MediaFilter on Fri, 29 Nov 96 09:18 MET

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nettime: Expanding the Internet Namespace

Expanding the Internet Namespace

The overcrowding of the "com." domain on the internet
has led to much speculation, name piracy, ransom and
blackmail.  From pirates who registered
to blackmailers who hijacked Tiger Woods and
snatched up "" then attempted to ransom
it back to Mr. insisting on creating
and hosting his website!

The current Domain Name System is an arcane and obsolete
legacy of the cold war, when the identity and purpose
of a network was reflected in its name.  Now that the
internet has commercialized, the nature of the Domain
Name System has reached its limits and can no longer
sustain the demands of commercial and personal users.
The arbitrary designation of "com" has created the problem
of how a company can express its identity by their network
address.  IBM, Inc. becomes's fine when there
is only one "Big Blue", but what happens when companies
in other states or countries (the net is international!)
have similar names? If Widgets, Inc., Widgets, Ltd.,
Widgets Bros., or Widgets Corp. had to face this today,
only one of them could prevail under the current system....
and whomever was first to register '" would
hold the prized net address.

Now, thanks to Media Artist Paul Garrin, and an
international network of artists and friendly hackers,
all of the names can be,,
widgets.bros and widgets.corp are all possible under a
new internet address naming scheme Garrin calls
"".  His new company, Name.Space, Inc. has
put in place a network of root nameserver computers
in several countries throughout Europe, with it's home
base in the USA.  Name.Space is the new competition for
the newly privatized and de-facto monopoly on Domain
Name Service now held by Network Solutions, Inc. of
Herndon, Va.  Network Solutions, Inc. was granted the
contract to run the InterNIC (Internet Network Information
Center) which was formerly run by the National Science
Foundation (NSF) who, as a US taxpayer supported entity,
registered domain names for free on a first come, first
served basis.  Since NSI took over InterNIC, they began
charging $100 per name for new registrations, which recently
hit a high of 50,000 per month, richly lining the pockets
of this de-facto monopoly that dominates the deregulated
internet marketplace.

Although privatization should have upgraded the InterNIC
to a free-market business, it has instead continued the
bureaucratic nature of its predecessors--and not surprisingly--
for NSI, although on the surface is a private comapny, their
ties to inside the D.C. beltway are apparent. The parent
company of NSI, Scientific Applications International Corp.
(SAIC) is a $2billion employee-owned company of about
20,000 with offices located internationally.  SAIC is the
number one private consulting firm to the Pentagon, NSA and
CIA, and were responsible for the strategy of c3i (Command,
Control, Communications, Intelligence) in the Gulf War.  In
1995, SAIC (spelled backwards reads "CIAs") billed and collected
$975 million from the Pentagon alone.  SAIC bought NSI in
March, 1995--just weeks before the NSI announced the intention
to charge for domain names, which until then was a free
process, paid for by US tax dollars.

Registering a name with NSI can be painful and delayed...
and the request for new top level domains is a long, painful
process with no guarantees.  Enter the free market....
Companies such as Name.Space. are now offering new top
level domains, or rootnames, on demand.  Registrations
take place over an automated web interface which upon
completion, renders the newly registered names active
immediately.  Users have the option of having unpublished
addresses (much like unpublished phone numbers), an option
that InterNIC/NSI/SAIC does not allow. Garrin's new scheme
all but puts the name "prospectors" out of business.
He suggests dozens of new possible domain names,
and even invites you to think of your own.

As Paul Garrin stated, "The InterNIC/NSI command economy
of artificial shortages has ended...the free market has
stepped in and is ready to satisfy client demand by
expanding the internet namespace to accomodate all."
Author Douglass Rushkoff (Media Virus, Cyberia) adds,
"What had been a fairly limited range of .coms and
.edus now becomes as diverse as language itself,
transforming a limited resource into an inexhaustible one."

While Garrin certainly hopes to make a few bucks off his
ingenuity, he also hopes that others around the world will
create their own alternate nameservers, and has developed a
system through which everyone -- even InterNIC -- can update
one another on all their new names.  To him this is
much more than a business.  It's an appropriation of an
essentially public space by the public who truly deserve it.
"We're shifting the naming paradigm from militarism to
democracy, and fulfilling the ideal nature of the Internet,
which is virtual space with no borders. is located at:              if you're already there    if you're not

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