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National Academy of Sciences, Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, Committee on Internet Navigation and the Domain Name System: Technical Alternatives and Policy Implications, Signposts in Cyberspace: The Domain Name System and Internet Navigation (2005) (full-text).


This report examine the future of Internet navigation and the Domain Name System (DNS) in light of the evolution and interaction of Internet usage, information technology, the economy, and society. The original purpose of the DNS was to provide identifiers for network objects that are more easily remembered and enduring than the numerical addresses and port numbers used by the network infrastructure. However, domain names are now often used for purposes for which they were not originally intended, such as searching, corporate identification, and marketing. And certain domain names, especially those in the .com top-level domain, have acquired substantial economic value, leading to conflict and competition over their ownership and a perceived scarcity of desirable names.

The continuing increase in the number of Internet users and sites, the deepening integration of the Internet into the economy and social processes, the growth in embedded computing devices, and the possible introduction of permanent personal and object identifiers — among other factors — pose challenges to the continued viability and usefulness of the DNS, as currently constituted.

The report examines the degree to which the options offered by new technology or new uses of existing technology can mitigate concerns regarding commercial and public interests (which includes a discussion of trademark-related issues), facilitate or impede further evolution of the Internet, and affect steps being taken to enhance competition among domain name registrars, the portability of Internet names, and the stability of the Internet.

This document reports the conclusions of an assessment of the current state and the future prospects of the DNS and its interactions with Internet navigation, including its uses as a means of navigation itself and as an infrastructure for navigation by other means. The assessment is the result of the deliberations of a committee that encompasses a wide range of disciplines, experience, and viewpoints. The report is addressed to the technologists, policy makers, and others whose decisions will affect the future of the DNS and Internet navigation aids and services.