From Dan Brinklin at www.satn.org [Dan was inventor of the spreadsheet with Bob Frankston]
DanB at 2:48 PM [url]:
The Address Bar bottleneck
As Bob Frankston has pointed out on this web site and in other essays, we have real problems with having only the current one-level DNS as a mechanism for turning URLs into IP addresses. We need to experiment with other ways of getting to web sites.
The Internet isn’t just for “famous names” like Coca Cola, unless they want to pay for the whole thing and pay us to use it (which we won’t if it’s only for them). They’re riding on something that serves everybody, not just them.
The current system won’t pass the “side of a truck or bus” test Clay Shirky proposes. We need a way to tell people something quickly and concisely that allows them to find us in a known way. “Able Pest Control. Look under ‘Pests’ in the Yellow Pages.” Of course, in real life the sign on the side of the truck or bus doesn’t pass this test, either. If I take a delivery truck with “Four Corner’s Pizza, Tel: 965-6565” written on its side to another city the “obvious” bindings don’t work. (Only the locals know where “Four Corners” is—the four gasoline stations there are now down to two—and what about the area code? 965-6565 is not unique in the world.) Assuming the domain name “www.fourcornerspizza.com” is just as bad. There may be hundreds of “Four Corners”, each with a pizza place nearby, each with a telephone exchange of “965”. It turns out that “fourcornerspizza.com” is owned by someone in Phoenix, Arizona, not Newton Highlands, Massachusetts, where my Four Corners is. (At least his phone number ends in “65”, too.) If you search Google for “four corners” as a phrase, you get 286,000 items—with places in the USA, Germany, Australia, etc.
We need a way to experiment with different ways of naming things on the Internet in addition to the “unique text to IP address” bindings of the current use of DNS technology. It is crucial to making the Internet work for small businesses and individuals.
Whatever we use should probably work in places that include the Address Bar (also known as the “Location Toolbar” to Netscape users) in browsers. We also know that to do such experimentation, we need to let all comers try their hands, using something like a plug-in architecture or other open API. The users and marketplace will choose the method (or methods) that work best for the various needs.
That brings me to today’s news. RealNames is out of business (News.com, Scripting News, Keith Teare’s personal account). They were an attempt by an outside company to provide a way of naming web sites that works in addition to the normal DNS way. To implement it, they needed the permission and help of the browser manufacturer, Microsoft in this case. Microsoft apparently decided that they don’t like that way of resolving names (a Microsoft person decided, not the marketplace) and anyway it seems Microsoft only wants things like this that they can control. This is not a good sign for resolving of the naming problem nor for advancing other important architectural issues. Hopefully Microsoft will make amends for this by completely opening up an API for address resolution in a way that does not leave themselves as a bottleneck nor as a toll taker. This is fundamental to the Internet advancing. Microsoft has a duty as the leading company in the client-side world (with officially a monopoly whether they like it or not) to do things that are in the world’s maximal interest even if it’s not in their specific maximal interest.