bomb the netburbs

Posted by Rhizome | Fri Nov 29th 1996 1 a.m.

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 McDonalds.com to blackmailers who hijacked Tiger Woods and
snatched up "tigerwoods.com" then attempted to ransom it back to Mr.
Woods...by 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 IBM.com....that'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 'widgets.com" 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
had....widgets.inc, widgets.ltd, widgets.bros and widgets.corp are all
possible under a new internet address naming scheme Garrin calls
"name.space". 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.

[...]

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.

name.space is located at:
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