Internet & Society

Session Three Summary:
The DNS Mess

Dr. Dave Clark, Senior Research Scientist at the MIT Computer Science Laboratory, was the guest speaker at this session. JZ and DC discussed the uncertain future of the Internet domain name system. DC described its origins in the history of Internet governance. Many of the decisions that shaped the architecture of today's Internet were made by a small group of nearly anonymous engineers (including DC) under the auspices of the Internet Society, the Internet Engineering Task Force, and other nongovernmental bodies. Those engineers, concerned initially with the academic research applications of the Internet, did not consider that their addressing system would need to differentiate between United Airlines, United Van Lines, and United Tour Guides of Tibet. DC explained that one person—John Postel—remains in charge of the entire Internet address numbering system.

Regarding alternatives to the current domain name system, Harvard Law School Professor Charles Nesson proposed that the United States Postal Service take over domain name administration. The U.S.P.S. has name recognition and regular contact with all Americans. Several students questioned whether domain names could include more information about what a site's owner does and where the site is located. This might address the confusion—and trademark disputes—that arise when several companies vie for, say, the domain name

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