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Re: <nettime> Do domain names matter? [flagan, byfield]
nettime's_time-to-live on Mon, 4 Aug 2003 20:05:38 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Do domain names matter? [flagan, byfield]

Re: <nettime> Do domain names matter?
     Are Flagan <areflagan {AT} transcodex.net>
     t byfield <tbyfield {AT} panix.com>

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Date: Mon, 04 Aug 2003 11:21:55 +0200
Subject: Re: <nettime> Do domain names matter?
From: Are Flagan <areflagan {AT} transcodex.net>

Maybe that's why Verisign and ICANN are now more keen on feeding off the TLD
cadavers of boom and bust?


+ + +

Dear GoDaddy.com customer:

A proposal is underway that threatens to undermine the competitive secondary
domain market, affecting millions of domain consumers and their small
businesses  and imposing a minimum of a $24 charge on the acquisition of
expiring domain names.

This anticompetitive, anti-consumer proposal is referred to as the Wait
Listing Service (WLS). The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and
Numbers (ICANN), the organization that oversees the domain naming system,
has approved a proposal by  VeriSign  the former government sponsored
monopoly  to charge registrars a minimum of $24 to backorder an expiring
(i.e., used) domain name. In turn, registrars will add a "markup" to this
and, as a result, the price will skyrocket for customers.

It's important to note that this "WLS charge" does not include the price for
registering the domain name should the backorder be successful.

ICANN's decision will replace today's competitive marketplace for expiring
domain names with a monopoly system operated by VeriSign. What's more,
VeriSign is currently negotiating with ICANN for the right to change the
price of the WLS any time it wants. Incidentally, when VeriSign first
floated the WLS proposal, it wanted to charge $40!

Today, you can backorder and register an expired domain name for a fraction
of that price. That's because a robust competitive market for expired domain
names currently exists. For example, GoDaddy.com currently offers
DomainAlert , an affordable and successful backorder service. GoDaddy.com
welcomes competition from other companies who offer similar services. This
healthy competition keeps prices down and customer service levels up, while
allowing companies to invest in new technologies to better support you and
your business. 

Without competition, VeriSign will not be compelled to invest in new
technology or improved customer service. Without competition, VeriSign may
also be able to charge whatever it wants for expired domain names in the
future. Without competition, many domain name registrars who compete with
VeriSign may be forced to close because the market for their services will
cease to exist. This is precisely the reason the domain industry was
deregulated in 2000. Why is ICANN now attempting to turn back the clock and
grant VeriSign another monopoly?

Based on the above concerns and public outcry, Reps. Brian Baird and Jay
Inslee of Washington have introduced legislation that will stop WLS from
going into effect until the Government's General Accounting Office (GAO) has
completed a comprehensive study of ICANN's policies and procedures.

GoDaddy.com strongly supports the above mentioned legislation to uphold the
integrity of our industry's governing body and to sustain a robust
competitive Internet marketplace. We have also joined other registrars, our
competitors, to form the Domain Justice Coalition in opposition to the WLS.
Further, thousands of consumers have signed a petition to ICANN to stop the

I urge you to help us stop the WLS. Please send your congressional
representative a prewritten letter that explains in detail the WLS issue and
its anti-consumer, anticompetitive implications and encourages him/her to
co-sponsor the legislation. For contact information on the representative in
your area, visit www.house.gov/writerep/ .  For more information on the WLS
or the Domain Justice Coalition, visit www.stopwls.com .

On behalf of all of us at GoDaddy.com, thank you for your support.


Bob Parsons 
President and Founder 

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Date: Mon, 4 Aug 2003 11:47:53 -0400
From: t byfield <tbyfield {AT} panix.com>
Subject: Re: <nettime> Do domain names matter?

it's hard not to be skeptical about triumphalist claims like 'the
namespace has been conquered and fully exploited' -- especially 
when the arguments behind them focus so intently on the myopic il-
logic of individual domains, individual functions available with-
in interfaces (pointing-and-clicking, bookmarking, etc), and in-
dividual users. you're quite right to note (for example) that more 
and more functions obviate the need to type in URLs like people were 
'supposed to' during the dotcom heydays; but that never really com-
pletely described how networks were constructed then, or how people 
used computers then, and it still doesn't. 

