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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Internet Root Server: New Model To Breaking Up

I recently covered the developments centered around the internet rootservers and wrote about the need for multilateral control of these. Some rile at the practicality of transferring the root authorization – the fact is that if all in the world except USA were to switch to a new root, despite US opposition to such a move, it is clear that the other countries would probably win. I think that the US is in a bind and plainly stupid in taking such public positions on sensitive issues like this – when enough safe & credible alternatives exist. In a subsequent coverage,on breaking the US grip, I wrote that for the vast majority of people who use the internet, the only real concern is getting on it. But with the internet now essential to various countries' basic infrastructure - the question of who has control has become critical. The US wanted to retain indefinite control of the internet's foundation - its "root servers", which act as the basic directory for the whole internet. I think that the refusal of the US to budge only strengthened opposition (Clearly the US bungled – it had natural leadership to hold control – it could have retained this through multiple but different means), and now the world's governments are expected to agree a deal to award themselves ultimate control. It will be officially raised at a UN summit and, faced with international consensus, there is little the US government can do but acquiesce. The US may still be the best bet to hold control of the root servers - but it needs to invest in time and efforts to refine its approach and take all others along -they have so far demonstrated fairness in running the system, but clearly the US needs to polish its approach in multilateral discussions. There are still dozens of unanswered questions but all the answers are pointing the same way: international governments deciding the internet's future. Clearly the internet will never be the same again
The WSJ is endorsing a fragmented Internet, without a single "root file" that describes the locations of everything on the Net. Countries can set up their own root server, tweaked to allow access only to those sites the government deems nonthreatening, and simply order every Internet service provider in the country to use it instead of Icann's. The change will be seamless to most users. Root servers could spring up in different countries. In time, the Internet might look less like the Internet and more like, say, the phone system, where there is no "controlling legal authority" on the international level. Some may allow users to specify which server they wanted to query when typing in URLs. As a technical means of content control, going "split root," is too compelling for governments not to give it a try. But the user experience would likely be much the same as it ever was most of the time. ISPs, as well as most vaguely democratic governments, would have an interest in ensuring broad interoperability. Just like phone companies handle interrouting, the same principle would apply in a split-root world. This solution would be far better, in the long run, if they did so on their own, without a U.N. agency to corrupt or give them shelter. I agree that it's time to start looking beyond the age of a U.S. dominated Internet as breaking up may be hard to do, but in this case, the alternative would be worse. As the WSJ opinion piece rightly points out the changes that are coming probably won't bring about the end of the Information Age, but merely signifies a new stage in its evolution.

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Sadagopan's Weblog on Emerging Technologies, Trends,Thoughts, Ideas & Cyberworld
"All views expressed are my personal views are not related in any way to my employer"