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The Worldwide Domain Battle 183

pledibus writes "The New York Times's Sunday magazine contains an interesting article, Get Out of My Namespace, about the spate of conflicts over website names. The author synthesizes ideas from computer technology, law, history, onomastics, cultural anthropology, and probably a few other areas, and does a pretty nice job of it."
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The Worldwide Domain Battle

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  • Reg Free Link (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 21, 2004 @01:59PM (#8628200)
    Reg Free link [nytimes.com]
    • Re:Reg Free Link (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      If you don't want to deal with NYT, the author, James Gleick, also has the article [around.com] on his website.
      • Re:Reg Free Link (Score:2, Informative)

        by ed333 ( 684843 )
        Is it just me, or did the article say

        the two spectacular naming triumphs of the cyberworld are coinages verging on nonsense: YAHOO! (never omit the exclamation point) and GOOGLE.

        According to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org],

        The word "Google" is a play on the word 'googol', which was coined by Milton Sirotta, nephew of American mathematician Edward Kasner in 1938, to refer to the number represented by 1 followed by 100 zeros. Google's use of the term reflects the company's mission to organize the immense amount of information

  • Can we... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 21, 2004 @01:59PM (#8628201)
    Can't we somehow blame this on Verisign?
    • Yes, we'll start a special task force to Blame Verisign. Let's call it... Pegasus! No, taken... Gemini! Drat... International Business Machines!
  • Online Law (Score:4, Funny)

    by neoform ( 551705 ) <djneoform@gmail.com> on Sunday March 21, 2004 @02:00PM (#8628211) Homepage
    What we need is a set of laws that govern the internet. When someone is punished they are disallowed access to the net for a given amount of time.

    *reads what i just wrote, laughes*
    • No. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dolo666 ( 195584 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @02:05PM (#8628233) Journal
      Impossible to police, impossible to control, and totally against everything the Net was designed to be. Sorry, but no country will govern the net and if one should try to, they will have a huge problem on their hands. What is needed is not more regulation, but more insightful systems design. That's all.
      • Re:No. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by man_ls ( 248470 )
        It shouldn't be a country governing the net -- it should have its own governing body, made up of its own aristocracy.

        "Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant"

        The Internet should be governed and run by technical people with demonstrated skill -- Programmers from both sides of the open-source divide, administrators and help-desk technicians, etc.
        • Re:No. (Score:3, Insightful)

          by big tex ( 15917 )
          Yeah, we got that.
          It's called ICANN.

          You can make up your own mind how well it's working.
        • Re:No. (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Jane_Dozey ( 759010 )
          "It shouldn't be a country governing the net -- it should have its own governing body, made up of its own aristocracy." . How about /.ers? ;)
          • Thank you for sending in your domain registration request to SLASHDOT E-GOVERNMENT LLC. We will process your request as soon as possible. Meanwhile, please refer to the attached material.

            (Attached image: hello.jpg)

            P.S.: Microsoft sucks, Linux rules, *BSD is dying, in SOVIET RUSSIA, DOMAIN registers YOU!
      • Impossible to police, impossible to control, and totally against everything the Net was designed to be.
        Except the 'net wasn't designed to be anything but a survivable communication link. What you are reffering to are the social structures built on this backbone.

        Don't confuse the two levels.
        • I'm afraid I'll have to strongly disagree with you. Social structures is all we have as human beings; technology can't exist without that. If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it fall? I don't think it matters if nobody there witnesses it in any timeline.
    • That's impossible to enforce.
      • It would be simple, whenever one person violates the law, we would turn off all the root name servers and backbone routers for a period of one week. That will effectively stop them from accessing the net.
    • Re:Online Law (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jdreed1024 ( 443938 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @05:42PM (#8629169)
      The last thing we need is more laws. What we need is more common sense. For all cases involving domain name/trademark disputes, the following things need to be taken into account:
      • original intent
      • type of product/service being offered
      • whether the person's legal name is involved
      • whether consumers will be confused

      So, for, example, if my last name was Ford, and I made, say, house paint, and I registered fordhousepaint.com, Ford Motor Company shouldn't get to do jack shit. No consumer in the world, no matter how low their IQ, is going to purchase my house paint and then claim confusion and think they were getting a car. However, if Ford didn't have a website, and I registered Ford.com, and just had a parked page there, it would be pretty clear that I was doing it in the hope of extorting money from Ford.

      Now, there are some corner cases, as always. The MikeRoeweSoft thing is very unusual. Mike Roewe was his real name, and he did have a software company. Does it sound the same as another Redmond, WA company? Yes. However, it was pretty clear from the site that he wasn't Bill Gates, and the odds that some consumer would hear about the real microsoft, and want to go to their website, yet not know how to spell their domain name, and came up with MikeRoeweSoft on their own - well that's pretty slim. Personally, I think he should have won that case.

