Slate has an article about the conflict over top-level domain names on the Internet. It’s an abstruse subject, but essentially it comes down to this: there’s a group called ICANN that administers top-level domain names (that is, the URLs we type to go to web addresses, including .com, .org, .net, .edu, .gov, and country codes such as .us, .cn, .kr, and so on). ICANN is a California-based nonprofit, and this is what makes the rest of the world nervous. Countries like Iran and China worry that leaving the top-level domain system under US control puts them at risk of having their web traffic meddled with, and they would like to have greater control of that traffic themselves.
The latest round of chatter on this subject has been generated by a recent summit in Tunis, at which the idea was floated that the UN should take over ICANN’s job. Enthusiasm for this notion was reportedly low.
There are two interesting concepts in the Slate article, and I would love to hear from readers who know more about this subject than me whether either one makes sense.
The first is that top-level domains could be administered by some kind of distributed peer-to-peer system like BitTorrent:
Countries that choose to house Torrent servers would receive a random piece of the DNS pie over a closed P2P network, with mirrors set up to correct data by consensus in the case of corruption or unauthorized modification. No one country would actually physically host the entire database.
Is this actually plausible?
Secondly, the article argues that top-level domains are headed for eventual obsolescence. How realistic is this idea? Will other modes of communication make .com irrelevant? If so, how soon will this happen?