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Navigating the Internet: Concepts and Context

The Internet is rapidly becoming everybody’s neighborhood. Just a few keystrokes take us to an online bookstore; several mouse clicks deliver us to an online newsstand; only a bit more effort connects us with distant friends or family. For many of us, seeking out a Web site or an e-mail address is almost as important as finding the way to the library, a theater, the nearest mall, the bookstore, or the neighborhood playground. And for those who use the Internet to deliver products or services, their clientele’s ability to find them is essential to their success. Navigating the virtual neighborhood has become a life skill for those needing something on the Internet and a life-or-death matter for businesses with something to offer on the Internet.

To navigate—to follow a course to a goal—across any space, a method is needed for designating locations in that space. On a topographic map, each location is designated by a combination of a latitude and a longitude. In the telephone system, a telephone number designates each location. On a street map, locations are designated by street addresses. Just like a physical neighborhood, the virtual neighborhood has addresses—32 or 128 bit numbers, called Internet Protocol (IP) addresses—that define the specific location of every device on the Internet. And also like the physical world, the virtual world has names—called domain names, which are generally more easily remembered and informative than the addresses that are attached to most devices—that serve as unchanging identifiers of those devices even when their specific addresses are changed. The use of domain names on the Internet relies on a system of servers—called name servers—that translate the user-friendly domain names into the correspond-



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Signposts in Cyberspace: The Domain Name System and Internet Navigation 1 Navigating the Internet: Concepts and Context The Internet is rapidly becoming everybody’s neighborhood. Just a few keystrokes take us to an online bookstore; several mouse clicks deliver us to an online newsstand; only a bit more effort connects us with distant friends or family. For many of us, seeking out a Web site or an e-mail address is almost as important as finding the way to the library, a theater, the nearest mall, the bookstore, or the neighborhood playground. And for those who use the Internet to deliver products or services, their clientele’s ability to find them is essential to their success. Navigating the virtual neighborhood has become a life skill for those needing something on the Internet and a life-or-death matter for businesses with something to offer on the Internet. To navigate—to follow a course to a goal—across any space, a method is needed for designating locations in that space. On a topographic map, each location is designated by a combination of a latitude and a longitude. In the telephone system, a telephone number designates each location. On a street map, locations are designated by street addresses. Just like a physical neighborhood, the virtual neighborhood has addresses—32 or 128 bit numbers, called Internet Protocol (IP) addresses—that define the specific location of every device on the Internet. And also like the physical world, the virtual world has names—called domain names, which are generally more easily remembered and informative than the addresses that are attached to most devices—that serve as unchanging identifiers of those devices even when their specific addresses are changed. The use of domain names on the Internet relies on a system of servers—called name servers—that translate the user-friendly domain names into the correspond-

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Signposts in Cyberspace: The Domain Name System and Internet Navigation ing IP addresses. This system of addresses and names linked by name servers establishes the signposts in cyberspace and serves as the basic infrastructure supporting navigation across the Internet. It is called the Domain Name System (DNS). This report is concerned with the Domain Name System and its interactions with Internet navigation, including its uses as a means of navigation itself and as an infrastructure for navigation by other means. Since the World Wide Web is the application running on the Internet that contains the greatest number of locations to which most users want to navigate, this report often draws examples from the Web. However, there are other applications that use the Internet, not least e-mail, and others that are being developed for it. The DNS supports most of them. Unless otherwise specified, the information in this report, its conclusions, and its recommendations apply to the DNS in its role as a basic infrastructure element of the entire Internet, not just of the World Wide Web. The report’s specific objectives and how it is organized to address them are spelled out in this chapter, which begins with an introduction to the Internet, the Domain Name System, and Internet navigation, and with an examination of the forces affecting them. Four basic concepts that are used throughout this report—names, navigation, technical system, and institutional framework—are defined and briefly described in Box 1.1. 1.1 THE INTERNET The Internet, according to the National Research Council, is “a diverse set of independent networks, interlinked to provide its users with the appearance of a single, uniform network…. The networks that compose the Internet share a common architecture (how the components of the networks interrelate) and software protocols (standards governing the interchange of data) that enable communication within and among the constituent networks.”1 Internally, the Internet comprises two types of elements: communication links, channels over which data travel from point to point; and routers, computers at the network’s nodes that direct data arriving along incoming links to outgoing links that will take them toward their destinations. Altogether, the Internet is a complex network of routers and links, the latter varying in transmission medium (telephone lines, cable lines, optical fiber cable, satellite, wireless); servers and other hosts; and access equipment. Links in the network may be characterized by their transmission capacity (low-capacity local lines 1   Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council, The Internet’s Coming of Age, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2001, p. 29.