      And, using the Ford example from above, if my last name was Ford, and I registered ford.com, and on it I had a huge website, with pages for every member of my family, and a history of the family, and all my relatives had @ford.com e-mail addresses, and then Ford suddenly decides they want to cash in on this e-commerce thing and sues me, well that's a sticky situation. Technically, I was there first, and I'm clearly not pretending to make cars, nor am I interested in selling them my domain name for any price, and technically, they're not Ford either, they're Ford Motor Company. But I guess I don't have a good solution for that situation.

      Really, two important things would have prevented this whole problem:

      • If the damn media hadn't convinced the world that everything ends in .com, then we could have only companies have a .com domain, and we'd create some other TLD for people's personal sites. And Ford Motors could have ford.com, and I could have ford.me or ford.personal or something. The TLDs are now totally and completely useless for determining what kind of site is what now that .com, .net, and .org are used for everything. And it's totally the media's fault. A not insignificant number of people have tried to add .com onto the end of my .edu e-mail address when e-mailing me. It's pretty darn sad.
      • Domain name disputes should be handled like a small claims court. Plaintiff, defendant, judge, and maybe a few witnesses. And if one party fails to show up 3 times, the case is automatically decided in favor of the defendant. Even someone who is in the right and deserves to win a domain dispute often can't because of high-priced lawyers who file every fucking motion in the book to stall a trial for like 5 years. In fact, I'd watch that on CourtTV. Like the People's Court, but the Domain Court. Heh.
      • Domain name disputes should be handled like a small claims court. Plaintiff, defendant, judge, and maybe a few witnesses. And if one party fails to show up 3 times, the case is automatically decided in favor of the defendant.

        So....the defendant just has to not show up 3 times to win? That doesn't work. Even if you make it so the party that does show up is the winner, how do you decide where the case is heard? If I registered fordsuxorz.com and I live in california, can Ford Motors dispute ownership in Mi

      • However, if Ford didn't have a website, and I registered Ford.com, and just had a parked page there, it would be pretty clear that I was doing it in the hope of extorting money from Ford.

        It's not that easy, though. The Internet is not the web!

        I could just as easily registered ford.com for my organization but not provided any HTTP services for that domain. Maybe I wanted it for e-mail only, or for some other services like VoIP. There's no law that says I have to have a web page at www.ford.com.

        • I said "parked page". If you're only using the domain for for some other service, why do you need a parked page? You simply don't have anything running on port 80, and then you're all set. I'm talking about one of those "User has not set up this website yet" pages.
  • Link (Score:1, Informative)

    by pjt33 ( 739471 )
    Courtesy of Google News [goupstate.com], no subscription required.
  • To me... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dolo666 ( 195584 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @02:02PM (#8628220) Journal
    If you get a website, it's yours. What's the conflict? Squatters are just playing on names, misspelling. So you type in google.com wrong or something... and you see a stupid ad for domains. Big deal. Just type it in right next time. I find that too much resource is going towards fighting the natural expansion of the net; look at mikeroesoft... My thoughts are that the whole system does need real scrutiny, but even after all that, exploits to any system always come through. Pynchon always said you couldn't do away with anything more than %50 of waste because waste is always there... it's inherrent in everything. Make more law, you're still fighting a ghost.
    • Re:To me... (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      They're also playing on phase lags: if you are a small company and you blink, a squatter snatches up your domain name. If you're a big company, Verisign and their ilk will sit on the namespace for a while to give you extra chances to register it. So the rules about keeping a domain registered are unevenly applied. Also, they're poorly handled in terms of fraudulent registrants, such as spammers who provide fake names and squatters who lie about what business they're part of when they register the namespace.
  • Nice article (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 21, 2004 @02:04PM (#8628225)
    Nothing really new for the slashdot crowd. Incidentally, the author of the article is Gleick who is known for two great books: Chaos, and Richard Feynman's biography.
  • Suckers. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by joeszilagyi ( 635484 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @02:06PM (#8628239)
    I'd like to see someone try and cease and desist MY extremely common place domain name: www.szilagyi.us [szilagyi.us]

    That said, some of the cases, especially the Bill Wyman one, are laughable.

    • Re:Suckers. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by AndroidCat ( 229562 )
      I have a numbered name incorporation. Not only is it unique inside Canada, but the name is inherently part of Canadian namespace. If I did get a domain name for it, I can't see how anyone else could trump my rights to it.

      Of course, the best protection is that who the hell would want 4176271CanadaInc.ca? (Even me, sheesh! :)

      • We have a chain of stores here in california (and possibly nationally?) called 7-eleven [slashdot.org], its not quite the same, but along similiar lines.
        • Re:Suckers. (Score:2, Interesting)

          by AndroidCat ( 229562 )
          Not really. Another company could use that name if they were in a completely different line of business that wouldn't cause confusion. (Hard to do against a well-known international chain that can afford lots of lawyers.) "Joe's Plumbing of Texas" vs. "Joe's Computers of New Jersey" for example: different line of business, different locations. That's part of the name search you have to do for a company name or trademark.

