Re: [council] Discussion draft on unique, authoritative root
- To: <Harald@Alvestrand.no>, <firstname.lastname@example.org>, <email@example.com>, <Bridget.Cosgrave@etsi.fr>, <Livia.Rosu@etsi.fr>, <firstname.lastname@example.org>, <Fabio.Bigi@itu.int>, <email@example.com>, <firstname.lastname@example.org>, <email@example.com>, <firstname.lastname@example.org>, <email@example.com>, <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Subject: Re: [council] Discussion draft on unique, authoritative root
- From: "Milton Mueller" <Mueller@syr.edu>
- Date: Tue, 29 May 2001 13:34:35 -0400
- Sender: email@example.com
>>> "M. Stuart Lynn" <firstname.lastname@example.org> 05/29/01 12:42PM >>>
Thank you for your feedback. I know you are an enthusiastic proponent
for abandoning a single root and I read your comments with great
>>> Brian E Carpenter <email@example.com> 05/29/01 09:51AM >>>
A hierarchical naming structure without a uniquely rooted tree
is ambiguous (*) and therefore will balkanize the network.
Stuart and Brian:
I'm afraid your comments show that you have a misconception
about the issue the DNSO is considering.
The problem was are concerned with is NOT "is the DNS designed to
have a coordinated root?" Everyone knows that it was. The issue is,
"if alternate roots or TLDs gain critical mass, what should be done
about it?" and "how should ICANN deal with conflicts between
its own name space and others?" Those are policy issues and
they are new ones.
No one that I know of is a proponent of "abandoning" a coordinated
root. The issue is: what coordination method will be used, and whose
interests will that method serve?
To help you both understand this distinction, I have forwarded some comments I have written about RFC 2826, "IAB Technical Comment on the Unique DNS Root."
RFC 2826 is often cited in the policy debates over alternate roots.
According to RFC 2826, the DNS protocol was designed
with the assumption that there would be only one
authoritative root zone file. The statement goes on to
describe some of the difficulties that might occur if
computers attempting to resolve domain names are
confused about the contents of the root zone file. The
fundamental conclusion of RFC 2826 is this:
"a degree of cooperation and agreed technical rules
are required in order to guarantee the uniqueness of
names. In the DNS, these rules are established
independently for each part of the naming hierarchy,
and the root domain is no exception. Thus, there must
be a generally agreed single set of rules for
[assigning the top-level domain names listed in] the
I agree with this part of the statement. As far as I know,
everyone does. Unfortunately, the IAB did not stop there but
attempted to influence policy debates by concluding that "it is not
technically feasible for there to be more than one
root in the public DNS."
It is a rather strange claim.
There ARE different root server systems in operation.
These alternate root systems use the same DNS protocol
and the same software implementation (BIND) as the
ICANN root servers. Most, if not all, of them are
capable of resolving all names under the IANA-
delegated top-level domains. So it cannot be argued
that they are not an implementation of the Domain Name
System protocol. Nor it is technically correct to say
that they are "private" rather than "public" name
spaces. All of the alternate root systems are open to
any ISP or end user who wishes to point resolvers or
name servers in their direction.
Even if alternate roots did not exist now, nothing in
the DNS protocol prevents a subset of the world's
Internet service providers or end users from
redirecting their name servers to some place other
than the ICANN-administered root, if they wished to do
so. Thus, the IAB statement is wrong: it IS possible for there
to be "more than one root in the public DNS."
At worst, the IAB statement is just an empty tautology
that says that the authors will refuse to call another root
a DNS root.
At best, the IAB really wants to say that the existence of
multiple roots may lead to various compatibility problems in
But RFC doesn't say anything useful about what to do
if an alternate TLD system such as New.net gains critical
mass. How should those compatibility issues be resolved?
Furthermore, the document does not address whether the
value added by such competition is worth the price.
Indeed, that is not a technical matter and is therefore beyond
the purview of the IAB.
It is also worth noting that one can agree with the
assertion that "there must be a generally agreed
single set of rules for the root" without necessarily
agreeing that ICANN is the sole or proper source of
those rules. Nor does the general need for a single
set of rules eliminate the legitimacy and benefit of
debate over what those rules should be.
There is, for example, a need for governmental
laws to be promulgated by a single source; few of us
(except for a few anarcho-capitalists) would like to
see competing governments issuing different and
incompatible laws. However, all (except for a few
advocates of dictatorship) would agree that competition
through the political process over what the rules
should be is a good thing.
So in general, I think that RFC 2826 contributes
very little of value to the POLICY debate over
And its contribution to the technical
understanding of what to do about competing roots
when and if they arise is minimal.
In the future, if you wish to contribute productively to this
dialogue, please refrain from yet another assertion of
the need for coordination at the root. Please try to explain
what methods can be used to preserve a coordinated root
when competitive and technological forces might lead in