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Signposts in Cyberspace: The Domain Name System and Internet Navigation to very high capacity “backbone” cables) and by their latency (short-latency local fiber links to long-travel-time satellite links). Data travel along the Internet in packets adhering to the standard Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) that defines the packets’ format and header information. Each router uses the origin and destination IP addresses in each arriving packet to determine which link to direct it along. A message from a sender to a receiver may be broken into multiple packets, each of which may follow a different path through the Internet. Information in the packets’ headers enables the message to be restored to its proper order at its destination. The origins and destinations of data transiting the Internet are computers (or other digital devices) located at its “edges.” They are, typically, connected to the Internet through an Internet service provider (ISP) that handles the necessary technical and administrative arrangements. A distinctive feature of the Internet is that all the user services (such as e-mail or the World Wide Web) accessible through it are provided by applications running on computers located at its edges. The “center” of the Internet—its links and routers—provides the critical connectivity among them. As a consequence of this architecture, most of the service innovation takes place at the edges, completely independently of the network itself. It is an embodiment of the end-to-end argument in systems design2 that says that “the network should provide a very basic level of service—data transport—and that the intelligence—the information processing needed to provide applications—should be located close in or close to the devices attached to the edge of the network.”3 A consequence of this architecture is that innovation at the edges is eased and facilitated, requiring no coordination with network architects or operators, as long as the basic protocols are adhered to. Conversely, innovation at the center of the network is difficult and often slow, since it requires the cooperation of many providers and users. Because of the higher potential for inadvertent disruption as a side effect of a change at the center of the system, difficult and time-consuming effort must be devoted to testing and validating each proposed change. All such changes have been subject to cooperative collaboration and agreement by the Internet engineering community since the earliest days of research and implementation. (See “Maintenance of DNS Standards” in Section 3.2.5.) That principle has been a major factor in the successful design, development, and implementation of the technology. 2   See Jerome H. Saltzer, David P. Reed, and David D. Clark, “End-to-End Arguments in System Design,” ACM Transactions on Computer Systems 2(4):277-288, 1984. 3   CSTB, NRC, The Internet’s Coming of Age, 2001, p. 36.

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Signposts in Cyberspace: The Domain Name System and Internet Navigation BOX 1.1 Four Basic Concepts Names and Naming Systems Names and naming systems are everywhere in society. A license plate on a car, a serial number on a product, and a stock market symbol for a company are a few examples of names that are used within formal naming systems. Each of these examples is a unique identifier, created according to the specifications of a naming system, which is associated through strict naming rules with a single automobile, product, or company. Equally important are a host of informal or less strict naming systems, such as the naming of people by families, the naming of streets or locations, or the naming of files and directories on a personal computer. In these processes, there is no guarantee of unique names for objects. More generally, naming is used to distinguish individual objects within a broad class, the object space. The set of allowable names for objects in that class is called the name space. A name is then a member of that set used to differentiate one member of the object class from another. A naming system is the combination of an object space, the name space that is applied to it, the rules governing the assignment of names to objects, the files recording the assignments, and the administrative processes (if any) applying the rules and maintaining the files. Navigation, Navigation Aids, and Navigation Services Navigation is the process of following a course from one place to another. In the narrow sense, the term is used to refer to a person or entity (e.g., a vehicle) being directed along a course from an origin to a specified destination. In the broader sense, navigation refers to following a course on, across, or through (e.g., navigate a stream) or making one’s way some-where (e.g., Lewis and Clark navigating to the “western passage” or Dr. Livingstone navigating to the source of the Nile). Navigation involves a set of skills (e.g., reading a compass, using a search engine). The place to which one wishes to navigate may be known explicitly (e.g., latitude and longitude, a street address, a Web site address) or only in general terms (e.g., source of the Nile, sites with information about veterans’ benefits). In the former case, navigation requires only the two steps of laying out a route to the known location and following it. In the latter case, however, there is a prior step of identifying the desired location (or locations) through a search process of some form. A navigation aid is anything that assists navigation, such as a map or a compass. In the physical world, navigation aids include a sextant and precision clock, and a compass and topographical map. In document-oriented environments, navigation aids include printed directories for the telephone system and card catalogs for library collections. Human intermediaries also can serve as navigation aids in these environments, such as directory assis-