          By using an assigned numbered name, no one else can incorporate or trademark that "name

        • We had 7-Eleven in south africa. It recently merged with Friendly (previously called friendly grocer). It's now called Friendly 7-Eleven.
    • Re:Suckers. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jdreed1024 ( 443938 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @05:57PM (#8629225)
      That said, some of the cases, especially the Bill Wyman one, are laughable.

      Laughable, but in a sad "glad-it-wasn't-me" way. The "other" Bill Wyman in question was a well-respected columnist for a major metropolitan newspaper. (No, not the Daily Planet ;-) - the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). He said at the time he had the backing of the newspaper if this went to court. Now imagine he wasn't a columnist. Imagine he was just some guy pulling down $25,000/year who didn't even know a lawyer, much less have one on retainer. He'd probably immediately give in (understandably, since he can't afford to fight it), and someone would have been successfully sued for using their legal name by someone who wasn't even born with the same legal name, but had more money and lawyers. Suddenly it becomes less funny.

    • That just because you're too obscure to get yourself a C & D order, you're coming looking for a /. DDOS instead?
  • by Operating Thetan ( 754308 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @02:07PM (#8628252) Journal
    Is by easyGroup, notorious for suing any business with "easy" in their title. There's a page about it here [easyprotest2.com]
  • by Tore S B ( 711705 )
    If a person is named John, would John.com be eligible for a lawsuit from the company Johncom? What about World.com? Would they (well, if Worldcom had existed, anyway,) be eligible? May be a dumb question, but it struck my mind, anyway.
  • by astivers ( 764081 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @02:10PM (#8628270)
    The article on increasing congestion in namespace ends by suggesting that ``perhaps the law just needs to relax...[a] system based on property rights in names may be the wrong approach.'' While it may be true that we want the current implementation of property rights in names to be relaxed, it is also generally true that as common resources --- highways, clean air, fisheries --- become congested we need stronger rules for allocating those resources, not weaker ones. The congestion of the namespace, together with modern commercialism, means that the market use of language increasingly intersects with non-market use. This means that the context of speech which, as Gleick notes, had served to differentiate one private meaning of a word from another commercial one is breaking down. (In order to stay in character, I must say...) On the one hand, this supports Gleick's conclusion: the control of commercial language increasingly infringes on non-market use. This point is expressed particularly well by Rosemary Coombe in ``The cultural life of intellectual property.'' The book argues that the creation of meaning and value in a name is more a function of consumer use of the product than of corporate construction and therefore control of a name should not be exclusive to the originating company. However the real picture is not so clear. In the case of ``famous'' marks, tightly controlled language is just what buyers of a name want. The value of the good that they buy, ``Nike'' for example, is at least as much caught up in the name as in the product. While some extra-corporate uses of the name are positive (and certainly companies and courts need to be more discerning in their attempts to suppress these) consumers of the goods, as much as the company, have an interest in blocking negative associations with the mark. If I have invested several hundred dollars in Nike paraphernalia, and by association invested that money in my image as a Nike-wearing-guy, the last thing I want is to have to reinvest in a new label because the Nike name has been devalued. At the same time, it is true that property rights have been used to suppress relevant consumer information. Even more troubling, this right to control meaning has been extended in some states to generic names --- witness the (failed) product disparagement lawsuit brought against Oprah for her derogatory comments about beef --- surely a sign that the laws on names need loosening, not tightening. But again, there are complications. In addition to increasingly rival uses of language, we have accelerating change in technology and trade. This means that both in owned (trademarks) and unowned (descriptive) language, the attributes of the goods underlying a particular name might be shifting more rapidly than consumers' understanding of the name --- consider the debate on whether ``food'' includes genetically modified products. The potential distance between use of a name and consumer understanding of the name suggest the need for greater scrutiny of use, not less. Saying that control of a name should not be exclusive to a particular corporate entity or entities is not the same thing as saying that control of language should be loosened overall. We are coming to a point in crisis in market language analogous to the crisis in natural resource commons. Gleick's article illustrates this, but points toward a need for new solutions, not necessarily just loosening the old ones.
  • by amigoro ( 761348 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @02:12PM (#8628275) Homepage Journal
    Well this war has been fought over before. Remember Adidas and the three stripes?

    The only difference now is the Arena. In a time where branding is everything, the value of one's name, and its association with one's web presence is tremendous.

