Date: Thu, 13 Mar 1997 03:00:42 -0500
From: MediaFilter

Pit Schultz with Paul Garrin
on Name.Space.

>lets start:
>1. You are an artist. you went deep into technology with, but this is not the first time you did it. What, in general, does art have to do with media + technology, and do how you define your place in it?

Control media and you control the public. Free media is a threat to control. As an artist, one strives to discover an effective means of working in any medium—and when that medium is a mass medium, the key is to establish and sustain visibility. If there is no support system to guarantee reliable distribution, the work disappears.

One of the main concerns in my work has been the notion of the public vs. the private. Territory. Security. Privacy. And the way that "the media" manages the perception of the public. These things have always been of interest to me.

>2. The net, nobody can overlook it, as it becomes something mystical at the end of the millennium. One of the productive questions which were brought into circulation through was: who governs the net? It was always a tool of power to control the process of naming and even more, names are the resistant part of language where another semiotic regime takes place. Take religions, the space of names is a spiritual one, the space of the dead, ancestors, gods and ghosts. Today it is filled with brand names. In which way were you reflecting the name.spaces outside the net when you began with pannet and what was the impetus for your decision to start ‘playing’ with the DNS system.

A name is an essential and universal element. On the net, the uniqueness of the name is imperative. In capitalism, the idea of uniqueness means "value"...commodity. One of the key elements of oppression and control is to control the notion of identity. In the meme of the "DOMAIN NAME SYSTEM" (caps intentional) the message is control, "DOMINATION", "TERRITORY".

The idea of the "Permanent Autonomous Net" dubbed the "panet" initiative, was founded on the idea that in order to sustain and develop a presence for Free Media, it is imperative establish and propagate an identity. In order to assure the auton-omy of the content, totally self regulating, without the control of commercial interests, it is imperative to buy the bandwidth—the only option to eventual disappearance of Free Media when the "Disneyfication" of media and the net is completed. [see my article "the Disappearance of Public Space on the Net"]

Two recent concrete examples illustrate this point. An excellent website, was started as a commercial project at TCI (Telecommunications, Inc., the largest cable tv provider in the USA with heavy bets on the internet). TCI had the perception that disInformation was an entertainment site, like the "X Files". What they did was create a "Radikal Search Engine" and indexed much of the content of MediaFilter and other sites of alternative media. As soon as John Malone saw what disinformation was really about, he ordered the plug pulled immediately. I then offered the site’s founder, Richard Metzger, a home on my network. He had already hooked up with, luckily. Another is the CypherPunks. The Millionaire’s club,, the proverbial bastion of free speech on the net recently kicked the Cypherpunks mailing list off of their server. So much for their guardianship of free speech on the net. ( offers Cypherpunks a new home if they see this...).

The Sponsors have their agendas and their limits to "tolerance". The idea of what is "authoritative" and what is "acceptable" should not be controlled by commercial interests.

The idea of decentralizing DOMAIN NAME SERVICE came when Network Solutions, Inc. announced that it would start charging $100US for name registrations. When I studied the logistics of running dns, I realized that the limits on it were artificially imposed in order to limit supply and facilitate control. The central database and "whois" records are all controlled by Network Solutions, Inc., who is a subsidiary of SAIC (Science Applications International Corp.), the largest private contractor for the US National Security Agency and the Pentagon. Most of the top corporate officers are former US military personnel who have retired from service and are engaged in "private practice", including former NSA Chief, Bobby Inman, current Director on the Board, putting their militarily-acquired skills to work for profit. In effect, when one registers and pays Network Solutions for a domain name, they are also paying to maintain surveillance on themselves. Ask yourself. Is this what you want? Does it make you feel comfortable?


>3. After the insight you got into the technology of DNS, what would it need to rebuild a DNS structure if Network- solutions would shut down the ‘10 root-level-servers’. (Any news about the connections to CIA?) Is it useful to demand a backup which is not under the main access of network solutions, and how should one do this?

First of all, Network Solutions has a contract with the National Science Foundation which expires in 1998. By that time, many changes will have taken place that will make their disappearance a non-issue. For now, Network Solutions controls an essential facility which keeps the entire internet in sync. It is not immediately feasible or constructive to disrupt this function since it would be (at least temporarily) disruptive of the net. It is not currently feasible to change the entire internet’s configuration of reference to the current rootservers without major disruption of service for several days to weeks—by the time that everyone is informed and updated (and accepts the transition).

