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cwest (1514)

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Journal of cwest (1514)

Thursday October 16, 2003
06:30 PM

Breaking Backward Compatibility; Internet Users Pay

[ #15247 ]

Date: Thu, 16 Oct 2003 12:15:22 -0400
Message-ID: <>
From: Casey West <>
Subject: Breaking Backward Compatibility; Internet Users Pay

VeriSign has broken backward compatibility for the .com and .net TLDs. After 20 years of tried and true expected results (namely, the DNS returning NXDOMAIN when a domain does not exist) VeriSign has broken the DNS.

Their reasons are clear, financial gain. Their reports on user satisfaction are misleading, mistaking typos for intentional use, and unintentional use for satisfied users. I can understand why they believe a problem has been solved, wool is thick.

Not only have they broken HTTP traffic, but email services that have been working for decades were broken when a mail server started responding to email sent to non-existent domain names, as well as email filters counting on the DNS returning a NXDOMAIN response for a non-existent domain. Similarly, sending email to a non-existent domain returns a different SMTP response code than it used to.

We all understand this generates revenue for VeriSign, but what does it cost the rest of us? It costs us in several areas. Foremost, bandwidth fees. An HTTP response for a non-existent domain used to return a single DNS response (NXDOMAIN), with VeriSign's SiteFinder I have to pay for the bandwidth of receiving a web page from VeriSign. Large ISPs acquire large financial hits as a result.

SMTP services inherit a similar fate. Services counting on the DNS to return NXDOMAIN for non-existent domains are fooled into believing the domain exists. As a result, storage costs rise, as email that should be filtered and removed is being passed through.

These costs cause needless financial harm to Internet users and providers. There is yet to be a compelling reason why we should incur these costs while VeriSign profits. Large ISPs have turned to customized DNS services specifically to curb the problems caused by the TLD wildcards. The demerits of such a change in the DNS must be considered very heavily when providers on the scale of AOL and EarthLink resort to counter-measures.

The TLD wildcards must go. I see no problems with VeriSign benefiting positively from SiteFinder, however, backward compatibility issues, and higher costs for Internet users and providers is too lofty a price for us to bear.

Some may say Microsoft has been doing this for years with their "search from the location bar" feature, tied to MSN. While this is true, it was a client level decision that could be turned off with client level configuration. VeriSign's TLD wildcards cannot be shut off at the individual computer level, over the scope of all Internet users.

In short, VeriSign believes SiteFinder is useful for all Internet users. That is fine, but let it stand its own merits. As the manager for the .net and .com TLDs VeriSign should act with prudence, even in the face of huge financial possibilities. Further, a red flag should be raised when any company who positions themselves so unilaterally against strong, truly reasonable concerns emanating from key organizations in Internet infrastructure.

Casey West

Shooting yourself in the foot with the Internet
You put your foot in your mouth, shoot it, then spam the bullet so
that everybody gets shot in the foot.

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