    However, the current domain name registration system is haphazard to say the least. On the one hand you get the country specific top level domains, which applies to all the countries except US (Thought the .US does exist). There's .com and .org to differentiate between commercial and non-commercial organisations, but nobody takes that distinction seriously. .net (not the MS platfrom) is yet another completely different story.

    I think the first task of the day is to get this anarchical hierarchy into some order. We must get US to use it's TLD, and get rid of .com, .org, .net etc completely.

    Then, there should be clear guidelines as to who gets .com.?? and .net.?? etc. PEople have made these disticntions for tax purpose, why not do it for domain name purposes?

    Then there should be a new second level domain, such as .ind.?? for individuals to register their names. It should follow the first name surname pattern. Of course mary.brown.ind.uk is going to be a problem, and a resolution scheme must be found.

    The first-come first-server free for all messy domain registration system does not bode well for making the internet any less complicated.

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    • The first-come first-server free for all messy domain registration system does not bode well for making the internet any less complicated.

      Maybe the time has come to replace it with something better. The current Domain Name Registration, DNS, and PKI architecture all rely on some trusted central authority. It is possible to design a new distributed mechanism for these services that does not require trust, and is therefore less likely to be abused:


      See especially "Why use YU
    • by betelgeuse-4 ( 745816 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @02:44PM (#8628418) Homepage Journal

      It would be great if all the blogs and personal homepages had and used only one TLD (.ind). Then Google could have an option to block all these websites. That would increase the relevancy of their search results.

      Now, if only we could convince the spammers to use .spam ...

    • I don't see how segmenting names geographically is going to help much. At the very least, there would still be these battles within each country. At some level, a central registry is needed.

      Organizations or companies might even try to register their name in every country they *might* do business in, for PR and to make it easier (and less confusing) for potential customers to find them.

      Suing over similar names seems (mostly) ridiculous to me. Maybe it would be better to "force" domain names to be shared
    • On the contrary, first-come-first-served is the simplest way of allocating domains and much preferable to any carefully regulated system in which the most expensive lawyer wins. Other systems you propose, such as domains only for companies or only for individuals, can be built on top of FCFS.
    • The problem is that many corporations and brands are multinational. A corporation may be legally registered and operating in dozens of countries, not to mention many more countries where their products are sold. The company's headquarters may be in the United States, but the majority of its employees and facilities may be overseas.
  • Bleh (Score:2, Informative)

    by Spazzz ( 577014 )
    I wish the lameness would stop. The WIPO has proven themselves to be about as ineffective and "unbiased" as ICANN. Does anybody remember if there was a trademark war between the makers of the VAX [vax.co.uk] and the VAX [vaxarchive.org]? Apple Records and Apple Computers have been able to coexist peacefully since the late 70s, as well.

    I can see the WIPO and lawyers going after domain squatters who are attempting to profit from another company or individual's fame or reputation, but the disputes nowadays are insane, and take away fr

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 21, 2004 @02:15PM (#8628296)
    ...they should be unambiguous and consistent. It shouldn't be based on who has the biggest lawyers.
    • So, you're suggesting that Company A should hire less competent, cheaper lwayers simply because the person or comany they are going against in a dispute can't afford better, more expensive lawyers? Lawyers can't trade based on their skills and abilities?
    • by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @03:51PM (#8628676) Homepage Journal
      Lawyers try very hard to be unambiguous and consistent. They produce pages and pages of prose full of technical terms trying to narrow down exactly who owns what.

      (I'm talking about lawyers working in good faith, which is most of them. It's the creeps that make the news, but most lawyers are just trying to be clear.)

      Unfortunately, the additional verbiage causes problems of its own. First, the technical terms aren't always accessible until you've had background. You do the same thing as a computer programmer; just because you know the difference between an "icon" and an "operating system" without thinking doesn't mean the difference is readily apparent to somebody who has unfamiliar with computers.

      Second, the additional verbiage makes inconsitencies more likely. As a programmer you know perfectly well that adding code to a program makes it buggier. Same thing: the more lawyers try to clarify your rights, the more likely it is that they're accidentally creating loopholes.

      (Again, remember that I'm talking about the good ones, not the assholes. Actually, the assholes create a whole new difficulty, because everybody has to assume everybody else is an asshole and fight tooth and nail for their rights, so you end up acting like an asshole yourself. But that's a different point; I'm going for the point that it's hard even without the assholes.)

      Unlike software, people are difficult. Who really knows if Apple Computer should be prevented from going into music by Apple Records? The number of "corner cases" is extraordinary. I wish it were always possible to make rules that were simple, unambiguous, consistent, and _fair_ (something you left out, but which is crucial). But often it simply isn't.