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Signposts in Cyberspace: The Domain Name System and Internet Navigation tance operators in the telephone system and reference librarians for library services. In the Internet, navigation aids include bookmarks and lists of favorites, hyperlinks, and restricted keyword systems, such as AOL keywords. A navigation service is a navigation aid that is based on a complex technical system (see below). In the physical world, the Global Positioning System is a navigation service, as is an inertial navigation system. Automated directory assistance and online white pages are navigation services for the telephone network, and online card catalogs are navigation services for libraries. In the Internet, directories and search engines are navigation services. Internet navigation, navigation aids, and navigation services are discussed in greater detail in Chapters 6, 7, and 8. Technical Systems A technical system is an integrated set of engineered elements (components and practices) that delivers a specific service to users. Some familiar examples of technical systems are the telephone system, the air transport system, the electric power system, and the Domain Name System. In the case of the telephone system, the engineered elements are organized in a complex network that includes the switching facilities (both hardware and software) that set up the circuits linking telephones for a call, the transmission lines that carry the calls, and the telephone instruments that originate and receive calls; the service it delivers is telephone connectivity; and the users are people who want to communicate with others by voice, data, or facsimile. The single technical system that is the Domain Name System is described and discussed in detail in Chapters 2, 3, and 4; the technical systems that support Internet navigation services are characterized more broadly in Chapters 6, 7, and 8. Institutional Framework An institutional framework is a collection of organizations and policies whose decisions and actions enable a technical system to be constructed, operated, controlled, regulated, and improved. An institutional framework and its technical system are complementary to each other. Each of the examples of technical systems described above has a complementary institutional framework. The telephone system, for example, depends for its effective and efficient development and operation upon a complementary framework comprising equipment suppliers, operating companies, local, state, national, and international regulatory bodies, international standards organizations, and the technical community. The institutional framework of the DNS is discussed in Chapters 2, 3, and 5; that of Internet navigation services, in Chapters 6, 7, and 8.

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Signposts in Cyberspace: The Domain Name System and Internet Navigation The Internet’s architecture has enabled it to respond very successfully to the challenges of growth in the number of its users and in the capacity of its links and the complexity of their connectivity, as well as to provide a robust base for the growth of services such as e-mail and the World Wide Web. 1.2 THE DOMAIN NAME SYSTEM The DNS was put into place by technologists in the early 1980s when the Internet provided basic non-commercial services to a small community of specialists.4 The World Wide Web had not yet been invented. The DNS’s designers intended it to be a simple and stable way for users and applications to identify computers on the Internet. They gave it a hierarchical structure so that the responsibility for maintaining the necessary information tying domain names to IP addresses (and other data) could be distributed to the organizations actually managing the relevant networks and groups of hosts across the edges of the network.5 They designed it as an inverted tree with the expectation that most domain names would lie several branches down, requiring relatively few names in the upper part of the tree. Figure 1.1 illustrates the Domain Name System’s role in support of navigation across the Internet.6 Complete domain names7 incorporate the names of the nodes in the tree above them. So in Figure 1.1, the domain name www.cstb.nas.edu designates the www leaf lying on the .cstb branch, which lies on the .nas branch, which lies on the .edu branch. A number of factors, including the introduction of the World Wide Web in the early 1990s, have transformed the Internet community from a small town into a great and rapidly expanding metropolis with an extremely large, highly diverse body of users, relatively few of whom are computer specialists. These users employ the Internet as the communications backbone for a vast range of commercial and non-commercial purposes. As a result, the Internet has expanded both in scale and in the scope of its applications. Because of the elegance of its technical design, the DNS has, thus far, been able to adjust to the expanded scale of the Internet, evolving to meet the increased operational demand adequately. However, as a consequence of the growth in the scope of the Internet, the DNS is now used in ways that were not anticipated when it was designed. These 4   Chapter 2 describes the development of the Domain Name System. 5   Chapter 3 describes the design and operation of the Domain Name System. 6   This depiction of the DNS is highly simplified. More detailed descriptions of the DNS are provided in Chapters 2 and 3. 7   Formally, these are called “fully qualified domain names” to distinguish them from partial domain names that describe the path only from some node below the root.

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Signposts in Cyberspace: The Domain Name System and Internet Navigation FIGURE 1.1 The Domain Name System and Internet navigation for the Web—navigating to www.cstb.nas.edu. The Web site and IP address used are fictional. unanticipated uses have led, in turn, to a substantial increase in the number and complexity of the institutions responsible for its operation and management and to less use than was originally expected of deep naming hierarchies and distributed, but localized, management of names. This growth in institutional complexity has been driven primarily by the fact that domain names acquired increased value, which required mechanisms to deal with their allocation and control. Their acquisition of increased value followed from four developments: Preference for short and memorable names. The first development was a preference among users for short and memorable domain names, which led to an unexpectedly unbalanced distribution of domain names. More devices were named at the second or third level of the inverted tree, thereby widening it, rather than deepening it to the fourth and lower levels as had been anticipated. And although the implementation of the DNS offered a range of generic top-level domains—such as .com, .net, .org,

