• United States

When is an abomination a service?

Oct 13, 20033 mins
DNSEnterprise Applications

Under almost universal condemnation from the Internet technical community and with the immediate prospect of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers filing suit, VeriSign on Oct. 4 undid the change to the domain name database that it had installed two weeks earlier.

VeriSign whined about unfair treatment, saying it would “temporarily” make the change, and tried to paint itself as a victim.

At the same time, almost all of the press seemed to support VeriSign instead of recognizing that an attempted coup d’etat had been (at least temporarily) thwarted. A VeriSign spokesman was quoted as saying, “Without so much as a hearing, ICANN today formally asked us to shut down the Site Finder service.”

Meanwhile, a VeriSign technical person said in a posting to the nanog mailing list that “We requested an extension from ICANN to give more notice to the community but were denied.”

VeriSign must think we all have really bad short-term memories. ICANN gave VeriSign about 48 hours to reverse its changes, which is infinitely more than the zero notice that VeriSign gave the Internet when the company made the original changes. Poor VeriSign – it didn’t get a hearing. Not that anyone else got one when VeriSign created the mess in the first place. In spite of its whining, VeriSign is the perpetrator here. It is no victim – the rest of us were.

It was disappointing to see that almost all press coverage (even in this publication) of VeriSign withdrawing the changes spoke of VeriSign suspending a “service.” The dictionary has many definitions for the word “service.” The closest in Merriam Webster might be “a facility supplying some public demand,” except that the public demand was all in VeriSign’s imagination.

VeriSign’s Web page touts the number of visits to the “Site Finder” Web page – 65 million in a week or so. But that just represents the number of bad typists in the world (who were redirected to the VeriSign site), not the number of people who wanted to go there. The intended beneficiary of the VeriSign “service” was VeriSign’s bank account.

By using VeriSign’s term, the press implied that what the company had been doing was a positive thing, something that provided a real service to the Internet community. This ignores all of the Internet functions that were broken when VeriSign made its changes.

What would have made the press think about what it was writing? Take the case of a garage owner who spreads tacks on a highway so he could get more business supplying new tires to drivers who manage to find his tacks in their tires. Surely the press would not have said that he was supplying a service to the drivers even if he called it one. They would have called it vandalism. What VeriSign did was Internet vandalism. It is sad that much of the press implied otherwise.

Disclaimer: Most people think Harvard provides a service, but the above opinion on services is mine, not the university’s.