      I once found that hard to take. In computers, there's always a solution. It's not always practical (you can't really rewrite the operating system because you found a bug in it), but it's at least possible, or you can show why it's impossible. In managing people there's an ugly gray area that's always bigger than you want it to be. Lawyers attack the problem with words. I wish I had a better solution.
  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @02:15PM (#8628298)
    Perhaps the problem is that the internet is too massively large for the human mind, social systems, and trademark laws to handle. Everyone thinks they are coming up with a unique, non-overlapping, name from everyone else. But once the system becomes too larger, very few names are unique. In reality, all the "good" names are taken and even all the easy variants of the good names are taken. Its a case of too many people and too few names.

    The case of confusing/typoed near-names (ggle.com) is also a human scalability problem. If one only interacted within a tribe or small group (say 100 individuals), a typo or near-name would still be unambiguous.

    People (and their social/legal systems) weren't designed to connect directly to millions or billions of others.
    • People (and their social/legal systems) weren't designed to connect directly to millions or billions of others.

      Nope. But back in the 50s and 60s the US social system wasn't designed for a non-segregated soceity. Trust me, humanity will adept over time. That, or we'll nuke ourselves into oblivion before we adept. So far so good though...

    • The solution was designed into the system in RFCs 1034 and 1035 in 1987.

      The naming system was designed to be heirarchical because the flat hosts.txt naming system didn't scale, and it didn't scale 20 years ago.

      What ICANN have done is make DNS flat, WHICH DOESN'T FUCKING SCALE.

  • Odd vision (Score:2, Funny)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 )
    Does the international community really want to take on disputes for things like mybigfatjuicycock.com ? No wonder they begged Bush for more participation in Iraq decisions.
  • Mikr..owe (Score:3, Funny)

    by Hello this is Linus ( 757336 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @02:20PM (#8628314) Homepage
  • by YetAnotherGeekGuy ( 715152 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @02:23PM (#8628325)
    The desperation of company founders and marketing departments to find new names sometimes brings ludicrous results. To single out some of the worst, a California naming company has created the Shinola Awards; recent "winners" -- futuristic, forgettable, pseudo-Latinate, barely pronounceable -- include ACHIEVA, ALTRIA and CRUEX.

    WOW, now I have something more to live for than the Darwin Awards. The name is very apt, and its about time.
    • The prime contender should be Arriva,a london bus company whose buses never arrive on time.

      or our venerable Post Office who changed their name to Consignia from Royal Mail at a cost of 100 Million pounds only to change it back some 18 months later.

  • by way2trivial ( 601132 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @02:23PM (#8628326) Homepage Journal
    I'm amazed that they missed Nissan.com

    this guy fought a hell of a battle with Nissan motors, and I think he should have outright won, and the final decision was- he may not use his domain for commercial purposes.. what kind of stupid ruling was/is that? if it's his, (and it should be) then he should be able to use it for ANYTHING that does not have to do with NISSAN or cars.

    (which he never did....)

    • Uzi used to be my Internet provider, back when I had ISDN service. Great guy, sorry that the courts screwed him over.

      It *is* his family name, and he should have a right to use it, especially if he got to it first.

      Chip H.
  • by pe1chl ( 90186 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @02:26PM (#8628338)
    When DNS was defined, this problem was catered for by having a hierarchical name system.
    The same name could exist under different toplevel labels.
    In fact, once trademarked names started to be registered, the registries should have created obligatory subdomains corresponding to the categories of trademarks, so that a trademark for computers could not collide with a trademark for household appliances.

    Now, the exact opposite is happening. Everyone is registering their name under all possible toplevel labels, thus further polluting the system.

    Probably a new hierarchy should be created where everyone can register only names in appropriate categories. I.e. the classical trademark registering process has to be completed first.
    • Probably a new hierarchy should be created While I would like to agree with you, I fear that having such an effect will be catastrophic to the community.

      The majority of people think that .com is the only domain extention. This came about during the ".com revolution".

      For such a change to be made to be "organized", it would cause its own problems. Even if we did follow rules for internationalization. What qualifies as a world organization? Do you need to be the only organization with that name? Do yo
      • It's COPYRIGHT, not copywrite. Copyrights are rights granted to creators of intellectual property, specifically the expression of an idea in a fixed medium. Copywiting is a career field devoted to writing text for ads and other public material sich as press releases.
      • by pe1chl ( 90186 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @03:53PM (#8628684)
        >I may be a fan of ManufactuerProduct.com for names (e.g. DodgeViper, ChevyLumina) rather than product.com. However, I am MORE in favor of viper.dodge.com and lumina.chevy.com, if we want to stick with heirarchy.

        One bad decision in the design of DNS was that the toplevel name appears to the right.
        It should have been com.dodge.chevy instead of the other way around.
        The UK computer scientists tried to set it up that way, but they lost.
        This is a bit strange, because most hierarchical directory systems already operated left-to-right instead of right-to-left.

