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McLaughlin Defends Site Finder As 'Innovation' 507

Posted by timothy
from the problem-with-public-versus-private dept.
simeonbeta2 writes "Mark McLaughlin, Senior VP at Verisign, has an editorial up on news.com. McLaughlin casts the debate over sitefinder in terms of 'innovation' versus the status quo and threatens that stifling 'innovation' will lead to a weaker internet." There's more -- read on below.

psimeonbeta2 continues:"Additionally (shades of Darl) he suggests that an anti-capitalism animus is behind the resistance to sitefinder. This despite the known problems that sitefinder caused and despite the fact that breaking the DNS standards may have constituted a breach of contract on Verisign's part. Resistance, he concludes, must be due to some sort of techno-religious fervor.

While Verisign's chutzpah certainly doesn't rise to fiaSCO levels, I find the similar tones in spinning the issues at hand to be truly disturbing. Not only did Verisign screw us by changing how the internet works at a fundamental level, now they purport to be irritated that we didn't thank them for the favor! At least in this case the good guys(cherish this moment, ICANN!) won."

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McLaughlin Defends Site Finder As 'Innovation'

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  • Utter Crap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by l810c (551591) * on Monday October 06, 2003 @09:43PM (#7149567)
    He makes this sound like the entire future of the Internet hangs in balance on this decision. Like routing all typos to Verisign is some critically important new technology.

    If someone types in a bad domain name, they should get a message that states just that. I don't know if there are any statistics on this, but for me 9 times out of 10 it is a typo. If not, then you can go to the search engine of Your Choice and search for the name.

    The decisions made over the next months and years will determine the future growth and vitality of the Internet
    Should Read
    The decisions made over the next months and years will determine the future growth and vitality of the Verisign.

  • His rational (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dattaway (3088) on Monday October 06, 2003 @09:44PM (#7149574) Homepage Journal
    appears to be the same defense used by spammers.
  • by ThatDamnMurphyGuy (109869) on Monday October 06, 2003 @09:44PM (#7149575) Homepage
    Let someone else "innovate"; someone not trusted to serve the .com/.net root zones without biased interest in the outcome of how it works.
  • Innovation? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Texas Rose on Lava L (712928) on Monday October 06, 2003 @09:46PM (#7149583) Homepage Journal
    Spammers do a lot of creative things to get their messages through. So, would it be "stifling innovation" to make spam illegal?

    There's a difference between actual innovation that benefits society vs. people just finding a way to take advantage of the system.
  • by g0at (135364) <<ben> <at> <zygoat.ca>> on Monday October 06, 2003 @09:46PM (#7149587) Homepage Journal
    Congratulations.

    On the other hand, some of us like having the choice to let the user-agent do that when NXDOMAIN is returned, which uh, it never is with Sitefinder.

    (I mean, I like root beer. Therefore, I think that all fast food chains should make it the default, and not provide user choice... after all, I like it.)

    -ben
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 06, 2003 @09:48PM (#7149607)
    It was obviously innovation. Nobody had ever done it before, yes. (Sure there were wildcards in other TLDs, but they weren't trying to provide the service SiteFinder was.)

    The thing is, not all innovation is good. In this case, VeriSign innovated, and most people didn't want their innovation.

    If they like, they could provide the *exact* same innovation by distributing a fully opt-in browser add-on.
  • by thecampbeln (457432) on Monday October 06, 2003 @09:49PM (#7149618) Homepage
    Looking at SiteFinder from the viewpoint of a "stupid user", it's pretty damned neat! I mean, it's kinda like calling the wrong 800 number and the person who answers says "Oh this happens all the time, the number you actually want is...". This is a nice feature!

    Now looking at Sitefinder from the technical perspective, it's a scary ass "development". As once again, calling the wrong 800 number, the person could say "Oh this happens all the time, but I know a better place get (insert product/service here)! Try calling...", here in lies the devil!

    It would be nice to have the feature in the first instance, but we all know that it will end up being served as in the second instance (besides all the anti-SPAM issues, et la). <rant>Since the CEOs of now are children of the 80's, everything always boils down to the all mighty $</rant>. BUT... is there any way that this idea could be put to good use?

