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Community Response to VeriSign VP Mark McLaughlin's Editorial

By coderlemming in Op-Ed
Thu Oct 09, 2003 at 03:42:14 AM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)

This is a communally edited response to the editorial by VeriSign Senior VP, Mark McLaughlin, entitled "Innovation and the Internet". In it, McLaughlin expresses his opinions about the reaction to VeriSign's controversial SiteFinder service. Many technology-savvy Internet users have disagreed with the DNS wildcard modification in less organized forms, but I hope to bring together the opinions of many people into a coherent response. I feel that McLaughlin's formal, public editorial deserves an organized response, and I feel that the Internet community needs to join together to make its fragmented opinions in this matter heard as one.

McLaughlin's editorial had one underlying theme: VeriSign feels that the Internet community is stifling innovation by defending the status quo. They feel that arguments against the service are driven by a vocal minority in the Internet community that disagrees with the use of the DNS system for commercial gain. He points out that innovations in the Internet have shaped it into what it is today and must not be hampered. These innovations have sent the Internet in new directions its founding architects never dreamed. VeriSign feels that a small community of die-hard conservatives have prevented a positive evolution in the structure of the Internet.

I disagree with the opinion that criticism has risen from a minority that does not have the good interests of the Internet in mind. As a technology-savvy member of the Internet community, I am well aware of who disagrees with the modifications to the DNS hierarchy. In my research, every opinion on the matter expressed by a person knowledgeable about the underlying structure of the Internet has been in opposition, without a single exception. We are a minority of Internet users, but it is this same minority which constructed the Internet and continues to reshape it in positive ways.

The SiteFinder service itself is useful and is a good idea, but the manner in which it was implemented goes against the ideals and customs observed when making such a sweeping change. It is my contention that the modifications that VeriSign made to the DNS hierarchy were not made in cooperation with the Internet community.

McLaughlin points out that the many changes that shaped the Internet in the past three decades were all met with debate and controversy. This is because sweeping changes to the infrastructure of the Internet have always been agreed upon unanimously. Peer review is critical in the development of the Internet for several reasons. It allows the Internet community to discuss the possible effects of the change, both positive and negative. It prevents one party from acting in their own interests, as opposed to the interests of the Internet community as a whole. It allows other parties to make suggestions and offer advice, strengthening benefits and alleviating drawbacks.

VeriSign did not provide the Internet community with any prior notice before enacting the DNS wildcard policy. They made no press release, and the general public only became aware of the modifications after they were discovered by observant people. Paradoxically, VeriSign asked for an extension of ICANN's deadline for removal of DNS wildcards, in order to give notice to the Internet community.

Had the Internet community been given a chance to evaluate VeriSign's plans, they would likely have urged VeriSign not to continue. Arguments in opposition have been made in numerous online forums, news websites, editorials, and personal conversations. The impression is that VeriSign anticipated this opposition and so made the changes without consent, abusing their position of trust.

This is not a case of preventing change for the sake of maintaining the status quo. Instead, the Internet community reacted to the change due to the manner in which it was enacted. VeriSign enacted a change that had the potential to damage the Internet, and they did it without first seeking peer review. Furthermore, VeriSign was in the position to greatly benefit from the SiteFinder service through advertisements. The Internet community opposes VeriSign's actions because they have abused their place of trust, ignored standard procedures and customs, and acted against the best interests of the Internet as a whole in order to increase revenue.


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Do the opinions in this article match your own?
o Yes 93%
o No 6%

Votes: 59
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Related Links
o Innovation and the Internet
o Also by coderlemming

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Community Response to VeriSign VP Mark McLaughlin's Editorial | 48 comments (22 topical, 26 editorial, 1 hidden)
Why don't we just shoot the VeriSign execs? (1.12 / 31) (#11)
by Stick on Tue Oct 07, 2003 at 03:11:38 AM EST

They might behave themselves better.

Stick, thine posts bring light to mine eyes, tingles to my loins. Yea, each moment I sit, my monitor before me, waiting, yearning, needing your prose to make the moment complete. - Joh3n
And this is a surprise? (1.25 / 31) (#17)
by Dinner Is Served on Tue Oct 07, 2003 at 12:22:40 PM EST

Stopping Verisign is delaying the inevitable. As American history has shown, we like to ruin good, interesting, and useful things. Whether it be economies, relationships with Britain, entire cultures of indians, ecosystems, constitutions, religious theology, education, common sense, and even the Internet! Whatever it is, we're sure to fuck it up!

So quit wasting your time with the concept of modern Internet. It's already beyond repairable, so the best measure is to accept it as a shopping network and move onto GuerillaNet.
While I appreciate being able to defend against would-be rapists who might suddenly drop in from the sky, I don't appreciate not being able to see the Northern Lights. -- mfk
gah (1.08 / 12) (#29)
by Fuzzwah on Wed Oct 08, 2003 at 02:40:49 AM EST

I just had a run in with the new rating system and my mouse's scrolly wheel. That -1 wasn't entered on purpose. Sorry.

The best a human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day. - God's Debris
[ Parent ]

MOD PARENT DOWN ! ! ! (1.18 / 11) (#35)
by rmg on Wed Oct 08, 2003 at 07:06:05 PM EST


_____ intellectual tiddlywinks
[ Parent ]

OK, first (2.80 / 30) (#23)
by epepke on Tue Oct 07, 2003 at 09:21:48 PM EST

Forget the weenieness of Verisign, the whole not-telling-people-beforehand and doing it for commercial gain crap.

One major problem is that it assumes that all the Internet is the Web. It isn't. Verisign's decision broke from thousands to millions of scripts, all of which expected the protocol to work as advertised.

Another problem is that Verisign doesn't have a government-granted monopoly so that they can "innovate"; it has one so that they can reliably provide a service according to the open protocols. If they want to innovate, perhaps they should be freed from that annoying need to provide a service. If I want DNS lookup, I want it to return what it is supposed to. If I want a nose job, I don't want someone who is going to get creative mid-opeation and give me the world's first Cubist Nose with six nostrils, and I especially don't want it if they're the only game in town. (apologies to Tom Robbins).

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

who do we trust? (2.14 / 14) (#25)
by coderlemming on Tue Oct 07, 2003 at 09:42:57 PM EST

The thing is, many (if not all) CEOs in a position of trust like that will look for a way to turn it to their gain. Otherwise, they're just spilling money into the maintenance of the two biggest root nameservers, and they're earning just the small registry fees (how much do they earn off this annually, anyway?). Who could we trust with this job, really? I hope some day we can move to some kind of distributed system.

Go be impersonally used as an organic semen collector!  (porkchop_d_clown)
[ Parent ]
Plenty. (none / 3) (#41)
by ksandstr on Thu Oct 09, 2003 at 12:08:35 PM EST

(how much do they earn off this annually, anyway?)
USD 47 million was the figure I've heard thrown around. Not sure if this is revenue, profit or even accurate.

[ Parent ]
significant (2.75 / 32) (#24)
by John Thompson on Tue Oct 07, 2003 at 09:28:50 PM EST

What I found significant about McLaughlin's response was that he managed to completely avoid addressing any of the issues ICANN had raised in their advisory demanding that SiteFinder be taken down.

Instead, he relies on ad hominem attack and a lame whine about stifling "innovation." That single term has been so misused and abused in the last few years that whenever some suit tries to justify his company's actions on the basis of "innovation" I immediately become suspicious. This is no exception.

Innovation (2.44 / 27) (#28)
by SwampGas on Wed Oct 08, 2003 at 01:48:02 AM EST

DNS protocol = innovation.

Google algorithm = innovation.

Wildcard DNS = innovation.

Sitefinder = using previous innovation to put money in someone's pocket.

Welcome to Japan! (nt) (none / 1) (#43)
by bigchris on Fri Oct 10, 2003 at 04:03:09 AM EST

I Hate Jesus: -1: Bible thumper
kpaul: YAAT. YHL. HAND. btw, YAHWEH wins ;) [mt]
[ Parent ]
What's the point? (2.35 / 20) (#32)
by Weembles on Wed Oct 08, 2003 at 12:09:06 PM EST

Verisign's response stinks. Every company that has ever done something that has screwed over the public in the intrest of making money has put out apress release explaining why what they did was for the common good. Spammers and telemarketers? They provide us with vital consumer information. Sweatshops? They provide jobs to the impoverished.

With their plea of Innovation Stiffled, Verisign is just doing more of the same.

Actually (none / 0) (#47)
by niku on Tue Oct 14, 2003 at 08:01:16 PM EST

In many cases sweatshops are the lesser of two evils. In many cases, the options are work at a sweatshop, take up an exciting career in prositiution, or starve to death. No one likes the idea of sweatshops, but closing them w/o any alternate means of income available is a very irresponsible view from people who tend to be very far away from the people and the problem.
Nicholas Bernstein, Technologist, artist, etc.
[ Parent ]
Wow, what a lame rebuttal. (1.10 / 20) (#36)
by rmg on Wed Oct 08, 2003 at 07:12:17 PM EST

So rather than point out what a pain in the ass their sitefinder thing was, you complain that they -- a private corporation -- did not come and ask you  -- some bunch of guys on usenet or whatever -- first.

I'm sure this argument will devastate your opponents everywhere. I mean sure, you admit to conservatism on the point, and yeah, you admit that their new system was innovative, but gosh darn it, they didn't ask your permission! Well, this will send a message to all those fat cats! If you don't get our permission, then by golly, we're going to whine about it!

