Pretty soon the US will have sunk or allocated approximately $160,000,000,000 into this Iraq "war" (I use quotes because Congress has never actually used its Constitutional power to declare that the US is in a state of war with Iraq.)
According to the CIA fact book, Iraq has a population of slightly less than 25,000,000 people. That works out to a US expenditure of $6,400 for every person in Iraq. Although neither the CIA nor the World Bank have current values for per-capita income, it is fairly clear that $6,400 amounts to several multiples of the yearly income of the average Iraqi.
The $160,000,000,000 for Iraq appears to be merely the first installment of what promises to be a long and expensive transfer of money out of the pockets of US Taxpayers.
So, let's really support our troops - let's bring 'em home by Christmas - this year, 2003! And let us use the money saved to pay what amounts to several years of income directly to every citizen of Iraq. That way they can rebuild their country according to their own desires and we will have more families in the US who mark the return of their sons and daughters with a celebration rather than a funeral.
Bret Fausett quite reasonably argues that ICANN's TLD (Top Level Domain) "test bed" is dead.
I don't think that there ever was much life in that test bed.
I was trained in the hard sciences - mainly chemistry and physics. And I spent some of my undergraduate years doing research on high input-power chemical lasers. I also spent time in the soft sciences where I did research on patterns of urban mobility. In all of this work we used a technique called "the scientific method" - it involves observation, formulation of hypothesis, predictions based on the hypothesis, and experiments to test those predictions (and indirectly the hypothesis.)
ICANN never really followed any process, much less one as structured those used in the hard sciences, to focus its observations of the behavior of new TLDs. ICANN's information gathering was never better than ad hoc. And there were neither hypotheses, predictions, nor experiments. ICANN's TLD test bed process was not scientific; quite the opposite: it was chaotic and arbitrary.
Nor was ICANN's test bed process particularly useful for the creation of a body of data that might be useful for an unscientific after-the-fact inquiry. ICANN's data gathering, even when it was performed, was mainly of business information that has no apparent relationship to the stability of the internet's domain name system. No records were made of actual DNS activity and behavior as the new TLDs were being deployed. No measures were made of the accessibility or usability of those new TLDs.
(It wasn't that there was not interest - Louis Touton and I wanted to quantitatively monitor the cross-fade of queries away from the old .org servers and onto the new ones as part of the Verisign-to-PIR transition of .org. However, that effort was too low on ICANN's list of priorities and thus a golden opportunity to observe DNS behavior in the wild was lost. Such data would have been invaluable when trying to comprehend the impact of a future planned or unplanned operational transition of a large DNS zone.)
ICANN's TLD "test bed" has little value except as a body of anecdotal data.
I agree with Bret that we should abandon the pretense that there is a "test" in progress or that there ever really was a "test".
It is high time for ICANN to move forward on new Top Level Domains - and not merely of the kind that, even in the absence of real tests, have shown little, if any, evidence of cognizable benefit to the community of internet users.
If this coming Sunday (October 26, 2003) you find yourself in either the San Francisco or Monterey Bay areas, then please consider coming to the Forum on Electronic Voting.
The Constitution of the United States requires that there be some limit to the duration of copyrights. The recent Eldridge case indicates that courts will defer to the Congress regarding the quantitative duration of the period of copyright protection..
The "Broadcast Flag" is an impediment to copying that has effects of indefinite duration. The existence of a Broadcast Flag blocks not merely present fair use but also future fair use. The flag even prevents the copying of material that has fallen or been placed into the public domain or for which the copyright has expired.
A law that forces digital equipment to disable functions in the presence of a Broadcast Flag gives copyright holders a means to impose limitations from beyond the grave, effectively for ever.
Because the effects of the Broadcast Flag are potentially of infinite duration, it is worthwhile to inquire whether Congress is Constitutionally able to pass a law that has the practical effect of creating perpetual copyrights.
My own feeling is that Congress will be creating copyright rights of unlimited temporal duration if it enacts a law that mandates that digital products (including computers) disable functions in the presence of a Broadcast Flag.
I would assume that other people who are better versed in this than I am have already thought of issue and have written well considered papers. If not, perhaps this note will trigger such thoughts and consideration.
I hope to come back to this topic in more detail later.
I have discussed the hubris of the .travel proponents in the past.
