The DNS error resolution market — usually manifesting itself as the display of an advertising-festooned Web page when a user tries to browse to a non-existent domain — has been growing over the years, primarily thanks to ISPs who have foisted it upon their users. The feature is supported in commercial DNS software and services that target the network service provider market; in most current deployments of this sort, business customers typically have an opt-out option, and consumers might as well.
While ICANN’s Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC) believes this is detrimental to the DNS, their big concern is what happens when this is done at the TLD level. We all got a taste of that with VeriSign’s SiteFinder back in 2003, which affected the .com and .net TLDs. Since then, though, similar redirections have found their way into smaller TLDs (i.e., ones where there’s no global outcry against the practice). SSAC wants this practice explicitly forbidden at the TLD level.
I personally feel that the DNS error resolution market, at whatever level of the DNS food chain, is harmful to the DNS and to the Internet as a whole. The Internet Architecture Board’s evaluation is a worthy indictment, although it’s missing one significant use case — the VPN issues that redirection can cause. Nevertheless, I also recognize that until there are explicit standards forbidding this kind of use, it will continue to be commercially attractive and thus commonplace; indeed, I continue to assist commercial DNS companies, and service providers, who are trying to facilitate and gain revenue related to this market. (Part of the analyst ethic is much like a lawyer’s; it requires being able to put aside one’s personal feelings about a matter in order to assist a client to the best of one’s ability.)
I applaud ICANN taking a stand against redirection at the TLD level; it’s a start.
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