The Internets

Friday, January 11, 2008


If there’s one essential quality of the world-wide web it's that it is, well, world-wide. But recent moves by the body that governs the net may be opening the door to individual webs, starting with countries like China and Russia. Tim Wu, professor of internet and law, explains the implications of a many-webbed world.

Comments [4]

Dan Riley from Ithaca, NY

I agree, this was an atypically awful OtM report. ICANN's decision to allow non-Latin characters does not help Russia or China fragment the Internet. Setting up a private DNS root is a separate issue from internationalized DNS, and if a country does decide to set up private roots it makes a decision to not listen to ICANN.

Furthermore, ICANN does not "control the Internet". ICANN sets policy for the top level DNS, which is a far cry from controlling the Internet. Steven Cherry's blog entry has a pretty good (and technically correct) explanation of why.

Next time you do an ICANN policy story, I recommend talking to Michael Froomkin at U. of Miami Law School.

Jan. 15 2008 05:42 PM
Steven Cherry from New York

Mr Bell has it right. The On The Media segment was a rare misfire by the show. In fact, it was so spectacularly wrong, with journalism so bad, that the post mortem would make a nice segment for next week.

I blogged about what the Chinese are actually doing, and how the show got it wrong, in detail here:

Jan. 15 2008 04:28 PM
russell bell from Albuquerque, NM

The guest interpreted the significance of ICANN allowing domain names in non-Latin characters entirely backwards. So doing will enhance the reach of the Internet. As he noted the Internet is a network of networks. Why can't the Chinese have an intranet that includes domains expressed in Chinese characters? Insisting on Latin-only domain names keeps out
Chinese people who know Chinese only. Since sites for Chinese-readers already have all their content in Chinese insisting on Latin-alphabet domain names discriminates against Chinese-only readers - it in no way compromises access for non-Chinese readers.
As long as Chinese content-providers want non-Chinese customers they will have translations of their content available on domains expressed in non-Chinese characters.
The location of the 'root' server also has no meaning. The information it contains is public information. China already has its own root servers to save sending all DNS traffic to Reston, Virginia. When Reston's root server adds or changes a record China's servers fetch it once and serve it to China's users.
China can already make its servers serve domains expressed in Chinese characters. ICANN can only prevent those outside China from finding them through ICANN's DNS servers. If anyone else wants to find them they need only add China's DNS servers to those they search. ICANN can only snub non-Latin domain names, not stop them.

Jan. 12 2008 05:31 PM
Dan Phiffer from Brooklyn

I'm not sure I understand the connection between the balkanization effect Tim describes and ICANN's decision to allow non-Latin characters. I would think that it might diminish some of the pressure from China and Russia to make the internet less Euro-centric. But Tim argues the reverse, that it might be a sign we're heading down a slippery slope toward a fragmentation of the network.

Isn't the real issue about access and not language? Network fragmentation hinges on what users are permitted to connect to. China already controls access with their "Great Firewall" -- how would non-Latin characters in domain names change that practice?

Jan. 12 2008 04:18 PM

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