        The consequence is that there is a break between the hostname and directory path in a URL, where the direction changes. Most people don't understand that.
        So instead of having http://com.dodge.viper/ or http://com.dodge/viper as alternatives, they want to register the composite name because otherwise nobody would be able to find it.
        • I do wish they'd been consistent in using left-right syntax, as that would have made things a lot cleaner for Java and a lot of other integration as well.

          I suspect the reason it wasn't done that way is to allow the DNS server to search by the most distinguishing key first. Remember when a lot of these protocols were created, most computers were huge machines with less power than your typical Palm Pilot.

          Only the TLD and the primary domain are registered -- your own DNS server handles the subdomains. T

    • Close, but you're just pushing back the problem from a naming of sites to a naming of categories.

      By all means have the (US) trademark registry as a subdomain as you suggest, then allow one or more top level domains (i.e. administrations) to incorporate it as they see fit. In the UK we have our own trademark registry where "Budweiser", for example, can refer to beer as well as to a similar beverage made from fermented rice.
      • > Close, but you're just pushing back the problem from a naming of sites to a naming of categories.

        Ahh, I did not realize this could be a problem. With the BeNeLux trademark office, there is a fixed list of categories under which you can register your trademarks. So I assumed the category list would be obvious.
        • ...which is fine of course, as long as the categories are within the trademark's office own namespace - budweiser.biere.tm.be or something.

          My point was simply that different trademarks offices would have different categories, so both the office (tm.be) and the category (biere) have to appear.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 21, 2004 @02:29PM (#8628349)
    "A few of the words and phrases trademarked in the most recent batch this month were DRIVE HARDER, RELAXED LUXURY, MYASSISTANT, A COFFEE SHOP IN YOUR OFFICE, FLEXIBLE THINKER (a Canadian motivational speaker), RINGWRAITH (the Tolkien moviemakers still going strong) and DOING HIS TIME (for ''transportation of families of prison inmates''). Are any of these so special, creative or individual that ownership rights ought to be assigned?"

    Trademarks are not assigned to promote the creation of interesting individual names. Otherwise, they would fall under the "promote the useful arts and sciences" clause of the constitution, and thus would have limited duration.

    Trademarks exist forever, as long as they are actively used -- because their enforcement puts MORE information at the public's finger tips, not LESS. The purpose of trademarks is not to defend some "property" of the long-dead guy who named Colt firearms, but to defend YOUR right to know who made the products you buy, right here, today.

    As such, they can be as ugly or common place as you want. The point is to stop other people from confusingly marketing a similar product under a similar mark. Trademarks are actually a consumer-protection issue, not an "intellectual property" issue. It is the confusion of lumping very different aspects of law into one vague name that leads to mistakes such as this.

    I don't think I am nit-picking here. This is a serious mistake. The misuse of trademarks for the purpose of censorship or harassment would be much less common if the general public had a sense that trademarks "belonged" to THE PUBLIC, as a truth-in-labeling concept.

  • Generic Drug Names (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bnavarro ( 172692 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @02:34PM (#8628380)
    This is indeed a timely article. I have been thinking about registering a generic drug name -- not the brand name -- for a personal web site, because the name sounds interesting, it is an online pseudonym that I use, and I have a personal history with the drug in question. Would/could a pharmaceutical company come after me for using the generic name? What about someone else, like the FDA, saying that it was in the "public interest" that the generic name be used exclusively in connection with information about the actual drug?
  • by eggboard ( 315140 ) * on Sunday March 21, 2004 @02:34PM (#8628382) Homepage
    Gleick knows his technology, but he's spreading a couple of myths in the middle of a really interesting discussion on namespace and trademarks.

    "...a computer that happens to be situated in Reston, Va. -- a computer known as the primary root server or, less affectionately, the Black Box..."

    Paul Vixie posted this message [interesting-people.org] on the IP list a few months ago to dispute that. There are many root nameservers, not just Network Solutions'.

    "The mapping of a domain name to a particular address can be changed in a matter of moments; the necessary instructions propagate automatically across the network..."

    Actually, the root nameservers communicate their mappings to each other for start of authority (SOA), but they don't propagate address changes.

    I've had to explain this to many, many fellow reporters. DNS is a retrieve and cache on demand system. Browser says: what's slashdot.org? Resolver climbs the chain of authority and back down, retrieves the address information, provides it to the browser, and caches it locally for a period of time (or not, depending on the OS).

    The next query after the cache expires retrieves fresh information. Updates to DNS records don't propagate: they only take affect on the next query after no cached information is found.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 21, 2004 @03:09PM (#8628523)
      There are many root servers, but there is only one primary database of domain data. It is in Reston. All root servers get their information from Reston.

      Domains are mapped to nameservers in their domain record, not in DNS queries. This data is in the root servers (for the TLD, not for '.'), and changes do, in fact, propagate out to the other root servers when they ask the master for updates.