  • by FsG (648587) on Monday October 06, 2003 @09:50PM (#7149626)
    ICANN appears to have bought into claims that the Internet has broken or will break. Anyone who has used it in the last three weeks knows that claim to be false.

    Bullshit. This is clearly written from the perspective of the user, who will click the pretty buttons while completely unaware of what's going on in the background. Instead of asking "anyone who has used it," why not ask a DNS admin or someone who is similarly qualified to make a decision on this point? Those people will tell you loud and clear that this thing indeed caused serious problems.

  • service and profit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by maliabu (665176) on Monday October 06, 2003 @09:50PM (#7149631)
    i think at least some internet users will find Site Finder a good service, especially when you're not too sure about a URL, or mistyped one.

    the annoying part is the opportunity for verisign to make a good profit out of this as there are quoted millions of mistyped URLs daily.

    however who wants/can to provide a sevice (which costs money) for free? or even, who wants to not make a profit when there is profit to be made?

    anyway, if site finder is associated with a neutral web directory like dmoz.org, it might be a different story.
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Monday October 06, 2003 @09:51PM (#7149636) Homepage
    There's nothing innovative about having the network do centralized processing, and perform those specific functions that Ma Bell or Verisign or whomever thinks it can market and charge money for.

    What was innovative was the concept of a network that just provided connectivity, and allowed the users at the network termini to provide the innovation.

    To call SiteFinder innovative is like cutting the wings off an airplane and saying that you've created an innovative new form of ground transportation.

  • by ModernGeek (601932) on Monday October 06, 2003 @09:52PM (#7149649) Homepage
    The whole idea of sitefinder is "implemented" by other companies, and this destroys all of the "competition", so how are we the anti-capitalist saying others should be able to handle DNS errors their own way, rather than have them shove their stuff down our throats using somthing that goes against RFC, they are one of the most important companies to run the net, and they don't obide basic RFC, I think the gov't should step in and take away their .com and .net privledges away and give them to someone we can trust...
  • by rborek (563153) on Monday October 06, 2003 @09:53PM (#7149655)
    They exploited a known feature in the DNS system, and abused their monopoly. There's no innovation there - just an abuse of a government-granted monopoly position. Had they actually proposed something innovative, and proposed it as an RFC (even if it was an Informational RFC), then maybe things would be different. Instead, they decide to do something that was not contemplated by the IAB for the standard. The Internet is built on standards - and sometimes standards can be slow to change because of the sheer number of different systems involved. You can't expect things like DNS standards to change overnight.
  • Dude, abuse of power, greed, and lying to the public are not exactly "innovation". Can we please have our "weaker" Internet back? Uh, thank you.

  • Uhh... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 06, 2003 @09:55PM (#7149675)
    Are we talking about a means to a monopolistic "sitefinder" that steals legitimate users from the sites they wanted to go from in an effort to make money, or are we talking about the internet being destroyed due to lack of innovation, ...and the something about the discovery of the west continents? I fail to see how one can link an advertising based search engine to Christopher Columbus... I guess he's been talking to Darl McBride a lot as of late...
  • by jackb_guppy (204733) on Monday October 06, 2003 @09:55PM (#7149678)
    But that same stupid user is already using MS, that does it for them.

    So back to the base question: "Why?"

    Answer more money into the Versign pockets.
  • by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Monday October 06, 2003 @09:56PM (#7149683) Journal
    Or better, let Verisign innovate, but without the terrible encumbrance of having to administrate the .com/.net TLDs. Give that responsibility to another organization that can handle it.
  • Wrong place (Score:5, Insightful)

    by countach (534280) on Monday October 06, 2003 @09:57PM (#7149689)
    The problem is not that something like sitefinder isn't a good idea. The problem is that putting it in the root name servers is the wrong place for it. Something like a browser plugin or browser feature is the correct place for it. Users can have the feature, and it may even be good, but this is the dead wrong way to implement it.

  • Re:Innovation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by doon (23278) on Monday October 06, 2003 @09:59PM (#7149698) Homepage
    why don't they try submitting it as a standard for the internet and get it peer-reviewed instead?