things like yahoo and google didn't succeed because of the con-
spicuously idiotic ('branded') domains they picked; rather, they
succeeded because they offered the best (and best-funded) examples
of the state of the art. if someone else comes along with a 'google 
killer,' there's no reason to think it couldn't depose google. and,
in fact, there are a few reasons to think that google's reign may
be faltering. much as the hegemony of windows guarantees that, how-
ever 'good' or 'bad' it may be, it attracts the lion's share of 
security exploits, google's preeminence as a search engine ensures
that it attracts the vast majority of efforts to game search engine
results. i've been told by someone i consider to be a reliable source 
(fwiw) that about half of google's engineering efforts goes into the 
daily battle of beating 'gamers' back, and i think it shows: received
wisdom about 'google dances' aside, its quality is becoming noticeably 
variable on a day-to-day basis, and they still haven't figured out an 
elegant solution to densely 'infra- linked' archives like mailing lists 
-- particularly things like technical mailing lists with many redundant 
archives. so, like i said, it maybe isn't so wise to cite google as an 
example par excellence of a 'brand' that can never be beaten, and to 
found an argument about the logic of domains on that basis. the net
feels much less volatile than it did a few years ago, but the urge 
to issue triumphalist proclamations remains much the same.

francis cited an essay i wrote five years ago, and, if i may say so
myself, it was pretty savvy to argue that ur-P2P apps (like hotline) 
and networks (like distributed.net) were indications of a viable al-
ternative to the drive toward the taxonomic elegance that formed the 
basis of internetworking architectures like the unix filesystem and 
the domain name system. five years later no one gives a fig about
DNS, but P2P has everyone in an uproar that doesn't look like it'll
be subsiding anytime soon, afaict. but it hardly follows that DNS is 
therefore over and done with. and no one competent to speak in pub-
lic on the subject would agree with your claim that 'ICANN is about 
to die.' on the contrary: it's finances have stabilized, it's sur-
vived enough congressional inquiries to guarantee that future ones 
are pro forma (one possible exception: an effective attack on the
DNS itself -- but the RIRs and rootserver ops have made a lot of 
progress toward preventing that), and language about compliance with 
ICANN and the UDRP has been working its way into bilateral agreements 
the US is signing with other countries -- hardly a sign of imminent

despite paul garrin's bombastic assessment that that essay was 'long
winded and short sighted' and proof that i wanted to 'freeze [the net] 
in time like the body of Lenin,' one of the weirder arguments i made
seems to have pretty close to correct -- largely due to P2P and sharing 

     Under the circumstances -- that is, thousands of registered
     domain names waiting to be bought out -- claims that existing
     gTLD policies have resulted in a scarcity of domain names are
     doubtful. In fact, within the ".com" gTLD alone, the number of
     domain names registered to date is a barely expressible
     fraction of possible domain names, such as "6gj-ud8kl.com":
     ~2.99e34 possible domain names within ".com" alone, or
     ~4.99e24 domains for every person on the planet; if these were
     used efficiently -- that is, elaborated with subdomains and
     hostnames such as "6b3-udh.6gj-ud8kl.com" -- the number
     becomes effectively infinite.

granted, you don't see many 'random' domain names. but you do see a
much more efficient use of hostnames in filesharing nebula -- not 
according to the extrinsic pseudo-logic of 'branding' but, rather,
as functional persistent pointers to resources made available under
an unstable numbering system, i.e., dynamic IP pools (which do, btw,
resolve into comparatively 'random' domain names). services like
dyndns.org, easydns, and zoneedit offer things in this 'space'; and 
at least one hardware manufacturer, umax, has built this kind of 
function into its routers.

these kinds of development don't indicate end-of-DNS-film-at-eleven;
rather, they suggest a shift away from the fetishizing of domain 
names as such and toward a looser, more practical use of DNS as one
of many tools for locating resources. unfortunately, the control 
structures (like ICANN) that grew out of the 90s fetishization of 
DNS remain both in themselves and as models for surveillance and 
regulation of network usage. it's funny (or not) to look back, say,
to december 2000 ( http://www.tbtf.com/roving_reporter/icann5.html#2 )
and see that ICANN's much-denied committee dealing with whois policy 
included reps from the RIAA, MPAA, and verizon -- the first telco to 
actively oppose the RIAA's attempts to subpoena user info. upshot:
the boundaries of DNS were never so clear as the 'branding' kooks
wished they were, and they still aren't. DNS was and remains one 
tool in the ecology of skirmishing over how open networks will be.
in that essay, i pointed out that the user-driven issue was about
'*finding* relevant info -- not *offering* it, from a business 
perspective, but *finding* it from a user's perspective.' it still
is, and the only reason google's domain is worth a sack of flour 
is that it provides that service. if someone else comes along and 
offers a better way to do so, the 'window' you see as long since 
closed will open again. however, there's no guarantee that the 
force that opens it will be interested in openness: rumors abound
that beating google is a big priority for microsoft.


morlockelloi {AT} yahoo.com (Sun 08/03/03 at 11:09 AM -0700):

> Exactly. There are two sides to this.
> First, the namespace has been conquered and fully exploited. URLs had their
> window of public interest and now it's closed. There is simply no way to
> impress eyeballs with yet another domain name in the late 90-ties fashion. No
> one cares. Yahoo and google stay, becase they were launched in the right
> window.

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