Gibbs' column: A site by any other name

I've got it!

You're probably asking yourself, could "it" be a blinding flash of spiritual revelation or a deep insight into the nature of the universe? Sorry, that was last week.

This week, my eureka moment was provided courtesy of Network Solutions Inc (NSI), the Net's original registrar of domain names and erstwhile joke factory.

The Internet Network Information Center (InterNIC) was built by NSI through grants funded by the government. Today, NSI has conveniently forgotten that it is doing this in the public trust and that the public is footing the bill.

This memory lapse is obvious when you go to the registration services at http://rs.internic.net, where you will find yourself redirected to http:// www.nsi.com. When you get there you'll find a new, flashier NSI. But it's the same old three-ring circus.

I could spend the rest of this column dissecting NSI's sorry carcass, but instead I'm going to talk about how we could live happily without it or any other name registration service.

Let us begin by considering names used on the Net. They are often pretty artificial, and it has gotten to the point at which "good" domain names - those that have useful connotations - are impossible to find.

I figure that (1) everything else on the Internet is distributed, so why should we rely on a centralised naming service?; (2) running a centralised naming service is a political minefield; and (3) given the size of the Net, even good domain names don't make it easy to find or prevent another site from being mistaken for yours.

By way of example, my domain, gibbs.com, receives messages that the senders think will arrive at Gibbs & Associates (which is actually gibbsnc.com). I would bet that some proportion of my Web traffic is from users who make that same mistake before they run to AltaVista or Yahoo to find the correct domain name.

And there's the additional problem of a company not owning all related names. By related I mean alternate spellings such as acme-widgets.com for acmewidgets.com, or names that are similar to a known brand but are owned by another company: for example, a company called Lending Tree that owns the domain generalmotors.com.

So my idea is painfully simple. Forget domain names altogether.

Will your site be harder to find? No. People will find your site because you're listed in a search engine or pointed to by another site or search engine, or the address is on your business card. I'll bet that today most of us are found by one of these methods anyway.

So under the Gibbs scheme, we would all go by our IP ad-dresses. And did you know that you don't have to express IP addresses in dotted quad notation (xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx)?

You can turn each byte of the dotted quad notation into binary, remove the dots, and translate that value into Base 10. Browsers will understand the Base 10 conversion just as well as they understand dotted quad notation.

So my Web site is accessible not only as http://www.gibbs.com and http://216.101.69.2/ but also as http://3630515458/. Cool, huh? Is that address hard to remember? Yep. But consider our general motors.com example. If you didn't guess that General Motors is gm.com, you'd just go to any of the directories to find them.

The key to all this would be for Web sites to put their names and details in XML on their home pages. That way, being correctly indexed by search engines would be easy, and more complex and useful information, such as the site's content keywords, content rating and other important attributes, could be discovered.

So can we abandon the Domain Name System? I think so, and I think it would make our lives infinitely simpler. Plus, we could just forget NSI completely. Eureka!

Bright ideas to nwcolumn@ gibbs.com

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