Valentina Djordjevic on Wed, 12 Feb 97 13:57 MET

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

nettime: [Fwd: rewired Zeit-]

> Subject: rewired Zeit-name
> Date: Mon, 10 Feb 1997 17:25:53 +0100
> From: (Barbara Strebel)
> Reply-To:
> To:
> more...
> JOURNAL OF A STRAINED NET: every monday: what it is, the web and beyond
> Plundering the Domain by Boris Groendahl
> February 3rd, 1997
> The original German version of the following article appears in the
> current issue of the weekly newspaper, Die Zeit. It was written for a
> general readership, but even if you're already familiar with how the system
> of domain names on the Net works, I highly recommend paying particular
> attention to the second half. For you, that'll be where the news is and
> where the issues to chew on are raised. - D.H., translation.]
> next5minutes, a conference for critics and true believers of the Net and
> media held irregularly in Amsterdam, had already had its share of
> presentations ranging from the thought-provoking to the bizarre. Still,
> when a group of around thirty participants held an informal and unscheduled
> meeting last January, many an eyebrow was raised when Paul Garrin, a New
> York video artist, introduced his project. According to Garrin, it was
> about freeing the Internet from encroaching usurpation and winning it back
> again for masses. Because one of the most vulnerable parts of the Net was
> about to be nabbed by a monopoly exercising its excessive power in
> cooperation with the US secret service - and earning a pretty penny off
> public property to boot.
> Some deemed Garrin an egomaniac out to make a name for himself; others
> wasted no time filing the story under "conspiracy theory." At any rate, a
> few months went by, and nothing was heard about Garrin's project. So the
> impact was all the more sudden when it reappeared in November bearing the
> title and its own page of propaganda on the Net.
> The term is derived from the general system for classifying
> computers that makes hooking them up to each other possible and reasonably
> orderly. Every computer on the Net anywhere in the world is known to all
> the others by a four-part number, say, But it's only really
> practical or easy to find them by the names assigned to them (or more
> precisely, their numbers): a computer might be called, for
> example, and this is a name human beings can remember.
> This is how the Net from the very beginning was able to rise above the
> level of the telephone companies who to this day burden us with such
> numbers and require every user to link a name and a number by means of
> hand-scribbled scraps of paper or to look them up ourselves in forever
> out-of-date book length lists.
> On the Net, it's the machines that have to do the work - and there's quite
> a bit of effort involved, too. Long gone are the days in which a computer
> could simply be named "zeit". From the early eighties on, as more and more
> users climbed onto the Net, it was clear that there was no future in such a
> system.
> And so a system was created that arranged addresses according to a
> hierarchy, dividing the work and placing it on several different shoulders.
> Now there are "domains", for example, ".de" for Germany, then the subdomain
> "", signifying a smaller group of computers, perhaps one named
> "www" - and voila,
> When it comes to names, freedom of choice is only an option in categories
> subordinate to the top level domains. These are loosely distributed around
> the world as 200 regional domains from Afghanistan (.af) to Zimbabwe (.zw),
> the international domains for commercial entities (.com), organizations
> (.org), Net providers (.net) and international organizations (.int), as
> well as those reserved for the US government (.gov), its universities
> (.edu) and military (.mil).
> For each of these top level domains, there's a computer somewhere
> overseeing all the subdomains registered under its own territory. So the
> entire list of the millions of names that have been created over the years
> doesn't need to be stored in any one place. All the looking up is done by a
> group of special computers hooked up to the Net called name servers.
> The system has worked in a strictly technical sense for many years without
> a hitch and even withstood the recent Internet boom. Why fix something if
> it's not broken?
> Because the system is bureaucratic and immoral, says Paul Garrin, the name
> rebel. Narrowing the choices down to the present top level domains is
> arbitrary and unnecessary. His project,, opens up a whole new
> realm of names in which even names of the highest order no longer need to
> be limited. uses its own name server which is accessible to any
> Net user. Use it, and you'll find alongside the old well-known friends such
> new top level domains as .2be, .sex, .xpression, and presently around 300
> more.
> The administrators recommend that more names are proposed for which the
> subdomains are not already reserved. If a food manufacturer wants to create
> the name "good.soup", it's always possible that someone else will create
> "chicken.soup" or "goatshead.soup", and he'll just have to live with it.
> Garrin's idea does indeed hold out the possibility that a disadvantage of
> the classic system will be alleviated, especially for those entities with
> brand names for whom this disadvantage is increasingly problematic. Within
> the usual domains, there are fewer and fewer names left, at least good
> ones. Companies naturally want to be easy to find on the Net, as easy as
>, or
> But such names can only be assigned once, despite requests from different
> parties. The domain belongs to the Wissenschaftverlag Springer
> ("Scientific Press Springer") in Heidelberg; meaning that the German media
> giant Axel Springer Verlag has to make do with You can just imagine
> the crises going on in all the companies named "Phoenix". Good domain names
> are now being traded to the tune of thousands of dollars.
> Given this situation, Paul Garrin's polemics touch a raw nerve. His system
> would provide a second chance for all those who've come too late.
> " sees top level domains as public resource," says Garrin.
> There's no reason to respect the limitations of the old system. Above all,
> it's simply unjust that a commercial monopoly cashes in the way the company
> Network Solutions in Herndon, Virginia, is at the moment.
> And this is where the conspiracy theories come into the picture. In 1993,
> Network Solutions took over the job once handled by the US National Science
> Foundation (NSF), or Internic. Internic was the entity which oversaw the
> large US top level domains, although not the national domains (.de, etc.),
> nor the domains .mil and .int.
> Now, of course, the various Internet functions in the US are being
> privatized. In September 1995, the NSF cut off its financial support of