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Signposts in Cyberspace: The Domain Name System and Internet Navigation .gov, and .edu—for a variety of reasons, .com became the preferred choice, further unbalancing the tree. Even with the addition of new generic top-level domains after the year 2000, memorable domain names within the .com domain remain the preferred choice for most businesses, many non-profit organizations, and numerous individuals.8 Navigation role of .com. What led most directly to the growth in importance of the .com domain was the second development—its self-fulfilling role in navigation. For example, as commercial uses grew, users seeking IBM’s site on the World Wide Web could guess www.ibm.com with an expectation of success. That common behavior naturally led organizations and individuals to seek registration of domain names that users might be able to guess to find their site, which in turn improved the users’ chances of navigating by guessing. That users were inclined to use domain names to search for content of interest increased the desirability of domain names corresponding to generic words, such as “business,” “jobs,” or “sex.” And the importance of having those names in the .com domain was increased even more by the design of Web browsers. Recognizing user inclinations, designers made the default behavior of many Web browsers when confronted by an incomplete domain name the automatic addition of .com to the end of it and www as the default prefix.9 Thus, domain names became not only the way of designating locations on the Internet, but also a principal means of navigating to them.10 Valuable second-level domain names. The third development was the recognition that certain domain names within the top-level domains—second-level domain names—are more valuable than most others. The result was an aftermarket for domain names, generally in the .com top-level domain, in which some have been resold for prices far greater than the nominal registration fee paid by the original registrant. Furthermore, in an effort to protect their rights and prevent others from abusing them, trademark holders have sought to acquire many of the domain names incorporating their trademarks and, given the likelihood of entry errors, words that are typographically close to them in all of the relevant top-level domains. This effort has, in turn, led to competition among trademark holders with the same mark (though in different industries or regions) for the small number of memorable domain names incorporating their marks. (Individuals or groups with other legitimate claims to a 8   In mid-2004 there were almost 27 million .com registrations compared with 4.4 million for .net and 2.8 million for .org. See also Table 3.3. 9   Browsers in 2005 no longer make this assumption. Instead, they commonly assume that the entry is a search term. 10   The unique role of .com is elaborated on in Chapter 2.

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Signposts in Cyberspace: The Domain Name System and Internet Navigation name—such as those with the surname McDonald11—have also asserted their rights to domain names incorporating trademarks.) It has also attracted speculators who rush to acquire potentially desirable domain names (both trademarks and generic words) in order to resell them to those for whom the value would be substantially greater than the registration fee.12 Marketing function. The value of domain names has been further enhanced by their widespread use in marketing materials as a secondary, or even primary (e.g., amazon.com), identifier of an organization. In that role they appear on stationery, in newspaper ads, on billboards, and on the sides of buses. This marketing function of domain names is the fourth unanticipated development. Because of these developments, the Domain Name System—originally a modest technical system introduced to provide easy-to-remember and portable names for locations on the Internet—has become a critical tool facilitating global communication by designating sources of information, products, and services as well as the e-mail boxes of people and organizations throughout cyberspace. As a consequence, its simple original institutional framework, managed essentially by one person,13 has been replaced with a complex network of institutions comprising numerous public and private, commercial and non-commercial organizations that register domain names and operate name servers; and one non-governmental organization with international scope that, with the authority and oversight of the U.S. government, provides technical coordination and establishes some elements of global policy—the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). 11   The new top-level domain, .name, for registration by individuals was intended to meet that need, although by mid-2004 the companies involved with registrations in that domain had not found business models capable of supporting those operations. 12   A case in point is the name business.com, which changed hands for $150,000 in 1997 and was resold for $7.5 million in 1999. See Jennifer Mack, “Business.com: The $7.5 Million Domain,” ZDNet News, December 1, 1999, available at <http://zdnet.com.com/2100-11516999.html?legacy=zdnn>. However, in the aftermath of the dot-com bust, the prices realized in the aftermarket for domain names have also subsided substantially, although at the end of 2003 the name men.com was sold for $1.3 million by a person who paid $15,000 for it in 1997. See Anick Jesdanun, “Domain Names Once Again Fetch Top Dollar,” Associated Press, December 25, 2003. 13   Jon Postel held this responsibility for many years. For further information, see <http://www.isoc.org/postel>.

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Signposts in Cyberspace: The Domain Name System and Internet Navigation 1.3 INTERNET NAVIGATION With the growth of the size, complexity, and variety of applications using the Internet, and especially the rapid growth of the World Wide Web, a range of aids to the navigation process (especially on the Web) have appeared.14 The DNS is a single technical system providing a single service, which is operated and controlled in a complex institutional framework. In contrast, among aids to navigation on the Web there are numerous specialized navigation services, each operated by different providers that compete openly without any comprehensive institutional framework for their operation and control. Principal among these navigation services are search engines, which at the possible cost of a few more keystrokes open up a far wider range of possibilities on the Web than simple domain name guessing; and directories, which provide a yellow pages or white pages guide to locations, principally on the Web. As search engines have improved in user-perceived quality and ease of use, they have become a principal means of navigation to new destinations for many users.15 In place of guessing, intrepid Web travelers enter a descriptive word or phrase in the search engine and use the resultant list to direct their journeys. In June 2004, nearly 4 billion searches were conducted each month by almost 110 million people in the United States, an average of 33 searches per person per month.16 It appears that a consequence of the growing use of search engines for navigation across the Web may be a reduction, though by no means elimination, of the direct use of the DNS to support navigation by guessing domain names. Because locations that offer search or directory capabilities are accessed so often, a number have evolved into portals, which are Web sites offering directed links to popular categories of services, such as My Yahoo!. Portals such as MSN and AOL have also evolved from provision of 14   If the location of a desired Web site is known, then navigation can be direct—the DNS determines the IP address of the site. If the location is not known, then some navigation aid must first be used to determine the location. See Section 7.1 for a detailed discussion of direct and indirect navigation. 15   According to data from WebSideStory, both direct navigation using a known domain name and the use of Web search engines increased substantially from 2002 to 2003. In March 2003, 13.6 percent of Web site accesses were generated by search engine listings, while 66 percent were the result of the use of bookmarks or direct entry of a known address. See <http://www.websidestory.com>, press release, March 12, 2003. 16   Deborah Fallows, Lee Rainie, and Graham Mudd, “The Popularity and Importance of Search Engines,” data memo, Pew Internet & American Life Project, August 2004, available at <http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Data_Memo_Searchengines.pdf>. The results came both from a telephone survey of 1399 Internet users and from tracking of Internet use by comScore Media Metrix.

