Web boss sees risk of multiple internets

January 28, 2010
Customers are seen logging onto the internet in an inner city internet cafe in Sydney. Clandestine efforts by some countries to create alternative versions of the Internet for political ends could put the Web at risk, says the man responsible for organizing the network.

Clandestine efforts by some countries to create alternative versions of the Internet for political ends could put the Web at risk, the man responsible for organizing the network told AFP Wednesday.

Rod Beckstrom, the CEO of ICANN -- the firm which oversees how the is organized -- said unnamed nations had tried to create parallel networks, but he expressed confidence they would eventually stick with the global-used original.

"It has been done," said Beckstrom. "We don't speculate about who is doing it, it is really their private business."

Beckstrom heads the , a California-based firm which controls a master list of and IP addresses known as "the root," which is crucial to all Internet use.

The blogosphere has been awash with accusations that China and Russia are developing alternative Internet roots, which would mean requests would bypass the system.

"People want to test their own capabilities to do these things and update their files," said Beckstrom. "Some are concerned maybe for security reasons and some want to have alternatives in case any regional problems might arise and others might have political objectives."

Stressing ICANN's goal was "to keep everyone talking at the same table," Beckstrom admitted problems would arise if countries duplicate top level domains -- like .com, .cn or .net -- with new Web addresses.

"Conflicts would start to develop if we had a top level domain, and someone starts using a top level domain with different addresses and assignments. If it starts creating a conflict globally, that could be a problem," he said.

"That has not occurred and I think that is unlikely," said Beckstrom, defending ICANN's independence in the face of accusations that it serves US interests.

"I think the network effect of the Internet tends to keep people wanting to use the root," he said.

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3 / 5 (3) Jan 28, 2010
It's not the governments they should be afraid of. There are already cities around the globe creating city-wide free wireless networks, bypassing the need for ISPs. So the physical limitations will soon be overcome, at least for some parts of the world. Sooner or later some anonymous coders will come up with a simple, elegant, p2p-like method of making centralisation a la ICANN obsolete and thus make the Internet truly free.

Add home-built, self-replicating fab machines capable of making simple electronic devices and you'll have a very fast spreading meme, weakening governmental authority all over the place.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 28, 2010
A more likely threat situation is that the development of IPv6 will create so many addresses that ICANN will not be able to maintain control of the national domains. Nations will be able to control the IPv6 domains under their national domain (e.g., ".us" or ".ru", ".cn", etc.) Each national domain will be able to control its' own root, reporting virtually nothing to ICANN that it does not want to. The regional (could be national) DNS servers are the primaries for domains in their neighborhood, reporting to the world wide master DNS servers, so regionals can own all their own sub-domains (IPv6 under IPv4) and only report IPv4. When the national routing structure criminalizes use of IPv4, then the Coup d'etat is complete. Every nation will have a "controlled-and-private" internet.

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