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EEKs, SIPs, and the DNS
(Eugene Kashpureff, Strategic Inflection Points, and the Domain Name System)

Copyright (c) 1997 Jay Fenello  --  All rights reserved

It's been a couple of weeks since it happened . . . that's when I saw a presentation by Dr. Grove (Chairman and CEO of Intel) to a meeting of the Economic Club of Detroit.  While I already understood the concept of Strategic Inflection Points (SIPs), I was about to gain some insight into the current battle regarding the Domain Name System (DNS).

Over the last many months, a huge battle has been raging over the very future of the Internet.  It has been cloaked in discussions about domain names, but the implications for the decisions that are about to be made are far reaching and long lasting.

According to recent press reports, November is the month that these issues may finally be resolved.  That's when the Commerce Department is expected to issue their recommendations on how to transition the administration of the Internet to the private sector.

My involvement started back in January, an eternity ago in Internet time.  That's when I started Iperdome, a company formed to offer Personal Domain Name services under the .per(sm) name and Top Level Domain.  My idea was to provide Netizens with a permanent address on the Internet, one that does not change when they change jobs, schools, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), or email addresses.

Almost immediately after I started, a group known as the Internet Ad Hoc Committee (IAHC) put forward their "final draft" proposal for expanding the name space.  While their plan had some nice features, there were many problems with their proposal -  they wanted to assume authority over the name space, -  they wanted to confiscate existing properties like .com, .web, and .arts, -  they wanted to prevent the implementation of other solutions like .per(sm), all while they had no authority to make these decisions in the first place.

Since that time, the battle has been raging.  On one side of this debate are entrepreneurial companies, trade organizations, governments, and Network Solutions, the current registrar for .com, .net, and .org.

On the other, a small group composed of the Internet old guard, and some regulatory agencies of the United Nations.  Collectively, they go under an assortment of names like gTLD-MoU/POC/PAB/CORE/etc. Their goal is to preserve their long-term status on the Internet.

In the middle is the U.S. Government.  They have been responsible for much of the infrastructure that the Internet is built upon, and for funding many of the administrative tasks that are required to keep it functioning properly.

While it is clear that all sides in this issue have their self interests at play -- that's to be expected -- there is something different about this debate.  Specifically, the resolution to this battle will have profound and long lasting implications for the future of the Internet -  Who will govern the Internet? -  Who will have a say in this governance? -  Will there be any kind of due process? -  What business model will be supported? (competitive or bureaucratic)?

This is a classic Strategic Inflection Point, not only for the factions named above, but for the entity we collectively call the Internet.  That's because this change will be so powerful that it will fundamentally change the structure, control and function of the Internet.  And because the Internet has the potential to profoundly change our global society, these decisions will also change our collective future.

While I believe this to be true, it is often difficult to predict when you are in the middle of SIP.  But in this case, it is pretty obvious  it matches the definition of an SIP, and it displays the three warning signs as described by Dr. Grove in his speech.

The third warning sign is particularly insightful.  It describes how people start fighting vehemently, how they no longer understand one another, and how they appear to be "losing it" all around.  And it is a perfect description of our current situation.

I have often wondered how my beliefs about the DNS could be so far off from members of the Internet old guard.  This was especially true when I met them one on one, or exchanged private email with them.  As rational as they seemed, we were still 180 degrees apart on the DNS issue.

Recent revelations show that even within our own government, there is some disagreement about what should be done.  Thanks to Dr. Grove, we can all appreciate that this is to be expected, given the implications of the decisions we are about to make.

With so much at stake, it is also easy to understand how someone like Eugene Kashpureff (EEK) could be so passionate in his beliefs that he deliberately took some actions that were sure to draw attention to this debate.  Today he sits in a Canadian jail where he will remain until the first week in December, at the earliest. [While I don't condone what Eugene has done, I don't believe that his actions warrant this kind of treatment!]

As we all anxiously await the U.S. Government's announcement, there are some encouraging signs.  A few weeks ago, one of the IAHC organizations held a press conference where they backed off of their claims to ownership over the entire DNS system.  They also backed off of their claims to .com.

In addition, last week Mr. Magaziner got involved in the DNS fracas.  He reportedly said "there are lots of discussions going on among lots people both inside and outside of government. There is a lot more discussion and consultation that has to take place before any decisions are made."

So, that brings us up-to-date.  Will the Internet be saved from a despotic future?  Will the registries that were in this business first be treated fairly?  Will the U.S. Government transfer the administration of the Internet to a small group that is accountable to no-one?

Stay tuned, we should know shortly . . .


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