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The Name of the Rose

by Rod Amis

To read this article in Deutsch, Francaise, Italiano, Portuguese, Espanol, copy and paste the complete URL("") and enter it in the box after you click through.

22 August, 1999 - The Domain Name System (DNS) is in total disarray right now. The United States Congress is fussing over it, the courts are the staging area for fights over by people like Paul Garrin of Name.Space who believe that .net, .com. and .org are not enough, and claim that we also need .sex, .fun, .retail, et alia. Paul's taking votes on all sorts of new dots. Really.

"Cybersquatters," people who buy domain names either to auction them off to the highest bidder or --- like George W. Bush, Jr., the Presidential candidate --- as pre-emptive strikes on people who might be tempted to make fun of them (Oh my!), take names out of circulation with no intention whatsoever of using them for an actual Web site. And those of us with actual uses for domain names go wanting.

Meanwhile, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) dithers it's time away trying to determine how to elect real officers instead of all the "Interims" it has now, goes begging corporations for spare change so it doesn't completely go under, and watches the cars pile up.

So I was not *entirely* surprised when I got an e-mail from Loyal Reader Matt Stowell in San Francisco about the problem he's having getting a domain name for the new project he wants to start. Let me share it with you as an example of the multi-car pile-up that's happening on the Information Superhighway right now.

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dubya-dubya-dubya biteme dot org

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What was that URL, Earl?
Matt writes:

So...I decided to go look at domain names, and I found some weirdness.

I went to network solutions, and their "enter a name, and we'll tell you if it's available" search function told me that

1) [The name he wanted].com is taken

2) [The name he wanted].net is taken (apparently recently, 'cause it was available last time I checked)

3) [The name he wanted].org is available.

When I attempted to load [The name he wanted].com, my browser told me "the specified server cannot be found." When I attempted to load [The name he wanted].net, I was told "the attempt to load http://www.[The name he wanted].net failed."

The Memoirs Logo.Later on, I was trying out some different domain names, and when I typed in "[A synonym for the name he wanted].com" I was served with a page done up by some company called "verio"..the page had a picture of a globe with "[A synonym for the name he wanted].com, welcome to my future website", we registered our domain name at VERIO." There was a banner ad to click to "get your own web address"...this banner took me to a page at "" where you can enter a name and they check to see if the name is available. *This* place told me that [The name he wanted].com *IS* available (as well as [The name he wanted].org), but [The name he wanted].net was taken. These "Verio" people want to charge you $50 on top of the interNIC fees to register a domain name.

I went back to Network Solutions and checked out their WHOIS utility, which gave me the following results: [REGISTRATION INFORMATION ON THE NAMES HE WANTED.]

I guess my main question to you is, do you have an idea as to WTF is going on here? Or, why are these "Verio" people telling me that for $50 (apparently they charge $50 no matter what) they can get me a domain name that Network Solutions tells me is taken, even though I can see no obvious connection between "verio" and whoever is (theorertically) in charge of [The name he wanted].com? The way I see it is, if Network Solutions tells me that [The name he wanted].com is taken, but "Verio" tells me it's available (for a $50 surcharge), then perhaps whoever the losers are who registered [The name he wanted].com have some sort of arrangement with these "Verio" people?

I gotta say, it really pisses me off that a) there is absolutely NOTHING at either of my "chosen" domain names, *and* it appears (to me, anyways) that this "[Name of Individual owning the domain name]" shithead in Illinois registered [The name he wanted].net about 1.5 MONTHS AGO TO THE DAY. Like I said, it was "available" last time I checked, and I'm pretty damn sure it was less than 2 months ago. any ideas/facts/theories/whatever for me?

Yeah, Matt, I do.

First off, if it looks like a scam, walks like a scam, and smells like a scam, it probably is a scam. Save your fifty bucks.

Right now there are about half a dozen organizations, including America Online (AOL) who have been authorized by ICANN to register Top Level Domain names (TLDs.) Some of them are even offering lower prices than Network Solutions, Inc. (NSI) I've heard that we can expect a price war among these registrars, *not* a situation where you pay extra money on top of NSI's standard fees.

And let's not consider it a coincidence that Congressman, and House Commerce Committee chairman, Thomas Bliley of Virginia ("Ehm.... Isn't that the same state where AOL is headquartered?") is all over both NSI and ICANN. Frankly, if both organizations dried up and blew away AOL would be MORE THAN HAPPY to pick up the pieces.

But where does that leave Jean and Joe Schmoe right now? In the lurch. Remember that company in Australia that set up the Web site with a name nearly identical to NSI's but under a different dot? Lots of people sent them money to register domain names, thinking they had reached Network Solutions. Oops! Expect a lot more scams along these lines.

Meanwhile, it sounds like you're dealing with a couple squatters on the name you want. And right now there isn't a thing to be done about it.

Will ICANN be part of the solution to this mess? Doubtful.

But that goes with being part of the new frontier. Until some new Marshal comes to the territory and starts wounding a few of the outlaws and running the squatters off the range, probably in the service of "the railroad(ers)" or some other large outfit, you and I are left to fend for ourselves.

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MEMOIR TWO: Age of Exploitation, by ROD AMIS

MEMOIR THREE: Is Microsoft Bothering You, too? by RON DIENER


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