It is indeed insufferable that ICANN is delaying new TLDs - ICANN has demonstrated no reason why top level domains should not be created at a rapid rate. It is time for ICANN to adopt an combination auction/lottery system as has been proposed by several observers. See http://dcc.syr.edu/miscarticles/NewTLDs-MM-LM.pdf
The .travel people seem to believe, however, that they have some divine right to their own top level domain. They are incorrect.
Certainly they have a right derived from the continued existence of their application of year 2000. But each of the 39 other applicants who were not selected that year have that same right.
There is no reason for any of us to believe that .travel will benefit the community of internet users. Rather .travel will be of value merely to one particular industry segment. If we are to allocate top level domains to industry segments, then there are certainly more deserving industries - farming, teaching, labor, and public health and safety all come to mind as being more socially valuable than the travel business.
Yes, ICANN's TLD policy is a disaster. But the damaged victim of that policy is not .travel. No. The real damage has been to the public who have been deprived of a meaningful and useful expansion of the internet name space.
In an October 17 entry in his blog (on the subject of Verisign's "sitefinder") Keith Teare said:
For what its worth the DNS service is actually better than it was before for HTTP requests to mistaken addresses. An error message has effectively been replaced with a redirected help screen. Where there are minor inconveniences - as with SMTP - these can easily be worked around if the industry is aware of the use of wildcards. No need for a huge over-reaction here.
A "minor inconvenience"? This reminds me of a time earlier this year when NASA was dismissing the insulation-impact damage to the Shuttle Columbia as "minor" and was assuring everyone that there was no need for a huge over-reaction.
Just as the damage to Columbia proved to be far more significant, Sitefinder's wildcard-record based redirection goes far beyond being a "minor inconvenience".
Quite the contrary: Sitefinder's commits mayhem on the primary principle that make the internet work. Sitefinder breaks the end-to-end principle.
The effects are not limited to email - everything from voice-over-IP to iSCSI (storage area networks) are damaged. And this damage is not "easily worked around".
(And even if it were "easily worked around" - the cost of that "work around" aggregates to a very large number of dollars. And Verisign has not offered to reimburse people for the actual and real damage that it has caused and that sitefinder will continue to cause should it be re-activated.)
Sure, the average person who views the internet only through a web browser might not see anything particularly amiss. But then again, the residents of the Northeastern part of the United States didn't see anything amiss with their electrical service at 4:10pm on August 14th of this year - only a small group of experts saw the signs of impending trouble. So, fact that the masses don't see anything wrong is not a reason to conclude that the concerns of experts can be dismissed.
As I noted in my prior blog entry - Why is ICANN still running a server for .museum? - ICANN is running a TLD server on behalf of .museum.
I just checked and that server is providing wildcard-based replies for names in .museum, just like Versign's "sitefinder" does for .com.
In other words, ICANN is running a TLD server that does exactly what ICANN demands that Verisign stop doing.
Seems like a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
PS - you can repeat my experiment with the command:
dig @ns.icann.org. dkdkdkdkkdd878787887878.museum
I just noticed that the set of authoritative name servers for .museum is the following:
museum. 86400 IN NS ns.icann.org.
museum. 86400 IN NS nic.icom.org.
museum. 86400 IN NS nic.museum.
museum. 86400 IN NS ns1.getty.edu.
museum. 86400 IN NS ns-ext.vix.com.
Why is ICANN still providing a server for .museum?
So, Verisign, a California corporation with its principal offices in California, is selling Network Solutions, which I believe is, or at least was, a Virginia corporation that certainly has its principal offices in Virginia, to Pivotal Private Equity, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Pivotal Group, a Phoenix Arizona based real estate investment firm.
Because of NSI's location, the jurisdiction for many types of domain name related legal matters has been Virginia.
Will the jurisdiction of these cases now move to either California or Arizona?
It was reported today that Verisign is going to revive its internet-damaging "sitefinder".
My guess is that this is headed towards litigation involving ICANN, Verisign, and the US Department of Commerce.
And my guess is that this is exactly what Verisign intended to happen.
It appears that Verisign has followed a well planned strategy to create the appearance of technical debate and a colorable (albeit technically empty) claim that there is no reason to fear irreparable harm. This strategy seems designed to create a long and expensive legal fight in which Verisign will argue that judges should refrain from imposing their lay decisions on questions on which technical experts are purported to be divided. And Verisign will probably argue that due to the absence of irreparable harm "sitefinder's" DNS wildcard redirection mechanism should be allowed to operate, and generate revenue for Verisign, during the legal proceedings.