    Simple, they knew the stink it would cause. It is the same tatic I have used with my wife when wanting a new toy -- It is better to ask for forgiveness than permission.
  • by Meshach (578918) on Monday October 06, 2003 @10:02PM (#7149726)
    I agree. This isn't innovation - it is stupid.

    These comments are already full of analogies of how silly his point. When you act as a register or a controller over some major infastructure you have a responsibility to manage it in a fair and impartial way. If you don't no one will go to you for your services. Then you can no longer do business...

  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Monday October 06, 2003 @10:03PM (#7149734)
    Uh ... no. Verisign altered and partially busted a rather critical piece of Internet infrastructure and caused significant problems. The Sitefinder aspect of their "innovation" was only part of it. Billions of lines of code out in the world were written to function with DNS servers that behave in a certain way, to a particular well-defined specification. Verisign altered they way the root servers respond to DNS requests, and they did it unilaterally, without warning, and for profit. That is precisely the kind of mentality we do not want in an entity that maintains systems and equipment that we all depend on.

    Suppose your power company decided, all on its own, without consulting you or anyone else, that they were only going to supply 90 VAC to your home or office instead of the usual 120. Some pieces of equipment would work fine, others would simply fail, or even destroy themselves. You would probably not have any idea what the hell was happening. That's pretty much what Verisign did to programs that interact with .COM and .NET domains. There are other ways of providing SiteFinder-like capability with causing worldwide disruption, and if Versign is unable to handle their assigned responsibility it should be given to someone who can.

    What Verisign did rocks the foundation of trust that other nations have in America's ability to operate such globally important services. Verisign's upper management needs an attitude re-adjustment, or better yet complete replacement with more ethical businessmen.
  • by Chuck Chunder (21021) on Monday October 06, 2003 @10:04PM (#7149743) Homepage Journal
    Web Browsers have been doing this for non-existant domains ages.

    The web browser is the right place to implement such a feature. Providing extended functionality to the user is the role of the user agent.

    Implementing it all the way down in DNS is just bonkers.
  • by nacturation (646836) <nacturation@ g m a il.com> on Monday October 06, 2003 @10:08PM (#7149765) Journal
    Personally, I think this kind of innovation is a Good Thing. However, the innovation should be done at the application level, not at the infrastructure level. Let applications determine how to handle the case where a DNS query returns NXDOMAIN. But don't break the infrastructure and force all applications to go south just because you want a web browser (1 port out of 65K) to handle DNS differently.

    </rant>
  • by MisanthropicProggram (597526) on Monday October 06, 2003 @10:11PM (#7149794)
    Yes! The thing I hate is when I misspell a URL and someone else's website comes up. Here I was waiting for the website I thought I typed and instead something loads. I like getting the "Not Found Page" because it's quick and I can just go retype the one I want in. And if I'm looking for something in particluar,I ususally go to Google first.

    The only time I just type something in is if I want a pr0n site. They're usually the ones that have the domain names for legitimate stuff. Like www.whitehouse.com. I always forget the .gov. ;-)

  • Re:"Innovation" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ron_ivi (607351) <.moc.secivedxelpmocpaehc. .ta. .ontods.> on Monday October 06, 2003 @10:17PM (#7149841)
    That Princess Bride quote was quite apt. Check the subtlties of the definitions from Cringely's article [pbs.org]

    ' The word they are replacing is "invention." Only now we innovate, which is deliberately vague but seems to stop somewhere short of invention. Innovators have wiggle room. They can steal ideas, for example, and pawn them off as their own. '

  • innovation ? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bhawbaker (576764) on Monday October 06, 2003 @10:30PM (#7149910)

    if he says that stopping SiteFinder will slow down innovation.. I say they are slowing down the innovations. We could innovate Mozilla, IE, Safari, etc to automatically go to specific server on DNS errors. And sites like SiteFinder could contract with those browser owners for redirects. Guess we can't do that cuz Verisign killed that innoviation with their innotivative SiteFinder

    bob
  • by Maskull (636191) on Monday October 06, 2003 @10:48PM (#7150003) Homepage

    I mean, I like root beer. Therefore, I think that all fast food chains should make it the default, and not provide user choice... after all, I like it.


