Part 2: The Tyranny of InterNIC
The Internet Takes Off
- The Internet has been growing at exponential rates for a long period of time. However, the early 1990s saw the growth of online services like CompuServe in a more mainstream audience, less connected to the previous collection of large high technology research-oriented industries, academia, and geeky young male hobbyists. The early 1990s saw little connectivity between proprietary online services and the Internet, with many pundits believing that the coming ecade would be that of the online behemoths. However, this was not to be.
- By 1992, Tim Berners-Lee's new network protocol and data type building upon gopher to provide easier multimedia, inline-hyperlinkable data was starting to take off. By 1994, Netscape Navigator, the first caching web browser, had been released to a flurry of hype, and the web had arrived.
- Commercial Internet service providers started taking off, and Internet-connectivity became deeply integrated into all of the major online services. The Internet became the de facto network worldwide. By May 1997, the "population" of the Internet is estimated at over 50 million worldwide.
Name $pace: The Rise of Internic
- Up until 1993, SRI International handled the domain name registration for the three gTLDs. After that, the zone contact role for the gTLDs were handed over to the Defense Data Network, and finally, to the Network Solutions Inc., aka the InterNIC, as authorized by the National Science Foundation.
- The InterNIC was bought by Scientific Applications International Corporation (SAIC), a secretive military contractor in May 1995. Four months later, The InterNIC that it would start charging a $50/year fee (with the first two years paid up front) for all second level domains registered within its gTLDs. This caused an uproar around the Internet. It marked the first time that namespace had been commercialized.
- Several attempts were made by other potential domain registrars to introduce new gTLDs, attempting to take up the IANA's "promise" as made by John Postel in RFC 920. The attempts were tabled by the IANA, and little came of it, leaving InterNIC with a monopoly on gTLD registration.
- Since the InterNIC started charging for domain registration, its customer service has been fairly shoddy. While they have performed their basic job of supplying information to the root servers fairly decently, data validity and updating has continued to be an issue. At the same, many have continued to criticize the InterNIC for the $100 new domain startup fee, which has been considered far too large for many small/nonprofit organizations. The latest round of criticisms of the InterNIC came about when it "cancelled" tens of thousands of fully-paid-up network domains for several domains during the month of February. A second level domain that I manage was hit, causing lots of problems in terms of accessibility via email, the web, etc., ultimately translating to certainly hundreds, if not thousands of dollars worth of downtime by way of network DNS "invisibility." Interestingly, the InterNIC whois database is suffering a major crash while I'm write these words.
- Due to the glut of domain names being registered in the few gTLDs (and the fact that it's been made easy to construe as not sexy anything but SLDs under gTLDs), the namespace is getting flooded. and full By May 1997, over 1.2 million gTLD SLDs have been registered, with over 2 million expected by December. Due to the problems in finding short, relevant domain names, such classics as shop-like-u-mean-it.com, 1-800-rest-in-peace.com, and aha-health-infotech.org have been springing up.
- InterNIC initially had no trademark policy, leading to domain name profiteering began to occur. Web hipster Josh Quittner, sometimes writer for Wired and now editor of the Netly News, made this point when in 1995 he bought the mcdonalds.com domain for an article in Wired. (InterNIC eventually revoked it.) Since there is no gTLD-based provision for different companies sharing the same name, but competing in different areas to use different parts of the network namespace, convoluted network names are needed for all but the firstcomer for all networked organizations of any name. There are over 270 Internet domains owned by organizations named "Mercury."
- As the Internet started growing in popularity, domains started being looked upon more and more as commodities, almost like real estate. While this was first caused by pure profiteering (typically individuals buying up the domain names corresponding with large corporations), this soon extended to non-trademarked SLD domain names. Good domain names started getting snapped up left and right. As it stands, just about every logical domain name conceivable under the .com gTLD has been taken. In fact, all 676 of the .com SLDs of the form xy.com (where x and y are any two letters) have been taken (who in their right mind would want zq.com? take a look) Because of this situation, finding clean new domain namespace is now next to impossible for network newcomers.