I'm taking a very cool class this quarter, taught by
Barbara Simons and Ed Felten. It's the Computer Science
Policy Research Seminar. Lots of interesting stuff---
copyright, copy control, privacy, Internet governance, etc.
I've decided on a project about naming, since it's also a
big chunk of my thesis topic. I've copied the abstract below:
Project: Using the Domain Name System for Content
World Wide Web content is referred to by Uniform Resource
One portion of the URL is the server (or "host") identifier,
looked up in the Domain Name System (DNS). DNS has a
structure, consisting of:
- a single "root zone"
- subsidiary "generic top level domains" (gTLDs, such
as .com) and
"country code top level domains" (ccTLDs, such as .us)
- a vast number of "second-level domains" (such as
their own policies and sub-delegations (e.g.,
Originally DNS had a limited set of generic top level
domains, each with
a specified use: ".mil" for U.S. military sites, ".com" for
".org" for non-profit organizations, and so on. However,
with the increasing
popularity of the Web, the meaning of these gTLDs has become
distinct. Personal sites are registered in ".com", and
their trademarks in all available top-level domains.
appealing ccTLDs, such as ".tv" and ".to", offer domain name
to the world at large. ".com" by itself dwarfs the rest of
the DNS tree,
containing nearly all of the second-level delegations.
Recent attempts have been made to reverse this flattening
restricting the use of portions of the DNS tree, for a
- ICANN, the governing body responsible for allocating
has approved the creation of several content-specific
as ".aero" (air-transport industry), ".name"
(individual use), and
".museum". Typically membership in some group is
registering in such domains, but there are only loose
on what content may appear within sites bearing these
- H.R. 3833 (introduced March 4, 2002) directs the
administrator of the
".us" domain to create a ".kids.us" delegation.
this domain would be contingent on agreeing to a set
for what content is appropriate.
- S. 2137 (introduced April 6, 2002) directs ICANN to
create a ".prn"
domain, and mandates that any commercial web site
which is in the
business of "making available ... material that is
harmful to minors"
shall operate their service only under the new domain.
- Various suggestions have been made to reserve
top-level domains for
non-ASCII domain names, such as domain names encoded
in a Chinese
These attempts bring up a number of interesting technical
and policy questions,
which my project will try to address through position papers
and on the bills mentioned above.
- Is the creation of content-specific domain names
Would the goals of those advocating such domain names
be better served
by a different allocation policy among existing
domains? Is there
any technical reasons to favor the broadening of the
- Is content segregation by domain name effective?
Can children be
shielded from inappropriate content using such
infringing on the rights of adults?
- Are there first amendment issues involved in naming?
would the government be able to restrict the titles
- Does the U.S. government retain the right to
administer the entire
domain name system? Or must any proposal such as
".prn" be subject
to the same process as other new gTLDs?
- What are the implications of content segregation
other protocols which use DNS, such as e-mail, and on
naming technologies, such as LDAP or Freenet?