    No, this would just mean that if you ask for a beverage (or entree) that they don't have, they give you root beer, and you can't return it.

  • by ElliotLee (713376) on Monday October 06, 2003 @10:50PM (#7150017) Homepage Journal
    It sends you to sites of VeriSign's choosing. Say they wanted companies to pay them for it. They could kill small companies and damage competition, which is very bad news for consumers and the economy.
  • by ComputerSlicer23 (516509) on Monday October 06, 2003 @11:04PM (#7150086)
    Implementing it in the DNS isn't "bonkers". Implementing in the _root_ DNS servers, with no warning, no RFC, no discussion, and no debate is bonkers. While I agree that the most appropriate way to do that is in the user agent.

    I mean if AOL wanted to put this sort of rule in their DNS server, more power to them. If cox.net wanted to do it, great. If my work wanted to do it fine. If they are prepared to suffer the consequences, and will allow me to route around it, I'm fine with it.

    The people who run the core of the DNS system for the two most commonly typed domain names? Gosh darn irresponsible. Just insane. Bonkers. Foolish. Strange. Inappropriate.

    I don't mind others breaking their perspective of the internet. However, I have serious issues with people who break my corner of the internet.

    Kirby

  • by FsG (648587) on Monday October 06, 2003 @11:32PM (#7150226)
    A valid point, but I think you misunderstood. My point was that the admins who run the networks (not just DNS admins) are often the only ones who see when something breaks. Users are often entirely unaware of the problems going on in the background, the ones that cause these admins to stay up all night. As long as the buttons still go clickety-click, the users are happy.

    DNS admins should have a louder voice on this not because they're "fellow geeks," but because when something goes wrong, they are the first to notice. Therefore, their opinion on the question of "did something go wrong?" is more important.
  • by The Gline (173269) on Monday October 06, 2003 @11:37PM (#7150251) Homepage
    ...so much as the sneaky excuses.

    I'm reminded, distantly, of a hoax that took place in the art world in the Sixties. A modern art exhibit was set up at a small downtown (NY) gallery, with about forty paintings, and an art critic for one of the major rags came down to check it out. He started doing this gush to the curator full of the usual ArtSpeak jargon, and then the hoax was revealed: the paintings were all the work of a two-year-old boy. There was a pause, and then the critic shifted gears as if nothing had happened and started gushing about the purity of a child's untarnished perspective!

    The more I live, the more I see that people will do absolutely anything to pretend that everything is just hunky dory, even if it means being a consummate horse's ass. VeriSign are just the latest heirs to ass-dom.
  • Re:Please Note... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @12:10AM (#7150428)
    "It returns valid values for every query."

    Including invalid queries. There's an error code for nonexistant domains for a reason.
  • Re:I agree (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @12:25AM (#7150520)
    This type of feature should be provided by the web browser. If a domain doesn't exist then have it search for the link on google or use a similar service to produce the same result. Maybe Verisign should release their SiteFinder as an add-on for Internet Explorer. That way anyone who wants to have their browsing habbits tracked for innovation can download it and install it as they see fit.
  • by DunbarTheInept (764) on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @12:31AM (#7150555) Homepage
    If Verisign was *Really* trying to do this the right way, they'd only redirect web hits to their site. If they had done that, everything would have been fine. But instead they redirect at a very low level , in the namespace, so you can no longer tell if a .com address is valid in software. (which is why spam went way up when Verisign did this switch - mail servers can no longer tell when a return address is a bogus hostname.)
  • Another issue.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 33degrees (683256) <33degrees@gmaiLISPl.com minus language> on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @12:36AM (#7150585)
    Another problem with Sitefinder, which I haven't heard anybody mention yet, is that the suggestions offered were often not the actual domain you were looking for, but various typo squatters. So how is this helping the consumer?
  • by Night Goat (18437) on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @12:49AM (#7150659) Homepage Journal
    NICE troll!
  • by fishbowl (7759) on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @01:03AM (#7150722)
    (I mean, I like root beer. Therefore, I think that all fast food chains should make it the default, and not provide user choice... after all, I like it.)

