Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Whose Internet is it anyway?

For the past month, there has been talk about 'who runs the Internet', and it has revealed some very interesting facts that few of the hundreds of millions of computer users actually know.

Did you know that the U.S. government plans to indefinitely retain management of the 'main computers' that direct traffic on the Internet; and that, by doing so, it is ignoring calls by some countries to turn that task over to an international body.

These 'main computers' serve as the Internet's master directories and tell Web browsers and e-mail programs how to direct traffic.

Everyday, we interact with these machines, without knowing it. The primary reason why these computers are a reference for Internet users is because they control our access to domain suffixes. Which means domains like .com, .net, .org and so on for millions of sites are managed by these computers. There are 260 such suffixes, probably including country suffixes, like .jo.

Potentially, with the stroke of a button, the US government can stop all traffic to all sites with one of those suffixes.

The term being used to refer to these computers is "root" servers". There are thirteen of them, and they are managed by a private firm who has been contracted by the US government to do so.

In 1998, the US Commerce Department selected ICANN (International Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers) to handle this, with a board of directors that included international members. The idea was that, once ICANN evolved and achieved a certain set of objectives, the organization could become independant and, therefore, run by its international members.

Recently, the US government has taken a step back, saying that it would instead prefer to maintain the current situation due to "security concerns" and going as far as saying that it is essential as part of the "the foundation of U.S. policy going forward."

Obviously, the Internet's importance is not being under-estimated by the US government.

Accordingly, some European countries are considering withdrawing their support for ICANN, which could result in using different route servers, and therefore different domain names.

This potentially chaotic situation would result in a user's inability to access an American site if he/she is connected through the European servers, and multi-national companies will need new domain names, ending with a suffix other than .com for example, to allow visitors from Europe to view their sites. It's as if you have two, or even more, Internets!

There are very strong demands now for an International Internet Council, to oversee the Internet, to prevent such a fractured scenario from occurring.

Relinquishing control of something as important as the Internet can't be easy; especially for the most powerful country in the world! Who's going to be able to 'force the issue' on the USA.

Although, at the moment, the Internet is doing fine. We are not aware of how the US government exercises its control over Internet content or communications. Why not allow more international involvement? We'll have to wait and see how this saga plays out.

zeid@maktoob.com

5 Comments:

At 6:37 PM , Blogger Oleander said...

In all fairness the US Department of Defence, Advanced Research Projects Agency created the DARPANet which became today's Internet, so it can be argued that it's rightfully theirs to control. An international council for running the Internet is a good idea, but in this world we live in I just don't see the US giving up their control over it.

 
At 3:10 PM , Blogger madas said...

Zeid, this was very informative. you are right we did not know all this about the internet, and it is would be really interesting knowing what will go on. I never can estimate how much information people can find on the internet! and how powerful it is... I guess it would be a mess if it became bunch of exclusive internets or intranetrs.. or whatever.

 
At 10:01 AM , Blogger mozzy said...

There is a small mistake.
Yes, the US Deparment of Defense contacted ARPA to develope a decentralized network system for the Deparment but the request was drawn back shortly after.
It was then ARPA alone to develope the ARPANet to which universities and other research facilities requested to connect. ARPA then created two of these networks, enabling a public "internet" and a network for the military. As far as I know, the Deparment of Defense was then still not connected...however I migh be mistaken there.

How did the internet evolve then?
It was the research facilities and universities who drove the ARPANet to the internet that we know today.
So basically, the internet can not be argued as rightfully belonging to the US Department of Defense. Since the outcome is totally different than what was planned and that the essential protocols TCP/IP evolved somewhat long after, making connectivity through networks standardized. Equally shortly after the ARPANet started something similar started in europe.
Driven by RARE (Réseaux Associés pour la Recherche Européenne) the COSINE project(Cooperation for an Open Systems Interconnection Networking in Europe) was started.

My point is that this idea, which is actually just another LAN....well but a litte bigger....MUCH BIGGER...
had occurd in many minds and was established in many homes, countries and continents. Therefore, one cannot possibly argue that the internet belongs to him.

I think the internet is so important, that control over it (the mentioned root servers) should be redirected to the UN. This way no single country would have power over these root servers but all countries would have together. I got so many things about this topic on my mind and hope that I could make my point in someway clear.

 
At 12:39 AM , Blogger Admin said...

Great blog, keep up the good work. Glad to see sites like this.

Here is another good site I said I would pass along.
Domain Names For Sale
Thanks

 
At 7:03 PM , Blogger startonline said...

Your blog contained issues relating to dedicated hosting web
which I found quite absorbing. I would argue that dedicated hosting web
matters are best left to the professionals in most cases.

 

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home