Written by Robin Berger
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Topics: Internet, Scientists

Thursday, 31 August 2006

image for Internet scientists demote .ORG to "dwarf domain"
Chairman Brian Carpenter reads aloud an IETF resolution to demote .ORG sites to "dwarf domain" status

CERN, SWITZERLAND -- An uproar took place in the digital world when the Internet Engineering Task Force demoted .ORG sites to the status of "dwarf domain" at its sixty-sixth official meeting in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. IETF chairman Brian Carpenter read aloud the resolution and asked for a show of hands. The resolution passed by what Carpenter described as "a slim but decisive margin."

The historic vote by the IETF ended years of controversy after cyber-squatters called for more top-level identifiers such as ".XXX" and ".GEO". The move threatened to add another 250 million entries to the Domain Name System (DNS).

According to the new definition, a "domain" is (1) anything on the Internet that's massive enough to hire a professional webmaster; (2) that has a purpose of its own and is not a satellite of some other domain; and (3) that routinely clears stale content from its website.

The Internet Society immediately appealed the demotion. "We run ISOC.ORG and we are a full-fledged domain," chairman Daniel Karrenberg wrote in a scathing letter to the IETF. "We provide leadership in addressing issues that confront the future of the Internet, and we are the organization home for the groups responsible for Internet infrastructure standards, including the IETF."

Under the new definition, ISOC.ORG is not a domain because its purpose overlaps that of IETF.NET. ISOC.ORG "also fails to clear away the debris of stale content" from its website, Carpenter told a reporter.

Even some of the biggest .ORG sites, like Wikipedia.ORG, do not meet the new criteria. The wildly popular website serves a major purpose; they aren't a satellite of Encyclopedia Britannica; and they routinely clear away stale content. Yet even founder Jimmy Wales was forced to admit "Wikipedia.ORG doesn't need a professional webmaster." Their content is updated by thousands of volunteer subject matter experts.

"We're not happy about being demoted to a dwarf domain," Wales said, "but we're not going to make a big stink about it." Wales himself updated Wikipedia.ORG's "about" page the day after IETF members cast their votes. The website now states "Wikipedia is a dwarf domain."

ISOC board member Fred Baker insists the IETF changed the definition of a domain "purely out of spite." Karrenberg agreed with Baker's assertion. "IETF enjoys taunting ISOC," he said. "They love to talk about how they 'dwarf' us in responsibility. They say hurtful things like, 'you're just a .org while we're this big huge .net,' and 'why don't you grow up and get a real domain.' This is just their latest way of spitting in our face. It's childish, really."

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