Wed, 22 Oct 2003 15:49:44 GMT

What is Internet infrastructure?. Stratton Sclavos of Verisign distills the essence of the SiteFinder controversy in his CNet interview:

“The reason Site Finder became such a lightening rod is that it goes to
the question: Are we going to be in a position to do innovation on this
infrastructure, or are we going to be locked into obsolete thinking
that the DNS was never intended to do anything other than what it was
originally supposed to do?”

There is a subtle but essential misunderstanding here.  Innovation
can and should happen in Internet infrastructure, but there are a
handful of core elements that must remain open and radically simple if
the Internet is to remain, well, the Internet.  These include
TCP/IP, SMTP, HTTP, BIND, BGP, and the DNS (especially the .com
registry).  Any change in these protocols should be very carefully
vetted through a consensus-based process. 

The key issue that Stratton misses is that a few simple and
non-proprietary core connectivity protocols make innovation possible
elsewhere.  Take Internet routing, for example.  Akamai and
its competitors built content-delivery networks that fundamentally
changed the way a high percentage of Internet traffic moves through the
network.  But they did it on top of the core protocols, which
remain unchanged.  Innovation took place, but without breaking the
fundamental underpinnings of the open Internet.

The debate about spam, where many people are proposing mandatory
authentication as a solution, illustrates the same confusion. 
Breaking email to fix spam is like breaking the DNS to “fix” mistyped
domain names.  That's why I like Tim Bray's suggestion to use relay servers for spam prevention.  Like Akamai, it leaves the basic infrastructure unchanged. 

Lack of innovation at one level promotes innovation at another
level.  As long as the global Internet community knows that SMTP,
IP, and the domain name system will remain stable, it can build
wonderful new things that leverage that base.  At the same time,
the guardians of the core infrastructure, which includes large network
owners, Verisign, and standards bodies, can focus their energies on
ensuring that the infrastructure can scale.  Because the DNS today
does do something different than it was designed for: it supports a
global network used by billions of people and facilitating billions of
dollars in economic activity.  And that's the greatest innovation
of all.   [Werblog]


Kevin is precisely right here. you cannot build a house that will last without foundations, and you cannot have interoperability without stable protocols, and while you can develop those protocols, random isolated enclosing moves are not innovation as much as transformation, transformation with the purpose of seizing territory and limiting access to others.