    IF the STATE has given you the sole authority to distribute beverages to all fast food chains, THEN you have an analogy...
  • Re:In other news (Score:3, Insightful)

    by alister (60389) on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @01:09AM (#7150744) Homepage Journal
    I must be heartless if I don't want to go along with Hillary's plan to scuttle the best health care system in the world, and replace it with multi-year waiting lists?

    Heartless? Undoubtedly. But also thick. Your health care system is one of the most inefficient in the industrialised world, and it still doesn't cover a large chunk of your population. High costs for drugs, corrupt marketing techniques, and stifling of medical research are characteristics of the US health care system. In comparison, universal health care systems such as Australia's cost less overall and deliver better health care to more people. Anyone who thinks the US health care system is good (let alone the best in the world) really needs to make a slight effort to find out how other countries do things.
  • by release7 (545012) on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @01:15AM (#7150765) Homepage Journal
    Note: This post has been censored for your reading pleasure.

    Jesus, what else is this a**hole going to say? It'd be great if they could say what's really on their mind:

    "Profit is our number one motivation. F*ck the Internet, f*ck standards, f*ck all you others who get in the way of us making a profit. We are duty bound to make money for our shareholders and we aren't going to apologize for it. Now f*ck off."

    Instead, we all pretend they are making valid arguments when they talk about "service to the community," "innovation," and all the other "we care" b*llsh*t they spew. The bottom line is that when anything gets in the way of the bottom line, they will f*ck their own mothers to get ahead. The sooner we realize it the better.
  • Re:Innovation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Citizen of Earth (569446) on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @02:20AM (#7150964)
    from dictionary.com

    There's also a new technical meaning for "innovation", which is synonymous with "monopolization". Whenever you hear Microsoft saying "innovate", substitute "monopolize" to extract the true meaning. Now it's the same with VeriSign(R).
  • by owendelong (614177) on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @03:13AM (#7151117) Homepage
    With all due respect, this could be very problematic if Verisign is allowed to continue it.
    Not only because of all the technical implications, but, more importantly because it sets
    the precedent that the .com and .net domains essentially belong to Verisign to do whatever
    they choose with. If ICANN cannot stop this, then ICANN truly has no power to manage
    it's resources in the public interest. If ICANN cannot do that, there is noone elase with
    the public mandate to do so. This could be very bad going forward.

    Given how hard Verisign is working on the PR engine against this, we should make it
    as clear as possible that this is a significant operational issue with significant impact
    to the community. We should stand united that this is a bad thing first and foremost,
    and worry about the infighting about how bad later.

    Owen
  • Re:Innovation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by orangesquid (79734) <orangesquid.yahoo@com> on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @03:19AM (#7151129) Homepage Journal
    Innovation, changing society, can lead to good or bad. It's not some clear-cut evil thing. Freedom to innovate is freedom to break rules... for hackers and other clever people, with good intentions, this can lead to cutting through layers of crap and figuring something out for what it really is, solving a problem directly, and possibly confusing and/or irritating people in the process.

    There's lots of bullshit out there which isn't doing the majority of people any good... and, in fact, is doing good to a very small number of people and hurting everyone else in the process. That kind of stuff needs to go away, and innovation is the way to do it.

    Good innovation is finding a better way to do things that makes life safer, easier, more enjoyable, or more tasty, like hot grits on a statue (just kidding!).

    But, I would argue that some innovations will only push society along the path toward total commercialization, loss of identity, universal culture, and monopolization. A society built in this manner is weak, because everybody will share the same weaknesses... so if you can knock one man down, you can take control of the whole culture. Some significant amount of diversity is the best tool for survival and stability (in a big-picture sense)---nature shows us that.

    So, really, anything which makes our lives more commercialized or monopolized, while it may appear at first glance to be potentially useful, might contribute to a major problem down the road of losing the diversity that makes us strong.

