Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Zone Files -- Why ICANN protects Monopolies (Part II)

Note: This is a continuation of the article about ICANN's proposed new policies for Zone File Access

In this blog post, I'm going to speculate about why ICANN is proposing changes to the Zone File Access policies.

ICANN's concept paper explains that as new TLD's are added (there are hundreds planned), it will become more difficult to "scale" the current zone access file distribution model. This is because a new, signed contract will be required for each TLD. And there will be a new zone file for each TLD.

Let's examine of few of these premises:

Is it really true that anyone will be interested in the zone file for a new TLD such as .VEGAS or .CANON. It seems to me that these TLD's may be tightly controlled by their owners, and their domains may not even be available for the public to register. So, who then, will want to examine the zone file for drops and other uses?

Secondly, and more importantly, why is it that anyone has to sign a contract to get the zone file for registries such as .COM anyway? I think this is because of one clause in the contract:

"Do not distribute the Data you obtained under this Agreement"

ICANN doesn't want you to redistrubute the zone file data, even if you enhance it or improve it. Why not? They barely mention this in Section 8.0 of the paper, but protecting the "Enhanced" registry services appears to be the main goal of the paper. The registries make tidy profits by selling "rapid" zone updates and other services to Registrars, who pay huge monthly fees to get early access to the zone file data. Verisign has a monopoly on this valuable data for the COM/NET registries, and ICANN helps to protect the monopoly.

So, I think this Zone File Access Paper misses the main point: As Stewart Brand said in 1984, on the Internet "information wants to be free".

Instead of erecting new barriers and policies that make it harder for the general public to get access to zone files, ICANN should be looking at ways to make the data more accessible to everyone.

Most importantly, this public data should be freely downloadable by anyone. There may be some bandwidth costs for the registries, but that's one of the costs of being a public utility.

In the third part of this series, I'll talk about some technical improvements that could be made to the zone files.

Happy Domain Hunting!

1 comment:

  1. I was poking around the internet and found this site which claims to allow a free download of the .COM zone file:

    Not sure how they get away with it contractually, but they have cleaned up the data and put it up for anyone to download.