Running new top level names is not a difficult thing. Its simplicity is almost obscene. The issue of global recognition is the key. Right now, lives as an intranet within the internet. Like a matter of perception, the recognition of nameservers or not determines whether exists or not. Like changing channels—Removing the censorship filter. This is a "grassroots" thing, and my favourite aspect of the potential of—the individual’s ability to choose their view of the net...Unregulated by commerce or government.

>4. showed with the efforts and hard work of a few people how effective a process of decision making can bring about panic-results. (7 new tlds, 4. Feb.) How can it remain possible that the internet is an open standard, and in which way does IAHC already indicate the dangers of the end of such a policy. How would you proceed? Is it possible to open from a few-man-project to an object of collective mind work? Or do you see a way to learn from it, despite the protocols of bind and DNS ?

The proposal put forth by the International Ad-Hoc Committee is a mediocre attempt to impose a set of controls and regulations on the internet without any mandate to do so. Their indecisive arrogance is as outrageous as if GATT or NAFTA would have blatantly announced their implementation straight out of the boardroom of some GloboCorp, Inc. without the painstaking international debate they so required. It will never happen. It’s legally impossible by current international law. The internet is international and ideally, self-regulating and the reality is that market forces will determine the dynamics of the net.

The convention of DNS is not the issue presently—it’s the scope of its possible implementation. works with the existing DNS software and protocols, exactly. There is no difference. IS DNS...and about exploring the potentials of a free namespace., from its beginnings has always been a collaborative and cooperative project. Most of the top level names were suggested by users via a suggestion form on the website. The new "Integral Database Synchronizer Daemon" or "idsd" that is developing will enable the total decentralization of name registries. Registering a named.address will like reserving a seat on an airline with a travel agent. No seat can be booked twice, and all agents share the same database.

>5. Many people complain that did not work, for me it is maybe the best project I know of. It shows to me how far art can go, and only as art does it evolve as a full success. But even if you don’t name it art, it is obviously political. it works on the symbolic level where naming as a technology of power takes place. The deeply poetic and subversive investigation of renaming the net-world, comes close to playing with a technological state of madness, where things and names are spiralling in their own universe. How do you think it mimics what is already happening(in the net)? How much were you aware of these levels? certainly works. Anyone who says that it doesn’t work hasn’t tried it. There is no excuse for such false criticism. is not globally recognized currently, but that will most likely change very soon. Stay tuned....Meanwhile, anyone can try it by changing their tcp/ip dns settings to the nameservers in their area. It currently functions as an intranet that recognizes the whole net. A different route for content. It’s about "content routing" rather than territory or control. Addresses created in don’t have to pertain to purpose or geographic location...the names combined with virtual domains can be descriptive of content, and address web pages directly. The "black.hole" project is an example of content routing with addresses. ( or http://black.hole).

>6. The economic question. How do anarchy, freedom and a radical left worldview fit together with entrepreneurship within the new ‘cyber’ markets? People from the left complain that you have become a neoliberal, marketers say that you are a dangerous anarchist. It looks like a trap, but instead of defending it here, what do you think is the problem on both sides?

Anything which defies definition is a threat to order. I have been called many things. The speculative labels that make me laugh the loudest are "neoliberal" and "closet-extropian"...



They don’t have a clue.


that’s the funniest part.

>7. The fight is not over, you may go to court. Wouldn’t it be better to reach a kind of counter-consensus on the net and see what comes out of it instead of following the policy of MCI vs. AT+T as a one man show of PGPmedia against the net oligarchists? Wouldn’t it be more clever to find a bottom line of criticism surviving the Blitz-reform introduced by IAHC to neutralize counter-movements? Along which lines you would start if you would open the discussion, taking the practise of Alternic and DNS as the backdrop.

Your suggestions will not work. In the "practical" world, things do not work out as nicely as one would write them up in a proposal. There are ways to use the controls of the system to cause it to regulate itself by ways that it never intended, given that they always assumed a hierarchy of government-and- military-style order. The people are always supposed to follow that without question. In this case, the fact that there is no regulation or clearly defined authority over the determination of the top level namespace, makes it possible, through corporate law, to establish a competitive structure to the current monopoly and therefore invert the hierarchy, and better yet, eventually totally decentralize it without degrading the integrity of the synchronicity of the dns or internet directory service.

There is an essential difference between Alternic and the so-called "newdom" movement. The newdom movement wants to break up the internic monopoly held by Network Solutions, Inc., by creating many micro-monopolies. In the Alternic/newdom model, each private registry company would own the exclusive rights to generic dictionary words like "web" or "art" or "earth" among others. Any other registries would have to first buy the name from the "owner" and then resell it as a product or property. This is absurd. It’s about the privatization and commodification of language.