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Signposts in Cyberspace: The Domain Name System and Internet Navigation Internet service. Some users find the portals more desirable than search engines alone and begin their navigation from them. In doing so, they are relying on the editorial judgment and commercial or other arrangements of the portal to get started. However, once a World Wide Web site is reached—no matter how—subsequent navigation often flows along the network of links from one site to others. And it is likely that most experienced users deploy a combination of navigation services and other aids: employing search engines, portals, and direct entry of destinations into browsers at various times.17 Other navigation aids are also in use. In some Web portals run by ISPs (such as AOL) or through extensions to browsers, a specified vocabulary of key words can be used to reach specific destinations. The cumulative effect of these services and other aids to navigation has, thus far, been positive. They enable users to find sources of products, services, information, and contacts that they would not have been able to identify previously. Complementarily, they enable providers to reach audiences that might not otherwise have known of their existence. Unlike the development of the top levels of the DNS, which has been under the technical control of the Internet engineering community and the governance of ICANN, national governments, and the operational organizations, these navigation services have for the most part been provided by private organizations. Despite their benefits, however, navigation services and other aids are also beginning to raise policy concerns. Most search engines and directories now accept payment from advertisers for placement of an ad on the pages of responses to queries with specific search terms. If not clearly identified such ads might give searchers a false sense of an advertiser’s importance or relevance and reduce the chances that a non-advertiser will be located. Concerns about the practices of the providers of navigation services are likely to grow as Internet users rely increasingly on these services as a principal means of navigation. 1.4 THE DYNAMICS OF CHANGE Since the early 1980s, when the DNS was developed, five forces have inexorably driven the transformation of the Internet from its origins as a small, primarily North American research network, which was run by a tight-knit group of specialists for use within their research and industrial communities, into its current state as a diffusely managed and increasingly critical part of the global information and communication infrastruc- 17   These destinations might be derived from guesses about domain names as discussed above or references provided by others (e.g., in an e-mail) that are copied and pasted into browsers, as well as by the use of bookmarks for destinations that are accessed frequently.

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Signposts in Cyberspace: The Domain Name System and Internet Navigation ture. These driving forces are increasing scale, technological progress, increasing economic value, increasing social value, and internationalization. In addition to having a profound impact on the Internet (and the World Wide Web) as a whole, these forces have simultaneously transformed the DNS and Internet navigation to subjects of substantial commercial, legal, political, and social importance. The likelihood of the continued influence of these forces raises important questions about the future viability, operability, and governability of the DNS and Internet navigation—the subjects of this study. 1.4.1 Increasing Scale When the DNS was developed, the Internet comprised on the order of 1000 sites and perhaps 10,000 users. In two decades it has grown to more than 30 million sites and over 600 million users.18 Though its designers did not fully anticipate the rapid growth in users and uses stimulated by the World Wide Web, the DNS has technically scaled quite well to the current size. In addition, new navigation tools have been deployed to assist users in searching the vastly larger Internet. The Internet continues to grow in number of users, number of addresses, and number and diversity of attached devices. By 2010, at current growth rates, the Internet could have more than 60 million sites and well over a billion users worldwide.19 1.4.2 Technological Progress When the DNS was developed, most of the hosts were workstations, minicomputers, or mainframe computers. Personal computers had just begun their penetration of the business and home markets in North America, Europe, and Japan. Internetworking communication took place over backbones that had 56 kbps (kilobits per second) speeds—about 1/180,000th the speeds of backbones in 2005, which run at 10 Gbps (gigabits per second). As the capacities of computers and communications networks have soared, the DNS and navigation systems have taken advantage of the increased computational capability and bandwidth to meet the 18   These numbers reflect estimates made in May 2003 by CyberAtlas; see <http://cyberatlas.internet.com>. 19   To serve them, the basic IP address—currently 32 bits—is being enlarged to 128 bits, enabling addressing of a wide range of devices from computers and cell phones to home digital media centers and home appliances. The current IP address space is called the IPv4 address space; the new version is called the IPv6 address space. IPv6 is slowly being adopted, working in parallel with IPv4.