    But, I could be totally off my rocker... after all, I am no longer rocking, and I can't seem to find the armrests on this here piece of carpet.

    (Yes, I realize I am somewhat America/Euro-centric. Forgive me.)
  • by John Allsup (987) <s,chalisque&gmail,com> on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @04:55AM (#7151368) Homepage Journal
    Furthermore, StieFinder or something else should be implemented in a way that a DNS query still produces something that is an authoratative 'domian name not registered' so that software that wants to deal with this can do so.

    What is bonkers with COM and NET is, for example, if I type www.bonjourdefrance.com, I get a French only website. If I type www.bonjoudefrance.com, I'd get SiteFinder, in English, not French, which is clearly the language of the person doing the search. (And that person may not speak English.)
    Similar points are valid for other languages.
    Here, VeriSign have failed to ask: who uses .com and .net. And blindly assumed it's the americans or English speakers only.

    Dealing with DNS failures should be dealt with nearer to the user doing the DNS request (where more information is available about what they want, e.g. their probable languages, etc.)
  • by rockhome (97505) on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @05:02AM (#7151382) Journal
    The internet is not all about linux, unix, code etc. It is also about usability.....tell me, how else would they find what they want if they dont have a complete URL? Suppose you had a wrong URL or did not remember the right URL? How would you find out the right one? Its impossible without sitefinder.

    What about the phone? I am sure that millions of people everyday dial a wrong number and have to do something about it. Most of us understand how to find phone numbers when we need them, yet we don't work for the phone company (NOTE: Author actually has worked for a Telco).

    It is not impossible to find a site if you mistype it. I do that all the time, I just resort to typing a search term into my browser's search box and look for what I need.

    If people have an implicit understanding of what to do and where to go for information, SiteFinder is redundant and useless. This is an issue of raising the technological savvy of a people at large, not obfuscating what is happening.
  • by MacFreek (581974) on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @06:16AM (#7151538) Homepage Journal
    First, this "innovation" is not unique: though the fuss is much bigger with the .com and .net domains, VeriSign correctly claims they are not the only one to deplay top-level zone wildcards.: .cc .cx .mp .museum .nu .ph .pw .td .tk and .ws do so as well.

    The slashdot article suggest that a standard was broken. It is not, and the editorial does not mention it. For the record, the Internet Architecture Board wrote:

    "We must emphasize that, technically, this was a legitimate use of wildcard records that did not in any way violate the DNS specifications themselves. One of our main points here is that simply complying with the letter of the protocol specification is not sufficient to ensure the operational stability of the applications which depend on the DNS: there are protocol features which simply are not safe to use in some circumstances." --

    Last, contrary to what VeriSign claims, it DOES break (parts) of the Internet. See all examples mentioned in the IAB advisory above. For example, consider what happens if you type "myprinter.mydoman.com" instead of "myprinter.mydomain.com" in your CUPS configuration. Without the wildcard, you get a simple message that you made a typo. With the wildcard, you have a hell of a job finding out why you can't connect to your printer.

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @10:47AM (#7153104) Homepage Journal
    What I don't understand is why some organization like the EFF hasn't started a CA. If you can show some level of effort spent on maintaining security (like an air gap? you can always batch cert in and out data to be transferred onto removable media) then I would think that it would take only time to become a trusted CA, with enough weight behind them. And we are that weight. Isn't it about time we were able to buy certs from someone we trust? I mean obviously you can generate your own, but then people get those browser popup messages.

    Alternately, perhaps the USPS should be selling them. The USPS has a long history of fairness, transparency (they might open your packages, but they tell you they're going to do it beforehand, and they make the rules pretty clear) and of charging only as much as it costs to cover their costs. That's why postage to send a letter between any two places in the continental U.S. is still a mere thirty-seven cents. The USPS is at once among the most inexpensive and the most efficient postal systems in the world. If I would trust any government agency to issue certificates, it's the USPS.

  • by mwood (25379) on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @12:07PM (#7153719)
    "The only people claiming that their "innovation" is at risk are those who *aren't* innovating."

    Ha, there's even a proverb: "those who talk about it the most, do it the least."

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