> Network Solutions and allowed the company to start collecting fees for its
> services. Ever since, each domain costs fifty dollars a year to reserve and
> keep, and the first two years are to be paid for upon reservation. The Net
> community, accustomed to free services, mumbled and complained a bit at
> first; but in the end, since no one was exactly being driven to bankruptcy,
> the criticisms eventually died down and out.
> But the run on new names over the past few months, especially those within
> the US .com domain, was unforeseen even by the most imaginative
> visionaries. In November 1996 alone, Internic received 84,762 requests,
> bringing the total number of the domains it oversees to 825,547. You don't
> have to be Paul Garrin to figure out that Network Solutions is sitting on a
> gold mine. At this rate, new registrations alone are pulling in eight
> million dollars a month. Considering that most of the administration is
> automated, Paul Garrin can't be totally off when he presumes that Network
> Solutions is reaping an "obscene" profit.
> How do you luck into such a position? For Paul Garrin, the answer to that
> one is obvious. The Internet was a by-product of the Cold War. Via various
> panels, the US Department of Defense still exerts influence over the
> development of the Net. Some in the Pentagon have even gone so far as to
> assert that they "own" the domains.
> Network Solutions is a subsidiary of one of the more significant private
> firms in the defense industry, Science Applications International
> Corporation, with 2.2 million dollars in sales in 1996. The company
> attained its position researching nuclear energy and weapons for the
> government. Garrin sly points out that the company's abbreviated name,
> SAIC, read backwards turns up CIAs. But you don't have to be paranoid to
> recognize who controls the company. A glance at the names at the top is all
> you need.
> Sitting on the Board at SAIC are a former head of the National Security
> Agency and a former director of research at the Pentagon. Among those
> they've succeeded are an ex-CIA director, two former Secretaries of Defense
> and departing CIA director John Deutch.
> Now, Paul Garrin is clearly not the only one on the Net who can't stand the
> CIA. All sorts of conspiracy theories flourish out here. Still, one company
> setting out to upset the US military-industrial complex with nothing but a
> few ideas for funny computer names is hardly reason to become alarmed.
> But the many commercial entities coming onto the Net are finding what's
> left of the available addresses slim pickings, and they're not happy about
> it. And they're the ones who set the tone for what happens on the Net. The
> pressure is building to do something about it. One company going by the
> name Alternic appeared a few months before with the same idea
> for a business and didn't go about posing itself as an artistic or
> subversive venture as Garrin has done. On January 17, the two rebel
> factions, who at first were going after each other, armed with lawyers,
> announced that they'll be cooperating from now on. And the Net is known for
> its users suddenly moving en masse - who can guarantee that the community
> won't rapidly and irreversibly denounce its loyalty to the established
> system once a plausible alternative presents itself?
> The committee responsible for computer addresses is the Internet Assigning
> Numbers Authority (IANA). As it is with so many committees overseeing
> various aspects of the Net, this one is peopled with highly competent and
> opinionated, if somewhat anarchic and elitist technicians and Net presences
> whose inner springs are wound tight as can be.
> Last year, they met alongside the IETF conference in Montreal, talked their
> faces blue about reforming the naming system, created an ad hoc committee
> in October and decided to work through various proposals. Over time, the
> Net community has more or less come to the conclusion that reform is indeed
> necessary. Furthermore, it's generally agreed that other entities
> responsible for registration besides Internic, overseen by Network
> Solutions, need to be created.
> But many, many vital details are still being hotly debated. By which
> criteria and how quickly should new top level domains be created? Who'll
> oversee them? Who'll pick out who oversees them? Should the right to
> oversee the new domains be charged for? And if so, how much?
> The IANA's ad hoc committee has in the meantime put forward a proposal -
> although consensus is still a long way off - and on February 3, is to
> publicly announce how it intends to proceed.
> Paul Garrin doesn't see his own efforts effected by all this in any way. In
> his opinion, the IANA is a "self-appointed bureaucracy with no authority or
> mandate," trying to rein in the newly deregulated market created by the
> Telecommunications Act in order to retain as much control over it as
> possible. If necessary, according to some in Garrin's circle, they will be
> legally challenged in court for breaching anti-trust laws.
> So much enthusiasm for the free market and wide open competition has
> already made many on the Net uneasy. Skeptical voices have recently been
> raised concerning Garrin's proposal.
> Ro p Gongrijp, the agile leader of the Dutch hacker organization Hacktic
> and the popular ISP xs4all, was approached by Garrin at an early stage for
> support. In a recent interview, he suggested that is a terrific
> idea, but technically questionable, noting that you can't simply come along
> and announce that anyone at any time can create new top level domains
> according to whim. According to Gongrijp, Garrin's server would crash
> immediately if the number of its users doubled. He further suggests that
> the self-proclaimed institutions overseeing the Net, under constant
> observation by the general public, may not be quite as bureaucratic as the
> telecommunications companies or federal authorities after all.
> Once criticized, Garrin complained that the hacker Gongrijp has forgotten
> his roots. But those members of the scene who support are
> beginning to wonder if that accusation might not apply to Paul Garrin and
> whether he's actually grabbed hold of a lucrative business model as opposed
> to a subversive project. He wouldn't be the first to stage a rebellion that
> later reveals itself to have been a shrewd business move.
> +++++++++++++++++++++++++++
> Barbara Strebel
> THE swiss THING
> +++++++++++++++++++++++++++
> TT/ L@den
> Blasiring 160
> ++41 61 683 03 30

Internationale Stadt Berlin
*  distributed via nettime-l : no commercial use without permission
*  <nettime> is a closed moderated mailinglist for net criticism,
*  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
*  more info: and "info nettime" in the msg body
*  URL:  contact: