As the Internet gets bigger, some things will change

Top-level domains multiply, IPv6 begins to take off and .yournamehere could be next

The number of registered top-level Internet domain names grew by 6.3 percent in 2010 to more than 205 million, according to VeriSign, the registry operator for .com, the largest generic Top Level Domain (TLD).

VeriSign CSO Danny McPherson called this “good, strong growth.” But perhaps as significant was the growth during the year of IPv6 traffic. The percentage of Domain Name Service queries handled by VeriSign using the new Internet Protocols, while still very small, grew from around .005 percent six months ago to near .01 percent at year end.

“We’re starting to see a linear line of growth for IPv6,” McPherson said.

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This has been driven, in part, by the shrinking pool of available IPv4 addresses for new users. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, which doles out IP addresses to the world’s five Regional Internet Registries, allotted the last blocks of IPv4 addresses in February. Although the registries still have an inventory of IPv4 addresses that can last months, or even several years, future growth in the Internet increasingly will be in the IPv6 address space.

Another major shift in the Internet is the coming expansion of generic TLDs by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which oversees the Internet’s global operation. ICANN's board of directors is meeting this week in Brussels with its Governmental Advisory Committee to discuss the GAC's concerns about the proposed implementation of new domains.

ICANN has developed plans to let any established institution apply to run a new generic TLD, which could expand the number of domains by hundreds. Although issues still are being addressed, ICANN could begin review applications as early as this summer and new domains could begin appearing in 2012. When they do, you could see generic TLDs such as .ford, .windows, .walmart or .disney.

Generic TLDs are the suffixes to URLs, including .com, .gov, .net, .org, .info and .edu. There also are a host of country code TLDs, such as .us for the United States, .cn for China and .uk for the United Kingdom.

According to the Domain Name Industry Brief for the fourth quarter of 2010 from VeriSign, which operates the .com and .net registries, those two domains saw 4 percent growth during the year. The .org domain, which is operated by the Public Interest Registry, grew by more than 10 percent to more than 9 million domains, beating out .uk to become the fourth largest domain behind .com, .de (Germany) and .net.

DNS query traffic handled by VeriSign climbed by 17 percent during the year, to a daily average of 61 billion in the fourth quarter, with a peak of 72 billion. Increasingly powerful distributed denial-of-service attacks, which attempt to swamp servers with requests to interrupt service, account for some of the traffic growth, although those queries are not included in the traffic figures when they can be filtered out, McPherson said.

Industry is moving to accommodate the expected rise in the volume of IPv6 traffic.

“It grew 100 percent in the last six months,” McPherson said. “I think we’re going to continue to see that kind of growth. We’re putting a ton of investment into infrastructure” to handle that traffic.

One reason the investment is high is that it takes more equipment, and more money, to handle IPv6 traffic.

“We have to spend more to accommodate IPv6 traffic than we do to accommodate IPv4,” McPherson said, because the new protocols and the equipment handling them are not as mature, and because IPv6 can require additional processing overhead. The disparity is improving, but “I think we still have a long way to go” to achieve parity in the ability of networks to handle both protocols.

Networking companies are expanding their IPv6 offerings as well. Verizon has announced that it has expanded its capabilities to handle native, dual stack and tunneled IPv6 traffic on its Internet Dedicated Services to Europe and Asia-Pacific. It has been offering those services in the United States since 2007, and plans to offer it for Canada and Latin America later this year.

“We’re getting demand and customers from all regions,” said Kevin Mardis, Verizon’s Internet Dedicated Service product manager.

One of the demand drivers in this country has been the federal mandate that agencies ready their infrastructure to handle IPv6 traffic over the next three years, Mardis said.

McPherson said VeriSign, as a major Internet registry, welcomes the proposed introduction of new generic TLDs.

“Our position is this is a good thing for the Internet,” and that competition for registering domains will be good for the industry. “We are not at all concerned about cannibalization of existing infrastructure. We see it as an opportunity.”

The proposal has not been without controversy, however, and there is concern about the fragmentation of the Internet and the protection of brands that would come with a proliferation of generic TLDs. ICANN’s Government Advisory Committee, which represents 100 countries and territories, has boiled concerns down to an even dozen that it now is working to resolve with ICANN. They are:

  1. The objection procedures including the requirements for governments to pay fees.
  2. Procedures for the review of sensitive strings.
  3. Root zone scaling.
  4. Market and economic impacts.
  5. Registry and registrar separation.
  6. Protection of rights owners and consumer protection.
  7. Post-delegation disputes.
  8. Use of geographic names.
  9. Legal recourse for applications.
  10. Providing opportunities for all stakeholders including those from developing countries.
  11. Law enforcement due diligence recommendations.
  12. The need for an early warning to applicants whether a proposed string would be considered controversial or could raise sensitivities.


About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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