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Signposts in Cyberspace: The Domain Name System and Internet Navigation challenges of scaling. Continuing technological advances in computing and communications offer the possibility of strengthening the DNS and increasing the capacities of navigation services, while at the same time further empowering those who would attack the services or attempt to misdirect them for their own benefit. 1.4.3 Increasing Economic Value When the DNS was developed, there was probably little or no economic value associated with possession of a particular domain name, which could be obtained at no cost, although having a hierarchical naming system was judged to be valuable. A distinctive Internet culture had developed well before this time, led by the relatively small and homogeneous community of engineers and scientists who were its primary users. It placed high value on voluntary service, free access within the community, and consensus decision making. However, the growth of applications on the Internet for commerce, information, art, and entertainment attracted commercial, legal, governmental, and other communities whose values and processes differ from those of the early Internet culture. Their arrival led to the development of a vigorous market for domain names and of a variety of mechanisms to deal with fair allocation of the now economically valuable domain names. Not surprisingly, throughout these developments there has been a continuing tension between the technical community and the public interest community about the proper goals and mechanisms for the allocation of domain names and the management of the DNS. As domain names have gained economic value, so, too, has the desire grown for opportunities to publicize those names (as part of Web site and e-mail addresses) to potential users of the corresponding Internet locations. Consequently, many search engines and other navigational services, which originally provided a single listing of search results in the order of estimated relevance to the user’s query, now also give prominent placement to those willing to pay for it. As noted above, the search engine industry faces a continuing challenge in finding the proper balance between the interests of the users of search engines and the advertisers on them, against the backdrop of the ever present possibility of government intervention. 1.4.4 Increasing Social Value When the DNS was developed, there was a modest level of social, political, or cultural value associated with specific domain names. As the Internet grew in size and evolved in use, it became a primary medium for

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Signposts in Cyberspace: The Domain Name System and Internet Navigation communication, commerce, information, art, and entertainment; accordingly, domain names assumed greater social, political, and cultural significance as the memorable designators of the Internet locations of political groups, cultural resources, and social activities. But as a result, the DNS became entangled in issues of privacy versus accountability, freedom of expression versus national legal restrictions, and the rights of producers of intellectual property versus those of its users. In the future, the Internet can be expected to be even more widely used for interpersonal communication, for the public expression of ideas, for access to information, for the development of virtual communities around common interests, and for the production and distribution of art and entertainment. It will be a major portion of the global social fabric, facilitating and controlling the flow of information, expression, art, and entertainment. Until or unless the DNS is replaced, the signs designating the location of information, art, entertainment, viewpoints, and services will continue to depend on domain names. For that reason, it will be essential to sustain the DNS as the reliable signposting infrastructure of the Internet, facilitating the Internet’s use as a medium of free expression openly communicated to all corners of the globe, while balancing that freedom of expression against privacy rights, property rights, cultural mores, and national laws. As a result of the Internet’s increased social value, the desire to navigate freely across it can also be expected to encounter legal, commercial, cultural, and political challenges. 1.4.5 Internationalization When the DNS was developed, the Internet’s geographic scope was limited primarily to North America, parts of Western Europe, and a few countries on the Pacific Rim. And it was operated by a loose confederation of bodies and individuals, primarily in the United States, most of whom had received substantial support from the U.S. government. As use of the Internet has spread beyond its initial sites to encompass every continent and region and almost all nations, the network has responded successfully. But internationalization has posed two specific challenges for the DNS. First, until recently domain names have been limited to strings of Roman letters, Arabic numbers, and the hyphen, a subset of the ASCII20 20   The American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) was originally developed for use with teletype. It was extended by IBM to represent 256 characters and has become a de facto standard.

