Friday, September 30, 2005
As a followup to my previous post, I’ll mention this article in the Herald Tribune that brings up the possibility that other countries may set up their own DNS systems, creating a parallel naming scheme for Internet sites, not controlled by the US.
Just to clarify, ICANN has two primary responsibilities, from what I can tell:
- IP address allocation
- DNS top-level domain management, which includes operating the root DNS servers
Both of these functions are core to the Internet’s proper functioning: everyone needs to acquire a unique IP address from some central distributor who ensures there are no collisions, there needs to be a distributor for domain names, and someone has to operate the root DNS servers that resolve the top-level domains (.com, .net, etc).
If countries outside the US wanted to be rid of ICANN, they would need to create alternative infrastructure for both of these functions. Of the two, IP address allocation is a lot stickier than DNS domain administration. If you don’t want to rely on the ICANN to distribute IP addresses, you need to start making up your own addresses, but that immediately breaks routing between your hosts and hosts on the Internet proper (since you may well reuse addresses already in use on the Internet).
If a new IP-address-allocating system were set up, it would create a second Internet, and routing between the Internets would only be possible if hosts on either side were willing to encapsulate traffic to the other Internet and route the encapsulated traffic to gateway machines. This would resemble the tunneling schemes to run IPv6 over IPv4.
This kind of machinery isn’t built into current consumer-grade machines in a nicely accessible way today, so a breakaway faction that made up its own IP addressing scheme would first face the enormous hurdle that regular users would not be able to communicate with its hosts without some explicit configuration. The easiest thing I can think of to enable people to communicate with the new Internet would be to set up VPN servers on the current Internet that gateway to the new Internet; users would need to open a VPN to communicate with the second Internet. Later, the URL naming scheme could be extended to indicate which Internet you are talking about, and end-user machines could be smart enough to use well-known gateway routers colocated on the first and second Internets to route inter-Internet (as it were).