_____ intellectual tiddlywinks

This is a response??? (1.00 / 12) (#37)
by wji on Wed Oct 08, 2003 at 08:13:42 PM EST

>    This is a communally edited response to the editorial by VeriSign Senior VP, Mark McLaughlin

It is?? Wow, I never wouldn't have guessed if you hadn't repeated the title in the intro line.

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.

context (1.92 / 13) (#38)
by coderlemming on Thu Oct 09, 2003 at 12:23:22 AM EST

In another thread, it became clear that the context in which I wrote this article might not be obvious. When I wrote the article, I had a few things to deal with:
  • McLaughlin spoke for all of VeriSign (note his use of "we")
  • McLaughlin laid no blame and did not even directly criticize the Internet community; his letter was a very diplomatic statement of fact. A direct attack on him was unwarranted.
  • The content of his editorial made very little mention of the technical merits or problems involved with VeriSign's actions.
I tried not to get myself bogged down in demonizing McLaughlin himself, because he was simply speaking for his company. I also tried not to get stuck talking in detail about why SiteFinder is bad, because it was an issue aside from the one at hand.

The article has a very specific scope: a rebuttal to the idea that the Internet community is stifling innovation. Other documents, such as the one by ICANN, deal with the technical pros and cons of the DNS wildcard itself.

Go be impersonally used as an organic semen collector!  (porkchop_d_clown)
Innovation as it pertains to mad science. (1.36 / 11) (#39)
by gnovos on Thu Oct 09, 2003 at 03:29:49 AM EST

The claim of innovation by Verisign reminds me of all those B horror movies where the mad scientist claims that his new bug/monkey/human hybrid is the next step of evolution and that all the pesky do-godders in his way simply don't understand what a great gift he has bestowed upon the world...

A Haiku: "fuck you fuck you fuck/you fuck you fuck you fuck you/fuck you fuck you snow" - JChen
Anubody here still recieves this SiteFinder crap? (1.00 / 12) (#40)
by i on Thu Oct 09, 2003 at 03:30:13 AM EST

I don't.

me@mybox $ host sdfjskdjfksdjkfjskdlf.com
Host sdfjskdjfksdjkfjskdlf.com not found: 3(NXDOMAIN)
me@mybox $

and we have a contradicton according to our assumptions and the factor theorem

Oh man.... (1.63 / 11) (#42)
by Fon2d2 on Thu Oct 09, 2003 at 12:33:10 PM EST

This guy is arrogant. I couldn't even finish reading the article. But rather than rant and rave about all the manipulations and mind games McLaughlin is playing, I propose a game of my own:

Whoever can document the most uses of fallacious argumentation using the 19th Century Guide to Dishonest Argument and alist of fallacies list of fallacies is the winner.

I will begin: The entire argument is a diversion. It is designed to draw attention away from the opposition's view that VeriSign is abusing monopoly power and thereby stifling innovation. It then tries to turn the tables on the argument by implying that an argument against a specific change is an argument for the status quo (a non-sequitur) and consequently an argument against innovation. Hope you followed that.

[Note: This comment is severly delayed due to kuro5hin's network lagginess.]

Internet Community? (none / 2) (#44)
by virtualjay222 on Fri Oct 10, 2003 at 08:21:36 PM EST

When you refer to the "Internet Community," who exactly are you referring to? It has been my experience that a community consists of all people who are involved, and I find it very hard to picture a "unanamous" decision made by a "community" as diverse as this.

Of course, if I am mistaken, I would certainly appreciate clarification.


I'm not in denial, I'm just selective about the reality I choose to accept.

-Calvin and Hobbes

tough question (none / 0) (#45)
by coderlemming on Sat Oct 11, 2003 at 02:02:33 PM EST

I mean the same thing by it that McLaughlin meant.  Yes, that's a cop-out.  It's a pretty amorphous concept, really.  I see it as the group of people (of which you and I are a part) who take an active vocal role in the development of the internet.  McLaughlin referred to a vocal minority of Internet users who stifled their innovation, and I'm referring to the people who express the opinions that shape the Internet.  It's very hard to define this set of people because the Internet is too wide-spread and dynamic in nature.

Maybe I should have picked a better term?  I certainly used the term "Internet Community" freely in my writing without defining it beforehand, partly because it's so hard to define.

Go be impersonally used as an organic semen collector!  (porkchop_d_clown)
[ Parent ]

it doesn't matter (none / 0) (#46)
by Frequanaut on Tue Oct 14, 2003 at 07:43:44 PM EST

It doesn't matter what the true definition of "community" is in this context because we all know what "community" is not. It is not one company.

[ Parent ]
Community Response to VeriSign VP Mark McLaughlin's Editorial | 48 comments (22 topical, 26 editorial, 1 hidden)
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