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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Is the Age of the (just one) Internet Over?

By Duane J. Higgins, ceo

I recently wrote a blog post here titled: "One Thousand Splinternets." That post has met with some skepticism and I wanted to follow up with a few more details.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a global Internet overseer, is in the process of the largest ever expansion of the domain name system. The group received 1930 applications for the new generic top level domains. The .com or .net part of the web address. There is a very real possibility for the Internet to become very disjointed with many competing factions and interests.

Now, I want to ask you something. Could any of the new domain extensions lead to Splinternets? What do I mean by Splinternets? See these passages from an interesting article published on the Cato Institute website on April 11, 2001 by Clyde Wayne Crews Jr. (your welcome Clyde). Keep in mind that this article was written 13 years ago and there have been a few advancements and changes with technology since then. Also, in many other areas such as regulations, laws etc. However, I do find the article very interesting:

A solution, however, is more Internets, not more regulations.

"One Internet is probably not enough. Instead, owned Internets-proprietary “Splinternets” where prespecified ground rules regarding privacy and other governance issues replace regulation and central planning-may be superior. What matters most is not necessarily the Internet as it exists today, but Internet technology.

Physically, parallel Internets could be up in short order. The Internet itself runs mainly on 13 root servers (computers). Other server and router hardware is obtainable. The fiber backbone is in place. And the audience and applications are growing. Already, dedicated video networks operating on Internet protocol are emerging.

But as broadband infrastructure strategies and server warehouses expand, it is likely that we could surf distinct networks the way we surf Web sites today. At some point, the benefits of tailored, owned networks capable of harmonizing issues of privacy, values, access, and participation outweigh the costs of regulation, endless governance fights, and the costs of inherent insecurity on a nonowned Internet from which criminals and hackers can’t be excluded. One National Security Agency official recently even argued that real security is not an option on the Internet, and a more secure network should replace it."

Now here are some real world examples of just how the proposed "Splinternets" could and maybe are happening:

This is from an article on Forbes dated 11/06/2012:

According to a new proposal document uncovered by the website, is proposing a closed registry for the new .CLOUD generic top-level domain (gTLD). In the Amazon .CLOUD application it states “All domains in the .CLOUD registry will remain the property of Amazon. .CLOUD domains may not be delegated or assigned to third party organizations, institutions, or individuals.”

Would this or could this become an Splinternet?

Here's another example (From a Kevin Murphy article dated Feb. 8, 2013) of a possible Google Splinternet- in regards to thieir application for the .blog domain.

This is what Google, which has applied via its Charleston Road Registry subsidiary, has proposed :
Should ICANN grant Charleston Road Registry’s (Googles company) exemption to the Code of Conduct, and the proposed gTLD operate with Google as the sole registrar and registrant, members of the public will not be able to directly register domain names in this new gTLD. Users will, however, be given the opportunity to make use of a vanity second-level domain as a memorable identifier linked to content...
Google, by the way has applied for 101 generic top-level domains. That's 18.7 million in application fees for the chance to sell the domain extensions. What is Google up to? We shall see. The e-commerce giant applied for 76 separate domains, including .App, .Cloud, .Free, .Game, .Kindle, .Search, and .Zappos.

Now, here is an example of a Splinternet that could happen within the current public (open to everyone) registry format. For example, lets says that one of the new domain extension/registry applicants (just one out of 1000) decided that they would have a public registry (which most extensions at this time will be). All it would take really is one innovative (and well funded) entity to buy one domain name and launch their own private Internet or Splinternet on their own server farms. (or maybe a cooperating accredited registry.) Say at for example. .Club is of course one of the new proposed extensions. Applied for by 3 different companies. Now lets say the registrant of decides to launch a private network of members. The benefits of membership will be a discount home shopping club. To gain membership you would have to purchase a .club membership and receive a membership site (that could be a second level domain site.) For example, if your name was John your membership site could be and the only people who had access to "the club" are club members. Quite simple actually. Now, could this become a private Splinternet? Maybe once the .club memberships reached 1 billion members some might consider it a Splinternet? I wanted to use that particular example because in this case it may not have been the registries (.club) intent to spurn a splinternet however it is possible that one could be launched within the constraints of the public registry guidelines and policies. That's called the law of unintended consequences and also would be the direct result of a market based economy.

Last I checked there were still over a thousand new extensions proposed. .app, .book, .car, .deal, .eco, .fun, .green, .home, .inc, .kids, .law, .mail, .news, .online, .pets, .radio, .sale, .security, .shop, .tickets, .web, and zip. (no to mention nearly 1000 more!) You can use your imagination for more Splinternet opportunities.

There you have it. Splinternets. Speculative Splinternets and flat out planned ones. Predicted some thirteen years ago and the possibility of coming to fruition. Interestingly, the speculation thirteen years ago had nothing to do with the introduction of new domain name extensions (GTLDs). With these new Splinternets- the GTLDs just may end up being the catalyst behind much loftier goals and interests.

So back to my original question. Is the Age of the (just one) Internet over?

Quite possibly.

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