Verisign seems to be taking a cue from SCO. Both are creating a thick techno-legal fog to hide what is in essence an attempt to hijack a major public asset.
ICANN may not have the financial resources to fight this fight. And ICANN may discover not only that lengthy, highly detailed contracts are very likely to contain holes but also that ICANN's behavior, such as its loose use of the concept of "consensus", has created contractual ambiguities. ICANN has created a situation in which Verisign could perhaps dance around the contracts for years and years and years.
Will the US Department of Commerce do anything? The DoC has over the years demonstrated an amazing degree of self-inflicted blindness, immobility, and unconcern for the public good. But there is something else that may eliminate the DoC as a player:
Over the years the question has been asked again and again: What is the source of authority upon which the Department of Commerce and NTIA base their actions in these matters? The Department of Commerce and NTIA have never articulated clear answers. Perhaps this is because they are like Wiley Coyote in a Roadrunner cartoon - they have run off of a cliff and are standing in mid air, seemingly immune to gravity and sources of authority - but we all know that eventually the lack of support will noticed and they will crash to the ground. Verisign could, and probably will, try to deflect any move by the Department of Commerce by asking the Department to prove that its source of authority is something more than hand waving.
We can add to this whole smelly brew the fact that virtually everyone is terrified of what might happen should .com go off the air even for a short time. (And we ought not to forget that there are some patents lurking around out there that might have a big impact.)
My late night prediction is this:
That there will be litigation, that it will be prolonged and expensive, and that during the months and years of legal proceedings Verisign will be able to avoid an order restraining the continued operation of sitefinder's DNS wildcard based redirection.
I'm not sure that either ICANN or the Department of Commerce will prevail - they may lack the will, the authority, the staying power, or the contractual provisions.
But even if they were to prevail, the net will change long before this case is concluded. The DNS could split into distinct (but generally consistent) systems - in this case watch for Verisign to become a uncompromising advocate of draconian database copyright laws so as to prevent anyone copying the unordered collection of facts that comprise the .com zone.
(I would predict that ICANN will disappear except for the fact that ICANN will continue to be a nice curtain behind which the whole IP address allocation system can be hidden.)
Verisign is indeed screwing the pooch, the long-term public good, and poisoning the end-to-end principle that has allowed the internet to become what it is. Verisign is a for-profit company and it is expected, and even obligated, to behave in ways that optimize its short-term assets with little concern for the long-term cost to the public. If we want to lay blame, it is to be placed at the feet of ICANN and the US Department of Commerce; the former for its obsession with protecting intellectual property at the expense of the technical stability of the internet and the latter for its unwillingness to give unambiguous commands backed by unambiguous authority.
The real issue here is how to heal the wound that this situation is causing. I don't see any path that will not cause a significant disruption in the internet. In other words, we are probably facing a period of significant internet instability.
Thomas Roessler asks a question in his blog - "What kind of innovation should be encouraged (or dicouraged)"?
Let me answer that by citing my First Law of the Internet: (See my blog entry at http://www.cavebear.com/cbblog-archives/000059.html)
The First Law of the Internet
Every person shall be free to use the Internet in any way that is privately beneficial without being publicly detrimental.
The burden of demonstrating public detriment shall be on those who wish to prevent the private use.
Such a demonstration shall require clear and convincing evidence of public detriment.
The public detriment must be of such degree and extent as to justify the suppression of the private activity.
I believe that there is massive evidence, evidence that is both clear and convincing, proving that Sitefinder creates not only present damage to the internet but also substantially compromises the future development of the internet. That, to me, is a public harm that is of such a degree and extent as to justify the suppression of Sitefinder.
I hope everyone has read David Isen's paper, the Rise of the Stupid Network.
That paper argues that telephone company networks became obsolete and inefficient dinosaurs, hostile to new innovation, because they put too much "intelligence" into the middle of the network.
The success of the internet is based in large part on the end-to-end principle, a principle that promotes designes in which the net is a mere conveyor of packets and that services are pushed outside of the net and into the end points.
It seems to me that Verisign's Sitefinder is an example of exactly the kind of end-to-end violation that gave rise to the inefficient and difficult-to-innovate telephone networks that David Isen complains of in his article. Verisign's Sitefinder puts a "service" (Verisign's term, not mine) into the middle of the net, thus creating an impediment to others who wish to innovate at the proper place - at the edges.