[Smaug] question about meeting

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Tue Jun 14 21:55:06 PDT 2005


Quoting relsqui at armory.com (relsqui at armory.com):

[$15/year:]

> That's reasonable--I've seen cheaper than that, but you presumably get
> what you pay for.

The example of NetSol seems to suggest that sometimes you _wish_ you got
what you pay for.  ;->

> I gather you run your own, but what are your thoughts on buying
> DNS/hosting?

Well, I really shouldn't comment, because I've never _not_ run my own
(i.e., provided the machine, the location, the administration, etc.).  
All I ever pay for is IP routing/bandwidth.  My ADSL bandwidth provider 
(Raw Bandwidth Communications, a truly excellent outfit run by a single
guy named Mike Durkin) probably thinks I'm an ideal customer, because I
don't ever use any of the other services, and never call them.  ;->

[Snip rundown on ICANN fees/arrangements for accrediting registrars.]

[Me wanting to diminish ICANN's influnece, not increase it:]

> I see why, after poking around on their site a bit. Just to make sure
> I'm clear, their only actual official power is to accredit registrars;
> anything else they want me to believe is extraneous. Correct?

To be very explicit:  They have delegated authority under contract (and
subject to contractual restrictions) from the US Department of Commerce
to operate and regulate the .com, .net, and (I believe) .org gTLD
namespaces.  They have no statutory power whatsoever, and no
_legitimate_ authority over the many other namespaces, such as the
ccTLD ones.  They also have no _legitimate_ authority over IP address
namespaces.  {Cue ominous music.}


Aside:  You should be asking yourself, at this point:  Why are the gTLDs
a US government monopoly -- especially .com/.org/.net?  It's a really
rather large and diverse globe, there are .com SLDs all over it, and,
well, lloyds.com just ain't American, for example.

If we were trying to plan the DNS namespace from scratch today,
rationally, there wouldn't be any gTLDs:  All USA-oriented domains would
be under the (currently somewhat underused) .us ccTLD.  But -- as things
stand -- the original six gTLDs (com, org, net, edu, mil, gov) exist and
are under US Federal authority because of inertia: because early
Internet oversight _was_ practically a US government monopoly.  The
".int" gTLD cropped up somewhere as a concession to the UN (www.un.int)
and a few other international organisation -- and a bunch of other
freaky and very recent gTLDs (.biz, .name, .info, etc.) are signs of
ICANN grubbing for money and power.


A few of the other, more-alarming grabs for power:  

ICANN has started claiming that it has ultimate authority over the 13
root nameservers.  But I vaguely recall that that was historically the
in the hands of either the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) or
its subcommittee the Internet Architecture Board (IAB).

It has also has gone about acting as if it's in charge of the world's IP
address registries:  ARIN for the Americas and sub-Saharan Africa, RIPE
for Europe and adjoining areas, and APNIC for Australasia.  Those are
(again) legitimately and historically answerable only to IETF.


Worst of all, it keeps trying to seize control of the ccTLDs -- which
are of course supposed to be answerable to their respective national
governments.  

I heard a presentation at a Stanford meeting of Bay Area Cypherpunks, a
few years ago, by the pair of Marin-based techies who operate the
national NIC (network information centre) of the Kingdom of Tonga (ccTLD
".to").  The Tongan royal family, being no fools, realised in 1997
that their ownership of ".to" was commercially valuable, and made a very
successful agreement with the Marin guys, operating as "Tonic" (Tonga
Network Information Center), to operate it on their behalf.  (See:
http://www.tonic.to/)  Registrations in .to are $25/year, 2 year minimum
when starting.

The Tonic guys _actually care_ about domain owners' privacy:
http://www.tonic.to/faq.htm?C7AA5CD3;;;#16

But they don't allow spam domains:
http://www.tonic.to/faq.htm?C7AA5CD3;;;#17

They have an enlightened policy on trademark issues:
http://www.tonic.to/faq.htm?C7AA5CD3;;;#7

One of the things they told the Cypherpunks about was the year 2000
"invoice" they received from ICANN for $8,172.41.  An accompanying
letter explained that this is the sum that ICANN figured represented
Tonga's fair share of ICANN's annual operating budget, as calculated by
ICANN's Task Force on Funding.

Tonic wrote back, declining to fork over funds, commenting that they
knew of no business relationship they had with ICANN, couldn't imagine
why they would want to help underwrite its annual operating budget, and 
opining that they were not in the habit of paying money to firms that
had provided them with no services whatsoever.

I really don't know how that ended, but I admire their spirit.


ICANN, for its part -- in the area of trademark issues -- requires all
registrars under its control to follow its "UDRP" (Uniform Dispute
Resolution Protocol), a set of rules that _heavily_ favour big
commercial interests.  E.g., if some firm took out a USA Federal
trademark registration over some phrase approximating "Linux Mafia", and
then appealed to ICANN to seize my domain from me involuntarily, UDRP
would create a heavy presumption that I'm a domain squatter regardless
of how long I've used my domain, because I'm not a trademark
stakeholder.

ICANN got off to a somewhat shaky but hopeful start under its founding
chair, Esther Dyson -- but has gotten worse and worse, since then.
There's not a lot to like.  Frankly, I'd much rather have nothing at all
in its place.  (I'm sure ICANN and its political/industry backers would
love to impose UDRP on Tonga and the other ccTLDs, for example.)





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