      DNS data itself can be seen to propagate out, when you include the concept of TTL (time-to-live) for the data. You don't always query authoritative nameservers for an address -- it would overload them (and where would you stop? you'd have to go all the way up to the root servers to be sure you were getting good info). You ask your local cacheing nameserver, run by your ISP, who checks its cache to see if it already "knows" the answer, and whether the answer is "older" than its TTL. If it is older, it usually queries the authoritative nameserver for the domain. If it is younger, it just returns the same value as before.

      So the data doesn't propagate per se, but the awareness of it does, and not instantly. Sometimes not even quickly.

      And yes, your browser caches the response too, but that has nothing to do with DNS or TTL.
  • by alext ( 29323 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @02:49PM (#8628441)
    If "computer science has the useful concept of namespaces", it of course also has the concept of name administrations to go with them.

    Faced with the problem of different interpretations of "truth.com" and "beauty.com", formally there is no realistic way of managing them under a single administration to the satisfaction of all.

    The article is confused about what it is proposing, suggesting both to "loosen the cords" and to enforce "truthfulness and authenticity". This is nonsense.

    What the Internet needs is a way of setting up trust relationships between users and naming administrations (and between naming administrations themselves). This could be bolted onto the current system by having a wide variety of top-level names that denote the administrations, just as with the country names. Administrations would then be free to borrow name information from each other so the name domains would not really be exclusive.

    There were a couple of annoying companies that attempted to introduce a system like this by modifying the browser's name lookup mechanism (Real Names was one). These were annoying because they attempted to hide what was going on (appropriating the regular DNS system) but the underlying principle is sound, and indeed inevitable.

    (Useful semi-formal papers on naming are hard to come by - I've been using this 1993 one [ansa.co.uk] by Rob van der Linden, which despite being surprisingly prescient must have been superseded by something more web-age by now).
  • Domain names are a nonissue at this point. The number of registered domains peaked two years ago. The number of domain name disputes [wipo.int] is down. The "domain broker" business is essentially dead.
  • Creativity (Score:3, Interesting)

    by freejung ( 624389 ) <webmaster@freenaturepictures.com> on Sunday March 21, 2004 @03:09PM (#8628520) Homepage Journal
    It seems to me that all this hoopla is a good thing, in a sense, as it will encourage greater creativity. There are lots of combinations of letters that we don't use, and lots of interesting word combinations not commonly used in commerce. The only possible outcome of all this is to expand our available namespace to include lots of new words and word combinations, so as to accomodate everyone. This expands the language and the general memespace, and leads to positive development of our culture.

    So it may seem silly now, but I think in the long run it will just make our language more interesting.

  • Besides domain name conflicts, there are many trademark conflicts, too. I have collected a list of trademark cases related to Open Source projects [tuxmobil.org]. Currently there are 18 cases known. But there are more, which are not made known public.
  • by wfberg ( 24378 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @03:30PM (#8628595)
    I'd argue that companies with famous brands should get the least amount of protection possible. This is simply because;

    1) if their brand is so valuable, why don't they pay the schmoe who registered their domain what it's worth?

    2) BigCorp can blast its URL over many communications, like commercials, logoes, branding, etc.; obviously, having an easy-to-remember URL is more important for those less fortunate.

    3) Do you even type in a company's name and append .com anymore? You either look on their products for their URL, or you google for it. We all learnt to do this the hard way (whitehouse.com).

    4) If a website is actually confusing consumers, or commiting libel; sue em. Don't need no UDRP. If it's too cosrly to sue some-one operating in alaska, well, then your brand isn't famous enough, get yourself a country (ccTLD) domain name.

    The whole ICANN/UDRP/WIPO trademark circus is a big joke. Especially when they took away the possibility to register domain names (for free..) in the nice hierarchical XX.us state (sub)domains.
  • Domain Names (Score:3, Interesting)

    by VoidEngineer ( 633446 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @03:51PM (#8628677)
    So Jeff Burgar, accused cybersquatter, speaks for many Internet users when he views Icann and WIPO as defenders of the corporate trademark establishment. ''It's a business,'' he said. ''The arbitration process is geared to take domain names from one party and give them to another'' -- from the have-nots, he means, to the haves. ''The arbitrators are almost all of them attorneys who have a vested interest in looking out for big business or celebrities.''

    After having actually read the entire 6 pages of the article, I would point out that most all of this article is about .COM names and companies litigating to gain all of the major variations of some trademark. Now, if a company exists named "Example", it seems fair that they should get the domain name EXAMPLE.COM. What doesn't necessarily follow and seem fair is that they should also get EXAMPLE.ORG or EXAMPLE.INFO.

