t byfield on Sat, 30 May 1998 21:27:41 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> DaveNet: Making Money from DNS


     DaveNet: Saturday, May 30, 1998; by Dave Winer.

     [blue ribbon]  Making Money from DNS

          A short Saturday morning DaveNet with a neat idea that I
          bet will become a hit.

          I first posted the idea on Scripting News on Thursday,
          and yesterday, one day later, there was an announcement
          on infoworld.com that Netscape is going to implement it.

->  [Does anyone operate a public domain name server that,
    in addition to the normal DNS lookups, also implements
    an AOL-like keyword system? Send pointers via email.

    These two services are half-way there: bounce.to <http://bounce.to/>
    and centraal <http://www.centraal.com/>.]

          I think we're onto something. Yeah! I like it.

     Domain Name Servers

          First a little background.

          When you type www.scripting.com into your web browser it
          sends a message to a piece of software running on
          another machine called a domain name server. The DNS
          software turns the string into a set of four numbers,

          Even though it's virtually invisible, the domain name
          server is an essential piece of software. When you're
          browing or emailing, your software does a lot of DNS

     Try an experiment

          Type into the URL spot in your web browser.

          It should take you to the same place as

          You just did by hand what the DNS software does for you

     Smarter browsers

          A couple of years ago web browsers got a bit smarter,
          they allowed you to type in a word, the browser would
          take a guess, then try another, until it found a match,
          or if it didn't find one, it would display an error
          dialog. First it would try the string you typed, then it
          would add a .com at the end, if that failed, add a www.
          at the beginning. Then try .edu and .org and .net.

          This softness in URLs was great because you type less
          and because you have to remember less. But it is really
          crude, and led to the inevitable question, could it be
          made even simpler and more useful? And the answer is, of
          course, yes!

     AOL keywords

          The answer is over a fence, in America Online's service,
          an AOL feature that hasn't made it to the general
          Internet yet.

          AOL places are not places on the Internet, so if you
          type FOOD into the keyword dialog you get to the AOL
          place where you get food. Or if you type CHESS you go to
          an area where people play chess. You can bring up a list
          of all the places you can go.

          It's simple, the keywords are easy to remember and
          unambiguous. And even better for AOL, they're enormously
          profitable. An example, the company that bought the FOOD
          keyword, CyberMeals, paid $20 million for the
          connection. And the users get simplicity (and food).

          OK, you've probably already figured it out by now.
          AOL-style keywords are coming to the Internet. Here's

     A new level of DNS

          Not too deep in a control panel on your system is a
          pointer to the machine your software sends DNS requests
          to. You'll change that number to the number of a machine
          running at Netscape or Yahoo or Microsoft or Oracle or
          Compaq, or whoever grabs the top of this hill and wins
          the hearts of Internet users.

          This one little connection will allow you to use a new
          set of keywords in all parts of your Internet use. The
          people who operate the server will be able to charge the
          FOOD people millions of dollars. And you'll get the same
          benefit that AOL users have been getting, simple names
          for places you can buy things.

          I'm not sure how well I've explained it but using it
          will be a lot simpler than understanding how it works.

     Netscape's advantage

          Now here's a piece of brilliance.

          According to the InfoWorld story, Netscape is going to
          bake a similar feature into the next release of


          I'm going to guess how it works. Launch the new
          Navigator, type FOOD. Instead of going to your normal
          DNS, the browser talks to a server running on the
          Netscape campus. It looks up FOOD in its keyword
          dictionary, sees that CyberMeals owns the keyword
          (assuming they made the deal with them, as they did with
          AOL) and directs the browser to the CyberMeals server at

          That's it. Every month they can sell another keyword.
          The users are going to love it. They've leveraged their
          position in web browsers to grab a big piece of
          e-commerce. Bravo!

          Dave Winer

          PS: I'm not an idiot! I'm sure Microsoft will do this
          too. ;->
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