The model creates an expansive top level namespace that is in the public domain. The top level namespace is not owned by anyone and is to be shared even by competing registries. The registries provide a service in the public interest and trust and do not "sell property". Top level names can come and go according to use, like a natural process. If there is demand for even one top level which can be shared by the public, then it will be created as long as the current version of the software can handle it. If there is no longer demand, it can be "retired" in order to free up space for other new top level namespaces which may come into being.

>8. The net is based on the ethics of ‘running code’. No admin would chance it as long as it works ‘somehow’. NS is based on a revolutionary instead of an evolutionary, or a parasitic instead of a symbiotic, concept. It is somehow breathing the air of war, and risking a net-split. How far were you thinking this? And do you think that there could be a smoother version of it?

The concept of a net-split is being propogated by a few individuals who lack understanding of The current mode of, as an intranet, is a demo, to prove that such naming conventions and content routing is possible. It’s already been proven beyond a doubt. The next step is to have all the top level names included in the named.root file of the rootservers currently under the administration of Network Solutions, Inc. This will be resolved in the US Courts as an anti-trust action based on existing precedent and case law.

The letter requesting inclusion of the roots in the Network Solutions rootserver databases has already been delivered to NSI and I have already spoken to their General Counsel on the telephone, in conference with the Internet Business Manager of Network Solutions and my legal counsel, Michael J. Donovan. Our request was a friendly one from a competing company, asking for inclusion in the named.root file. NSI denies their role and responsibility and said "We do what they tell us to do" (IANA)....but also admitted that they have no written contract which names IANA as the party responsible for determining the contents of the rootzone file. Stay tuned......

>9. There where several counter concepts. One was starting on one new tld (like BIZ) another was squatting unused tlds (NT) another was a Rename-the-net project (more artistic). Technicians are saying it will only change together with new ways of routing (ipv6) and prepare us for Lap500 directory services. I thought about NS more like an Intranet with its own Ip space and therefore also DNS. Do you think that once it becomes necessary to start an independent technical counternetwork, and do you have statistics about how many sites would participate? And again, how you would build up a net where these people are bringing their forces together instead of falling into another hierarchy?

The expansion of the ip address space and the potentials of DNS are two totally separate issues. In fact, with the use of virtual domains, it is possible to free up many ip addresses that are used unnecessarily as hard virtual domains for websites and email. One Sun Sparc can such up an entire class "c" net with 255 ip addresses! I have a mac running WebStar and a Linux Box running Apache which have scores of virtual domains while using only one ip address each. Much more efficient use of ip numbers, one could say. is part of the internet. It is also the future of the named.address structure of the internet. As an independent tactical network, it is a system which will create an economic basis for free media to remain on line without corporate or institutional regulation or censorship. The goal of is to buy as much bandwidth and processor power as possible to insure that there is always a home for free media and alternative voices and visions on the ever changing internet.

>10. Maybe this is a question you want to pose to us. "Why didn’t we participate?" For any of us, NS was a conceptual piece, we spent hours over the last weeks discussing it, and with it, the use of radical political/technical concepts, let’s say revolutionary ones within the context of networked capitalism. We found that, especially with those technicians who are net-conservatives, it was difficult to accept a completely new system; while theorists liked the idea but didn’t know how and if it works at all. What do you think attracted so many people to think and so few to act (in a technical way)?

It is a cliché’ that people are in fear of change. DNS is a holy cow to network operators. If it works, don’t touch it...and forget about it if you less thing to deal with. It’s the one centralized aspect of the internet. Big Brother will watch over us and protect us. That is the easy way out. The so-called "hacker" crowd mainly shuns because it was implemented by an "outsider", an artist, not a "hacker". None of them have any concept of law or have the insight to engage on the level that I have, nor do they have the strategic legal, economic and public relations concepts that I have engaged successfully so far in the initiative.

They suffer from simple adolescent jealousy. Too bad. They are a wasted resource when it comes to autonomy and political action. I am very disappointed with them in general for their lack of maturity and foresight.

The theorists have good reason to be interested since has so many symbolic implications. The problem is that is about _real_action_ which requires the responsibility to act on ones propositions and suffer the consequences or reap the benefits, whichever prevails. Certainly not as safe as plain old ASCII. It becomes another dilemma for them whether to think or to act, or how to reconcile thoughts into action.

In all, the idea of Tactical Media in practice becomes the issue. This is a subject that we have all been engaged in discussion over for many years, but very few have put into practice. My problem is that I am a simple practitioner. I can write about things, but only seldom, when I can find the time in between all the actions necessary to actually realize the ideas in my head through real implementation... and the struggle to pay for it all.

for more info, please read my essay, "Say you want a revolution...." among others.