January 8, 2007

Internet Zombies

Today on Dave Farber's IP list, someone revived the ancient argument that ICANN imposes limits on the number of top level domains (TLDs) because to have more than a few will cause DNS to wobble and cause the internet to collapse.

Although long discredited, that argument hangs around like a zombie.

ICANN has never been able to adduce a shred of proof that there is anything to support that assertion.  Yet, on the opposite side we have both mental and empirical tests (real software running on real computers) that show that DNS roots can readily hold and handle millions upon millions of TLDs.  No one has demonstrated a concrete upper limit.

As a practical matter, it is likely that administrative overhead and risks of human and procedural error will be the limiting factor.  But that would be a very soft limit, and the numbers of top level domains would still be huge compared to what we have today - measured in millions rather than today's hundreds.

The notion of imposing artificial limits has no place - one may as well argue that because have a pretty decent word-based search engine in Google, that we should not allow IP address space to be consumed (and thus wasted) by would-be competitors, such as Yahoo or Ask - or the next set of university kids who come up with a better way.

Looking back at 2006 we can see how the once flexible domain name system continues to be reduced by ICANN to a money pump for the few lucky ICANN chosen top level domain registries and a lifetime employment plan for intellectual property attorneys.

And yet as year 2007 begins, the ability of the internet to survive natural or human catastrophes is no greater than it was at the end of 2005.  Indeed, through neglect and increased loading, the critical infrastructures that hold the internet together, particularly the domain name system, are more vulnerable than ever.  ICANN, which was to have been our protective fireman, defending the domain name system against technical instability has lost any memory of that role and has left the technical stability of the domain name system to luck.  We should thank our lucky stars that the root server operators have served us so well, so far.

And as year 2007 begins at least one thing remains the same: were ICANN to vanish (in a cloud of money colored smoke) the internet would keep on ticking, packets would continue to flow from source IP addresses to destination IP addresses, domain name queries would be received by domain name servers and answered with alacrity and accuracy.  Only a few domain name businesses would notice  But we all would be annoyed by the loud wailing noise emitted by the trademark industry.

Posted by karl at January 8, 2007 12:03 AM