October 11, 1999 -- Newsletter #49

By Joe Burns

October 11, 1999 -- Newsletter #49
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Greetings, Weekend Silicon Warriors,

Did you hear...

> received an unbelievable 22 million hits in one day as Hurricane Floyd beat up the East Coast. Wow.

>A survey was done on how people perform searches on the Web. The third most popular form of finding a site was not finding the site at all, rather it was typing in a .com URL and taking a shot at the address. That makes sense to me. If I'm looking for information on a specific topic, I always put "www" in front and "com" on the hind end and give it a shot. It usually works.

>A major air carrier, British Airways, has given in to their passenger's Y2K concerns. Low booking has caused the carrier to cut their flights around New Years by 64%. I think we're going to see more of this from other carriers soon.

>Someone tried to sell a Monet painting on eBay. The last bid was $1.8 million. Sold, right? Wrong. That bid did not reach the seller's minimum acceptable bid. So, no money for Monet (sorry, couldn't resist).

Now onto today's topic...

Two weeks ago I wrote a newsletter on Wendy's suing someone over buying a Wendy's-related domain. That piece received an avalanche of e-mail. Many suggested we get right to those proposed new domain extensions so we can sort all this stuff out.

What? You didn't know there was a proposal afoot in America to add more domain extensions to the now-familiar .com, .net, .org, .mil, and .gov? Well, there is. (I couldn't find if any new names were proposed for domains outside of the U.S. My assumption is that these extensions will be tried.)

The Internet Ad Hoc Committee (IAHC) proposed the new domain extensions in February of last year. The proper name of these new extensions is the generic Top Level Domains (gTLD). They are as follow:

.arts (for sites that deal with the arts, however that's defined, I guess)

.firm (businesses that aren't selling anything)

.info (sites offering information, again in whatever form they choose, I assume)

.nom (personal nomenclature -- I think that means personal home pages)

.rec (sites dealing with recreational topics)

.store (sites that have something for sale)

.web (sites that deal specifically with topics related to the Web)

Okay, I'm not against any of this, except maybe that personal nomenclature one. It sounds like no one could quite decide on an extension for personal home pages and this is what they came up with out of committee, and you know what they say about committees: The camel was invented when God convened a committee to create the horse.

What was wrong with .per as an extension for personal home pages, as one of my many emails asked? I liked that one myself, actually. In fact, I like the idea of allowing a bunch of new extensions. I think we can come up with better ones than these, but new extensions nonetheless.

So, why not do it? Well, there's a big problem brewing. We really can't make a lot of new domains for people to buy and use unless we make the Internet itself a little bigger... no, a lot bigger.

Y2K will be here in a few months. After all that fun, then we Webheads can all begin worrying about the dreaded Y2.1K. Y2.1K (my creation, by the way, and I hold all rights and privileges therein :->) is the year 2010. That's when the Internet, by most best guesses, will run out of space. There won't be any more domains available to buy. Done.

You see, the Web doesn't really work with domain names anyway. That's just for you, the smart human. The computer itself uses numbers to do all of its dirty work. When you type in a domain and click Enter to go, the server checks for something called a Domain Name Server (DNS). If you put in, the DNS server finds the domain and the Internet Protocol (IP) number attached to it. You've seen them. They look like this: 216.334.564.002.

The Web now runs on 32-bit software. Remember in 1995 when Bill Gates decided Windows 95 was the future of the Internet and Java was introduced and you had to have the 32-bit operating system to get in on the fun? My Windows 3.11 for Workgroups was dead. Well, now it's coming back to bite us in the bits.

The 32-bit operating system that currently runs the Web can only be cut up so many ways; four billion, give or take a few. If we continue to purchase domain names at the current rate, then experts agree that by the year 2010, we'll be out of IP numbers. That's it. The Web has an upper limit of four billion computers at one time.

Now, you might think to yourself, there will never be four billion different domain names. You're right, there won't. The problem is that the IP numbers being eaten up are underneath domain names. Let me explain.

Let's say I run a server and I sell Internet accounts to the public. I need more IP numbers than the one for my main domain name because I need to have a random IP for everyone I sell an account to. When you log onto an ISP, remember that you are being assigned an IP number.

If I buy an honest-to-goodness domain -- not a virtual domain, but a domain that has its own machine made up of three octets (the first three groupings of numbers) -- I also get 100 IP numbers under that domain. Any combination of the last three numbers in the fourth octet belongs to me. I bought one, I got one hundred. See the multiplication tables taking shape?

In case you're wondering, a virtual domain is a domain made up from one of the 100 IPs underneath the three-octet domain name. HTML Goodies is a virtual domain created from one of the IP numbers under the domain. It all gets very confusing, no?

So, what's an Internet to do? The fix that those with big brains are proposing is called IPv6 (or Internet Protocol version six). If we go to that format, the Web will be working with 128 bits rather than 32, which will allow for literally trillions of IP numbers. Ta da! Problem solved, right? Uhhhhh... no.

Here's the situation. Say you take your car, which seats six and runs pretty well, to a mechanic with the intention of having some work done to allow it to seat 10. You're told that in order to get four more people into the car, you simply need to install a new frame, new doors, a bigger engine, and pretty much overhaul the entire machine.

I'll bet I can guess your response: "No, thanks, I'll just stay with the car that only holds six people." Right? That's what's happening.

In order to get the Web up to a 128-bit standard, there would have to be a complete overhaul of, well, everything. All software, all CGIs, everything. Even you, the end user, would need to get that new 128-bit version of Netscape or Internet Explorer. It's only a 28-Meg download. Do it during football games! For the entire season....

Depending on whom you speak to, this is either the greatest idea in the world or it just won't happen. I weigh in on the side of it not happening. This monster we've built is simply too large to redo. It wouldn't be worth the cost, nor the upside of more IP numbers.

What I do see are new Internets being created. Sooner or later someone's going to hook up 100 servers in a loop and run the 128-bit protocol on them. Heck, it may be the .nom Internet. Persons would pay money to attach to it just like any other ISP and they could surf for only personal home pages. Maybe there will be a .firm Internet at 128-bits. You could check out multiple businesses online, knowing that as long as you stayed on that particular Internet, you'd get nothing but .firm domains. Cool.

Yes, I actually do see a time when the current Internet system will become antiquated. Technically, the Internet is 30 years old! It was in the late 1960s when two computers were hooked together using this type of protocol. Thirty in computer years is getting up there! Sixty is long since dead. By the year 2010, we're going to have things that we'd never dream of happening today.

Change this Internet? Nah. Let's just build another one.

But let's talk a little more about that .nom extension, okay?


And that's that. It still blows me away that you all read this every week. Almost 40 thousand of you! Cool.

Joe Burns, Ph.D.

And Remember: "Prodigal," as in prodigal son, does not mean someone who goes away and comes back. It means to be wasteful to a fault. The son was prodigal not because he left, but because he squandered his inheritance. Here's another one: FBI, NFL, and USA are not acronyms, as is often thought; they are initials. An acronym is created only when initials form a word: AIDS, NASCAR, SCUBA. How about one more? Fruits and vegetables are not "healthy." To be healthy is a condition. Fruits and vegetables are "healthful." That's the condition of being good for one's health. One last one: Always use "then" when referring to a point in time; "than" is reserved for comparisons. Can you tell I was teaching the section on grammar this week?

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