[ih] Funny how things work out

Karl Auerbach karl at cavebear.com
Mon Feb 1 19:09:51 PST 2021

On 2/1/21 7:23 AM, Dave Crocker via Internet-history wrote:

> The pre-ICANN effort of the IAHC included a survey of various DNS 
> experts.  While there was no consensus about the technical limits of 
> the DNS or its operation, there was a pretty solid view that a couple 
> of thousand TLDs would not be a technical problem.

Peter Deutsch (remember Archie, one of, if not the first search engine?) 
and I decided to try to see if we could make a root server go boom by 
stuffing it with a mountain of TLDs.

This was done, of course, entirely off line.

What we did was to grab a copy of the entire .com zone at the time (it 
was much smaller then, but still many millions of names) and "elevated" 
it to be the root zone in a Bind based server on a reasonably well 
endowed PC of that era (small by today's standards.)

We then wrote some code that threw a synthetic query stream at the box, 
with a controllable mix of invalid queries and other things to try to 
annoy its internal caching.  We set up several of these synthetic 
traffic generators, lit the fuse, and watched.

It did not collapse, it didn't even really break out in much of a 
sweat.  We were somewhat astonished.

Our conclusion what that even way back then that there was a lot, and I 
mean a lot, of headroom in the root zone for expansion.  And that was a 
couple of decades ago.

My sense was that the root size limits were not so much on the number of 
TLD entries but more on the areas of propagation of updates and the rate 
of human error maintaining all of those entries.

Later on I was part of a crew that filled out and submitted the better 
part of a hundred new TLD applications to ICANN.  Whew! (But at least we 
got to spend those months mostly in some extraordinarily nice 
locations.)  [There's a whole interesting side story about how we and 
other teams were able to game ICANN's "digital archery" ;-)  ]

I much agree with the notion that many top level domains are not very 

I'm also of the belief that DNS is slowly fading out of the eyes of 
users and becoming more a part of the internal machinery of the net 
rather than something we ought to fight about.  See 

Some years back I looked at naming issues in cloud computing and asked 
whether DNS was adequate.  My conclusion was that DNS forms a really 
solid, rock solid, foundation for relatively non-dynamic name-to-record 
mapping, but that cloud computing presented some issues that are beyond DNS.

These included the need to deal with entities in "the cloud" that could 
partition and rejoin. I wrote a note about that - On Entity Associations 
In A Cloud Network - 

I am much of the belief that we can learn a lot from biology.  In 
particular, I was struck by many users of the net who are want to locate 
an instance of a thing rather than the, singular thing. For example, if 
I am looking for a station to charge my car I am interested in a thing 
with characteristics of "supercharger" and "near me" rather than search 
for some particular instance.

Living entities have a similar need to find things, like mates, based on 
attributes (e.g. my species, opposite sex, near me) rather than a given 

It seems to me that the Internet could use something on top of DNS that 
is more like a search engine than a name-to-record mapping engine.

Web search engines seem too much attuned to human users than 
programmatic ones, and more tuned to keywords than some open set of 
meta-attributes.  There was a protocol some time back, IF-MAP, that was 
going down that road; I don't know what happened to it, but it felt like 
it was pointing in a needed direction.

(For years, sort of as a joke, sort of seriously, have proposed the 
notion of Internet pheromones as a means of locating resources.  But I 
always run into the same wall - a protein or other complex chemical in a 
pheromone can carry far more information that we can stuff into any 
rational size data packet; and chemistry seems much better suited to 
fast pattern matching than most of our computers.)

(I could also go off in the direction of how we could adopt some methods 
from astrophysics into the net but I've gone far enough astray already.)


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