    Conversely, individuals who cybersquat names of corporations in the .COM domain isn't fair either. Individuals should stay out of the .COM domain as owners in all circumstances, because an individual is not a corporations... (Even sole-proporietership doesn't count in my opinion, although it is a point which could be argued, I suppose).

    Anyhow... moral of the story? Better enforcement of the top level domains (com, org, net, info, edu) and expansion thereof. We are definately going to need more.

    In fact, I predict that, eventually, society will need to open up every top level domain for usage to meet the demand for names.
    • I thought .COM was for commercial, not corporation.

      So are you saying that, for example, Lance Armstrong should not be allowed to have lancearmstrong.com [lancearmstrong.com]?

    • What, you mean like the for-profit company registered at slashdot.org?
    • Making DNS flat isn't the answer. You're pushing requests and resources towards the root of the DNS tree, at a tremendous expense of the root name server operators. You can't just delegate a piece of the root to the companies that own that TLD. Flattening the namespace means flattening the control structure of the DNS as a whole; moving the distributed infrastructure to one freakin' mammoth root infrastructure.

      This is not what DNS is suited for. It will not make this change gracefully.

      Ten or fifty new
    • Now, if a company exists named "Example", it seems fair that they should get the domain name EXAMPLE.COM.

      Chip Rosenthal [unicom.com] would disagree with you, just like I do.

      Individuals should stay out of the .COM domain as owners in all circumstances, because an individual is not a corporations.

      Again, I clearly disagree. You'll notice the homepage listed at the top of my post, for instance. I wanted a domain primarily so that when I move from one provider to another, or my current provider goes belly up, I do

  • Local Names (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LionKimbro ( 200000 ) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @03:56PM (#8628698) Homepage
    In the Wiki world, we've been thinking about ideas such as having Local Names. [taoriver.net]

    In Wiki, you can name a page just by putting "[[ ]]" marks around it, and it links to the page. Recent advances such as the NearLink [taoriver.net] have made it so that you can refer to pages on "nearby" wiki, even without naming the wiki. If the word you are linking to isn't defined on the immediate wiki, but it is defined on a near wiki, then the word links to it's definition on that nearby wiki.

    But we're carrying the concept even further. With Local Names, we want to be able to link not just to wiki pages, but any sort of page. For example, you could bind [[Slashdot]] to http://slashdot.org/ .

    But wait! There's more! We want to store these bindings in a "Local Names Server" [taoriver.net], which you could then tell people about, or store in your person preferences server, or a FOAF file. [foaf-project.org] Then, when you post to a website, or slashdot, or whatever, and refer to something that it doesn't know about, it can look it up in your personal local names server. Of course, Slashdot would have to know what local name servers are, and would have to know to look at them.

    At the end of the day, what you effectively have, is a world without URL's- just lots of local names. You'd have a mechanism for "picking up" and "giving away" local names. So, for example, if someone refers to something by a name, and you like it, you can "pick it up" into your own local names server. There are all sorts of possibilities here.
  • From page 6 of the article--in other words, further than 90% of the posters will read :) .

    ''Consider the word apple,'' Pulgram wrote. To the horticulturalist or expert grocer, it hardly occurs: instead we have ''Pippins, Codlins, Reinettes, Baldwins, McIntosh Reds, Biffins, Rome Beauties.'' Now, of course, an Apple is a computer. It's also a record label and holding company for the Beatles. Apple Computer and Apple Corps managed to co-exist for a quarter-century, but now Apple Computer has a music store, a

  • And could easily be avoided. If ICANN had a clue what they were doing, this kind of bollocks simply wouldn't be a problem.

    The solution is here:

  • I have been wondering lately how someone would search on domain names. I want to be able to type in a portion of a domain name and get a list of every domain that matches that. I know I can get info from WhoIs, but it doesn't do wildcards, does it?

    Also, I think it would be really cool to be able to use Google to search for parital domains. That way you could rank the domains and narrow down your search naturally. Wouldn't it be nice to find all of the domains with "slash" it it? Or even "tgp" or "thum
  • The Global Organisation for Anti-Terrorist Special Executives (based on Christmas Island) is suing for its acronym URL. A spokesman said, "In the current world situation we want people to be able to locate anti-terrorism resources quickly without being exposed to THAT image".

    A similar case is being brought in the US by The United Biscuits Group International Retailers Limited, who feel that consumer appetite for their product is adversely affected by the image of a young lady who has clearly taken a little

  • Namespaces will collide. Let them.
    Not if you are coding in .net! :-)
  • 1 - virtually every word is (or can be) registered as a trademark many times over by different type of business in the same or a different country e.g. the word 'apple' is registered by tobacco and computer companies in the US.

    Every domain you pick will likely be similar to a registered trademark - you would think that authorities want people to know which domains belong to a registered trademark.

    Even UN WIPO will not guarantee that your domain is safe - even if you check all their sources [wipo.int]: "any searc

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