As a long time supporter of the universal namespace operated by IANA, it may come as a surprise that I have joined the Open Root Server Network project (ORSN). I'll try to explain what's going on and what it all means.
There Can Be Only One
If one of my kids, or anybody anywhere, sits down in front of a web browser and keys in a URL, it ought to just work. They ought to see the same web page that anybody else would see, no matter what country they're in or what their ISP wants or what their local church or government wants. This universality of naming is one of the foundations on which the Internet was built, and it is how the Internet fosters economic growth and social freedoms. It's what makes the Internet different from old Compuserve, old AOL, old MSN, old Minitel, and everything else that has come — and gone — before.
The thing I'm describing is called the Domain Name System, and the "universality" of it is a basic design property — to be challenged or altered only by great wizards or by fools — mostly by fools. Those who claim to be able to add new "suffixes" or "TLDs" are generally pirates or con-men with something to sell. On the NANOG mailing list, I outlined the situation as follows:
I am not neccesarily an admirer of the US-DoC/ICANN/VeriSign trinity, but i work to uphold it in spite of its flaws and my misgivings, simply because of the end-game mechanics. if any hair-brained alternate root scheme ever gets traction and starts to be a force to be reckoned with, then THAT is when the gold rush will begin. instead of a few whacko pirates like new.net and unidt, we'll be buried in VC-funded "namespace plays". every isp will have to decide whether to start one, join one, or stay with the default. most will decide to outsource or consort, but the money plays and consortia will come and go and fail and merge just like telco's and isp's do today. the losers will be my children, and everybody else who just wants to type a URL they saw on a milk carton into their browser and have it work.
But, One Of What, Exactly?
So, what is ORSN and why am I helping them? ORSN, according to their website, is an attempt to make DNS more reliable for a community of interested and self-selected participants. They serve only data that comes from the universal namespace operated by IANA, other than a difference of small technicality that's necessary to enable their service to work. The key point in understanding ORSN is their fealty to the universal namespace, as explained in their FAQ:
What can't be accomplished by ORSN?
Furthermore, no additional (alternative) top level domains will be added to the ORSN root-servers like ORSC, NEW.NET, public-root and other networks did it.
What this means in practice is, that the people who "subscribe to" ORSN will not be able to see different domain names than the rest of the world; they'll merely be talking to a different set of nameserver computers when they get the same ("universal") answer they would have got from IANA's own nameserver computers. On the NANOG mailing list, I explained this:
I'm indifferent to their reasons, as long as they don't add any new TLD's or otherwise display the kind of piracy or foolishness i have so often decried among new.net, unidt, united-root, public-root, alternic, open-rsc… and i forget how many others.
So, What Does It All Mean?
Let's return to that last NANOG article I was just quoting from:
with or without the approval or participation of the folks who started it all, and those who wrote most of the code and specifications and those who are now working hard to keep it running, the world is going to pursue autonomy and independence. the internet allows, among other things, not having to care very much what other people think about what ought, or ought not, to be done.
however, there's still a chance to encourage responsible independence, which i think ORSN is demonstrating, as opposed to piracy and foolishness, such as those who falsely respond to queries sent to the IANA root server addresses, or those who shortsightedly add TLD's that only their own customers can see… the list goes on. (in fact, the list is only getting started.)
I hope that clears things up somewhat.
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