Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Zone Files --Alternative Solutions (Part III)

In my previous blog posts (Part I and Part II), I discussed ICANN's proposed changes to the domain name zone files. And I speculated on the real reason for the proposed changes.

To wrap things up, I want to talk about a few things I'd do if it were up to me. I have an engineering and computer science background, so I'll be talking about some technical issues:

1) The most obvious improvement would be to make the public data in the zone files available for free download by anyone. This would get rid of the need to track contracts, passwords, users, and fraud. All alone, this one change would greatly reduce the costs that the ICANN paper is complaining about.

2) ICANN should consider increasing the frequency of updates for the zone access file. There is no technical reason that the zone files are only updated once per day. From a bandwidth standpoint, higher frequency updates might mean more downloads, and therefore more bandwidth. The domain-owning public pays fees to ICANN and registries, so we deserve better service.

3) The worries about bandwidth can be alleviated. One solution to bandwidth problem is to distribute the data via a legal "torrent". BitTorrent is a technology that has both legal and illegal uses, but distributing large files is one very good legal usage.

But, I'm not convinced bandwidth issues are really that big a deal. Plenty of video sites distribute multi-gigabyte to far more users every day. Only 800+ companies are signed up to get the biggest COM zone file, so this problem may be exaggerated.

4) One of the concerns mentioned by Verisign/ICANN was the possibility of data corruption in the zone file. The corruption can be intentional by malicious intermediaries. Or the corruption may have less nefarious causes. A solution for data corruption is to provide a digital signature for the zone access files so that the "source" of the zone file can be proved, and that it can be shown to be tamper-free (and corruption free). Even an MD5 hash would be better than what we have today.

I'm curious to see what we end up with. As I speculated in Part II, there are financial reasons we won't see the best possible technical solution. "Data wants to be free", but Zone Files probably never will be :(

Happy Domain Hunting!


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