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Signposts in Cyberspace: The Domain Name System and Internet Navigation character set. However, the native languages of an increasing number of Internet users employ different character sets. Recently, following years of work, a means of enabling presentation of internationalized domain names (domain names encoding other character sets into ASCII characters) has been adopted. It should become an important facilitator of Internet access and use for those communities.21 And, second, although ICANN has international participation, its authority rests on a contract from the U.S. Department of Commerce, which is perceived by some as undercutting its legitimacy as a representative of the international community. That concern may increase as the economic and social value of the DNS as the critical signposting infrastructure of the Internet continues to grow.22 Although the DNS is only now moving toward presentation of non-ASCII scripts in domain names, Internet content in most important applications, including e-mail and the Web, has been internationalized for well over a decade. Most Internet navigation services have incorporated the capability to search in multiple languages. For example, in November 2004 the Google search engine supported searches in over 100 languages and dialects and provided a customized version of the search interface for 103 different nations.23 At the same time, the Yahoo! directory and search service offered portals customized for 32 national or language groups.24 Since the navigation services are provided by a variety of organizations in an open forum, they are less subject to concerns about the internationalization of their governance. However, as their importance as the principal means of access to the Internet grows, they may well come under pressure from those who believe that in one aspect of their service or another, they do not adequately take into account the concerns or interests of certain nations, ethnic groups, or linguistic communities. 1.5 INTERNET NAMING AND NAVIGATION Owing to the five forces outlined above, Internet naming and navigation have become matters of broad concern throughout the world. Those 21   Internationalized domain names (IDNs) have recently been approved by ICANN for use by registries with which it has agreements. See “Standards for ICANN Authorization of Internationalized Domain Name Registrations in Registries with Agreements,” posted March 13, 2003, on the ICANN Web site, <http://www.icann.org>. See Section 4.3 for a more complete discussion of this subject and more extensive references. 22   Changes in ICANN’s organizational structure and decision processes responded to this concern, although debate continued into 2004 about the effectiveness of those changes. See Sections 5.1 and 5.2 for an extended discussion of this issue. 23   For a listing see <http://www.google.com/language_tools?hl=en>. 24   For a listing see <http://world.yahoo.com/>.

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Signposts in Cyberspace: The Domain Name System and Internet Navigation concerns are given voice by the large number of competing interest groups that now take a vigorous interest in the DNS and, to a somewhat lesser degree, Internet navigation. Product and service providers compete for named locations on the Internet and have a strong interest in the means for setting up new regions and allocating named locations in them. Internet users have a complementary interest in being able to find the information or service they want wherever it may be located, even as the Internet continues to grow in size and in diversity. All cultures have an interest in being able to name locations and access and navigate the Internet in their native languages. Trademark holders have an interest in protecting their rights in names from being infringed. Nations and their citizens want assurance that their interests will be treated fairly and their needs supported by the institutional frameworks that affect the Internet’s naming and navigation infrastructures. The Internet technical community wants to ensure that everything is done to improve and nothing is done to compromise the reliability, security, and stability of the Internet itself. Individuals also want to be certain that neither their access nor their rights will be unduly affected by the actions of the other groups. The interaction among these various interests in naming and navigating the Internet—a global infrastructure that is undergoing rapid growth in scale while absorbing continual technological change—raises important issues that lie at the intersection of technology, economics, public policy, law, and user behavior.25 This report addresses those issues from a specific perspective, that of the Domain Name System. Navigation across the vast and multifaceted complex of human activity connected through the Internet is a subject that warrants a major report in its own right. It is too large, in its full richness, to fit within a report that was initiated to address significant questions about the future of the DNS. Yet, at the same time, navigation is so intertwined with the present and future of the DNS that it cannot be completely absent. Consequently, this report concentrates on navigation over the Internet primarily in its relationships with the DNS. Even under that constraint, however, it is necessary to introduce fundamental issues of Internet navigation to provide a background for the more circumscribed examination of its interrelationships with the DNS. The DNS interrelates with navigation across the Internet in five ways. First, the DNS plays a direct navigational role by providing the IP address of a World Wide Web site, an e-mail server, or another network host or resource whose domain name is known, or can be guessed. 25   See CSTB, NRC, The Internet’s Coming of Age, 2001.

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Signposts in Cyberspace: The Domain Name System and Internet Navigation Second, the DNS serves as an enhancer of navigation because many navigation services return locators incorporating the domain names of relevant Web sites. These names usually provide more (although not necessarily reliable) information to the user about the provider whose location has been returned than just the IP address or a blank link would. Third, navigation services complement the DNS by, for example, enabling navigation to Web sites whose domain names are not known by the user or by enabling searches within sites that have been reached by use of their domain names. Fourth, navigation services relieve some of the pressure on the Domain Name System by reducing the need for a site to have a short memorable name in order to be found. It appears that efforts and funds spent in previous years to obtain desirable domain names are now being diverted to some degree to efforts and expenditures to ensure a presence and high ranking in the results of search engines or directories. Fifth, navigation services could, in the extreme, substitute entirely for the Domain Name System on the Web because they could directly return IP addresses. However, as noted above, this approach would deprive the user of any information about the provider contained in the domain name. It would also deprive the provider of the marketing value of the domain name. And it would eliminate the use of domain names as stable identifiers of Internet resources whose IP addresses change, which was one of the original motivations for the creation of the DNS. Of these five roles, it is the third and fourth—navigation as a complement to and a relief for the DNS—that are the focus of this report’s examination of Internet navigation. 1.6 OBJECTIVES OF THIS REPORT This report is addressed to those who are or will be concerned with policies and practices that affect the operation and evolution of the DNS and Internet navigation. That is a large audience. It includes the technologists who research, design, implement, and operate the DNS and navigation systems; the governmental policy makers and their staffs who establish, oversee, and operate the framework of institutions and laws that govern or regulate those systems; the commercial and non-commercial organizations that operate, manage, and use those systems; and the users and providers who depend on those systems for access to and the accessibility of Internet locations. During the time that this report has been in preparation, the DNS and Internet navigation have seen many technical and institutional

