who supposedly bought their customer lists has failed to get things going after a week or two. So, I need a new web host. Requirements: Linux or UNIX based SSH access and rsync for uploading my site Low monthly fees No price gouging for extra bandwidth Low or zero setup fee One domain, at least 3 subdomains At least 2 POP3/IMAP mailboxes A reasonable amount of space (50 MB or more) SpamAssassin Nice-to-have features:
Verisign, possibly the most incompetent name registrar on the Internet (but that’s another story), have decided to leverage their monopoly control over the current de facto standard root DNS servers. They’ve set things up so that any nonexistent domain name now maps to one of their servers. If you type a random bogus domain name like xyloturbot.com into your web browser, you now get Verisign ads and a pay-for-hits search engine.