[ih] Funny how things work out

Jack Haverty jack at 3kitty.org
Mon Feb 1 10:30:14 PST 2021

Interesting discussion of the history of Network Naming as it evolved
from a practical technical solution to a problem (JonP got tired of
having every new computer name have to go through him, and DNS
introduced a mechanism for delegation), to a scheme for making money, to
a battleground for things like "brand protection".   Yes, funny how
things work out....

That got me thinking about how all that evolution looked, when viewed
from the Users' perspective rather than from Technology Land.  What does
the Internet History of Naming look like, as it has been seen by the
Users of The Internet?

I've been Using names since the early ARPANET days, when the file at
SRI-NIC helped me remember whether my host was MITDM or MIT-DM et al.

Fast forward to today, and I no longer have a clue what name to use to
find what I want online, and the proliferation of TLDs and explosion of
names isn't helping.

I'm wondering if, from the Users' perspective, the DNS mechanisms have
simply become unusable and irrelevant.

To take a concrete example... A few years ago I was planning a home
project and a friend highly recommended a particular builder - "Talon
Construction".   Tried talonconstruction.com, but no luck.   That name
is for sale, for only $3800!   That's a big investment for a small
builder, maybe better put into new tools and equipment.

So I tried http://talon-construction.com, and sure enough there it was,
complete with pictures of projects they did, and all the usual marketing
material.  Very professional, ... looks like a good company to use.  
Then I noticed one small problem - the phone number looked strange. 
Digging around a bit in "About Us", I found their address -- somewhere
in Maryland.  But I'm in California....  

So, what else could it be.  Maybe talonconstruction.net?   Nope, they
are on the net, but based in North Carolina.   Maybe
talonconstruction.builder?  Nope -- "We can’t connect to the server at
talon-construction.builder."  Maybe builder is not a TLD?  Aargh, this
is silly.   When did we last get a Yellow Pages...?

Another example -- we frequent a local restaurant called Asian Garden,
reminded of its name every time we drive by the building.   So where is
it online?  Asian Garden seems unlikely to be a unique name for a
restaurant.    Try asiangarden.com...that brings up a web page that just
says "4020"?   Maybe asiangarden.net?  No, that's a company that sells
asian plants, and they don't say where they are but appear to be located
somewhere in the Central timezone - not right.  Maybe asiangarden.us -
yes!  That's a chinese restaurant...but it's in New Jersey.   Grmmph.

So what do Users actually do now to find a website, if the DNS mechanism
is so useless?

Personally, I suspect I do what everyone else does.   I use search
engines, comprehensive ones like Google and Duckduckgo, but also more
targeted ones like Yelp.   I also rely on my browser history - e.g., if
I type "asian" into the browser, my local Asian Garden pops right up
(it's asiangardengv.com BTW).  same thing with "talon".  I also use
bookmarks, but struggle with the same problem that DNS has of how to
organize everything hierarchically.  I'm also using "notes", e.g.,
Google Keep to keep track of websites and sync to multiple devices. 
Google Maps is also helpful since it shows local businesses and leads
you to their websites.   I'd really love to see some new browser
mechanisms that did a bit of integration of all this data.  So I could
do things like ask for "that sushi restaurant we really liked when we
visited here two years ago".

So, as a user, I don't really care any more what the DNS "web address"
is, whether asiangarden.gv or 19876.weirdname.whatever.something.   I
never remember those, and never type them in anymore.

That's why I'm wondering if DNS and TLDs and all the name structure is
worth all the trouble anymore.  It's still useful as a level of
indirection to separate "names" from IP addresses that may change.   But
as a mnemonic for Users, it's devolved over time to become useless.  At
least for me...maybe other Users too?

I wonder when the "brand defenders" will realize this...funny how things
work out.

/Jack Haverty


More information about the Internet-history mailing list