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Signposts in Cyberspace: The Domain Name System and Internet Navigation changes, some substantial, others modest; some controversial, others agreeable; some likely to last, others temporary expedients that will eventually be replaced. Some of the changes made have addressed the issues that gave rise to the initial request for this report. Clearly, this study was not the proper vehicle to address those specific issues. However, it is equally clear that many issues of similar character are or soon will arrive on the agendas of the policy, technical, provider, and user communities. Yet those called upon to deal with policy and practices affecting the DNS and Internet navigation often have little or no knowledge of the full complexity of those arenas. Those who are engaged with the technology of these worlds do not always appreciate the nuances of the policy, economic, and legal issues, while those experienced with the legal, economic, and policy aspects often are largely unaware of the intricacies of the technology. This asymmetry of knowledge exacerbates cultural differences between the technology and the policy communities, inhibiting both effective policy making and desirable technological change. Both groups would benefit from having a reliable source of information about the technologies and the institutions that control them, upon which they can base reasonable and effective policies. And, where appropriate, they might also benefit from the conclusions and recommendations of a broadly knowledgeable committee that has spent several years reviewing the two worlds. Therefore, this report, which is the result of extensive and collaborative work by a committee whose members are drawn from both the technology and the policy communities, is intended to serve five objectives: To provide a thorough and objective description and assessment of the Domain Name System—both its technology and the institutional framework within which that technology operates; To describe and analyze alternative approaches to the principal technology prospects and institutional issues that are likely to affect the future of the DNS; To provide a thorough and objective description and assessment of Internet navigation, with sufficient background information to provide context; To describe and analyze alternative approaches to some of the technology prospects and institutional issues that are likely to affect the future of Internet navigation; and To present conclusions and make recommendations where it was possible for the committee to reach agreement—in any case, to characterize the range of alternative views. This report has been structured to respond to those objectives.

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Signposts in Cyberspace: The Domain Name System and Internet Navigation 1.7 ROADMAP FOR THIS REPORT This report is divided into three parts. The DNS is the subject of the first, consisting of Chapters 2, 3, 4, and 5. Internet navigation in its relationship to the DNS is the subject of the second, consisting of Chapters 6, 7, and 8. Chapter 9 summarizes the interaction between the DNS and Internet navigation. Because the options for moving forward are partially constrained by the decisions taken along the path to the present, the first part begins with a careful review of the development of the Domain Name System. Chapter 2 examines the evolution of the technical design of the DNS and its associated operational, administrative, and governance mechanisms. It describes the sequence of important technical decisions and innovations, as well as the new governance and administrative mechanisms that have been introduced in response to the Internet’s rapid growth. Several of the early technical decisions, taken at the time of restricted use of internetworks by specialized groups, still constrain the DNS. Chapter 3 describes the current state of the DNS, considering both the technical system, which performs the linkage of domain names with IP addresses and associated data, and the higher-level institutional framework, which carries out operational, administrative, and policy-setting functions essential for the DNS to function. It explains and evaluates the operation of the DNS technical system and identifies and assesses each of the functions carried out by the highest levels of the institutional framework. Chapter 4 describes the prospective technologies that can respond to the challenges the DNS faces from malicious attacks, the growing intersection of the telephone system and the Internet, the need to internationalize the DNS, and the need to regulate the introduction of potentially disruptive new services. Chapter 5 deals with the key institutional issues facing the DNS: governance of the DNS itself, oversight of root operations, governance of the top-level domains, improvement of the dispute resolution process, and improvement of the DNS’s information service (called the Whois service). The distinctive characteristics and historical development of Internet navigation, as it relates to the DNS, are described in Chapter 6. The current state of navigation aids and services and the framework of commercial institutions within which they operate are presented in Chapter 7. Chapter 8 addresses some prospective technologies whose introduction, and a number of the institutional issues whose resolution, can have a major influence on the future development of Internet navigation and its relationship to the DNS.

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Signposts in Cyberspace: The Domain Name System and Internet Navigation Finally, Chapter 9 sums up the interaction between the DNS and Internet navigation. Throughout the chapters on the DNS and Internet navigation, the committee’s conclusions and recommendations are incorporated into the text where appropriate. The goal of this report is to clarify the sometimes controversial, often arcane, and frequently uncertain issues concerning the signposting and navigational infrastructure of the Internet. The committee hopes that by providing such clarification, this report will itself serve as a navigational aid to the policy and technology communities as they find their way to decisions that will enable the Internet to remain an efficient and reliable channel of global communication and commerce.