The future of internet identifiers: How the DNS will function in a smart cyberspace?

18 Dec 2017 12:15h - 13:15h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 12th Internet Governance Forum]

Moderating the session, Dr Olivier Crépin-Leblond, Chair of European At-Large Organisation (EURALO), invited Mr Jörg Schweiger, CEO of Deutsches Network Information Center (DENIC) to speak. He asked if we can keep the Internet open, secure, and transparently govern it? He posed questions that he expected would be answered by the end of the session. Are technologies like the Domain Name System (DNS) suitable? Are best practices only restricted by calculus?

Mr Christophe Blanchi, Executive Director of DONA Foundation, informed members that the DONA Foundation has been working with the Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI) on a handler system, called the Digital Object Architecture (DOA), which is different from the current DNS system. He added that the reason for the new proposal was because of the need for granularity and scalability. He called for interoperability of the DNS with other unique identifier systems.

To respond to the question of an approach to enrichment when handling Internet Protocol (IP) numbers, Mr Marco Howening, of Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC), said, ‘We should use the right tool for the right job.’ He mentioned that the DNS has served for a long time and is the most crucial part of the Internet. People hardly remember numbers or IP addresses compared to domain names. Howening mentioned that most Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) have run out of IPv4 addresses.

When asked if the DOA is a problem or an opportunity and if all objects need a handle, Mr Hans-Peter Dittler, Board Member of the Internet Society, responded that its position is to keep the Internet open, available, and usable by everyone. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the Internet is scalable, secure, and reliable. He mentioned that the DNS is stable, though new developments need to be acknowledged. Dittler noted that there are promises from DOA like permanent storage, but they need to be proven.  On policies, Dittler said they will rule regimes, but cautioned that they should be transparent. He concluded that questions should be answered and problems checked in defined sets before new technologies are adopted.

Mr Adiel A. Akplogan, Vice President Technical Engagement, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), confirmed that the DNS has been used for a long time, and is one of the most distributed databases. It is robust and has proven its scalability. Even if there is a move from semantic names to new technologies, the DNS will always be used to resolve names. The DNS works, so it may be hard for people to change to something disruptive. He gave an example of IPv6, which many people have not yet embraced because IPv4 works. He asked how we evolve policy development to match technology advances? He concluded that ICANN had already seen work on the extension of DNS take account of the semantic identification, but how can it be done without causing disruption?

Ms Olga Cavalli, Advisor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Argentina,  agreed that the DNS is open and stable, but there is an imbalance between developed and developing economies, like the IPv4 and IPv6 examples. She wondered how the Internet of Things (IoT) will be governed, noting that half of the economy and labour in Latin America is run by small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Mr Vint Cerf, Chief Internet Evangelist at Google, mentioned that during the design of the Internet, there was freedom to invent identifiers that could be associated with IP addresses; it does not matter whether it was the DNS or something else. He noted that the DNS was invented to perform better than the original host.txt file that used to keep records of all domain names and numbers. Cerf added that fragmentation is not necessarily bad, as the existence of multiple identifiers has grown. On the issue of Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs), the use of Unicode has proven not to be valid. The emergence of other technologies like emojis has made the namespace more complex.

Cerf observed that there is a need to ask what properties to have: technical, monetary, etc. There is a need for a business model, if identifier systems are to work for a long time.

To conclude the session, all panellists agreed that no one solution could solve all problems.

By Sarah Kiden