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South Africa Wants Control of .za 345

Posted by michael
from the no-holds-barred dept.
fdiaz5583 writes "Recently, the South African government wants to seize control of the .za domain. However, ICANN owns the domains and under the ICANN rules, they will not relinquish control. Mike Lawrie who is global administrator of domain names states: 'If it becomes illegal for me to do the job under South African law and if I am not authorized by ICANN to hand over the administration, the .za domain will have to shut down until the issue is cleared up'." We mentioned this tussle earlier. The .za administrator doesn't like the way the government is going about this; the government, of course, has men with guns, so it's not like he's going to win in the end, it's only a question of how ugly it will get.
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South Africa Wants Control of .za

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  • by saihung (19097) on Saturday June 08, 2002 @06:21PM (#3666232)
    Who should, rightfully, get control of a country's top-level names? I have no doubt that Mr. Lawrie has done a good job, and for years with no pay at that, but he also isn't the one who built the infrastructure. I am not convinced that the government is always the best administrator, but why is looking to an undemocratic, unrepresentative corporation like ICANN any better?
    • I don't think ICANN is a particularly righteous organisation in itself, but a federal government making a sudden grab at a TLD seems off-putting to me in some way.

      The phrase "management of the internet could not be left to individuals" is also irksome. Undertones, anyone?

    • by mav[LAG] (31387) on Saturday June 08, 2002 @09:46PM (#3666886)
      No one here in South Africa minds who controls .za as long as a) it works and b) it's managed according to the RFC and the informal rules that the late John Postel put in place circa. 1985. The local Internet community are totally opposed to the ridiculous provisions of Section X of the Government's Electronic Communications and Transactions Bill.(Some of the other sections are equally idiotic but let's stay focused here).
      Specifically they want to replace the non-profit organisation Namespace [namespace.org.za] (whom Mike Lawrie consults to) with a huge unwieldy bureaucracy that will cost the taxpayers millions and is overseen by the Communications Minister. In other words, a simple administrative function that has been performed superbly by a single highly-competent individual over the last decade will now be replaced by an eighteen person board of directors whose salary bill alone is millions per year. Not only that but the Government's spin on the whole debacle is that they are imposing some form of democracy on the current evil monopoly that Mike Lawrie has subjected us all to.
      This is complete bullshit. Mike Lawrie and Namespace have repeatedly tried to get the Government involved in ccTLD administration with no success for many years now. The Department of Communications, led by two politicians whose only qualities seem to be an equal balance of power hungriness, greed and incompetence (Ivy and Andile - yes, this means you two) say that Government control over .za will lead to some kind of new era of Internet prosperity where all people in our country will suddenly get Internet access.
      A few facts are in order.
      • The South African Government cannot even manage it's own name servers - let alone the whole country's. Five out of six of them are currently mis-configured or not working. If they do take over and .za suddenly goes dark for a few days because of some technical or beauracratic cock-up, our economy will suffer enormously.
      • Internet access for all is dependent on our telecommunications infrastructure and policy - which The Department of Communications has - to put it politely - completely fscked up over the last eighteen months.
      • The Department has not taken on board 1% of the industry advice it has pretended to listen to since it was taken over by the two current fools. Together they have crippled our local telecoms regulator so much that the incumbent phone monopoly can charge what it likes without fear of being slapped down.

      And yes, as a South African journalist who's been following this saga for quite some time, I don't mind saying that I'm really pissed off.
  • Why does South Africa have .za?

    Last I checked, there's no Z in South Africa, and don't they speak english down there?

    ~q of course http://www.contre.org [contre.org]
  • by Bollie (152363) <slashdot@jangERD ... m minus math_god> on Saturday June 08, 2002 @06:27PM (#3666254) Homepage
    As a citizen of this banana^H^H^H^H^H^H^H wonderful republic (I don't know anymore) of South Africa, I just have to give you my unbiased opinion:

    I'm biased.

    It seems lately I've developed a knee-jerk reaction to anything Microsoftian and/or coming from this two-bit^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H democratically elected leadership. When I see stupidity, I really dislike it. Unfortunately, it looks like it's on the rise.

    To the world out there, I can only say a couple of things:
    1. What do you expect of a country where the Prez does not believe HIV causes AIDS?
    2. What do you expect of a country where the government telecommunications monopoly is so bad that more people have cellphones than landlines?
    3. What do you expect of a country where everyone votes for the same party, regardless whether they messed up, promise to mess up or promise not to mess up again then mess up?


    To the couple of South Africans who are reading this I just want to say:
    1. Hoesit!
    2. I recommend Prozac, and in large doses.
    3. Keep our humour, it's the only national emblem we have.


    That's it. Sit back and watch the show people, I can guarantee you will be entertained!
    • What do you expect of a country where everyone votes for the same party, regardless whether they messed up, promise to mess up or promise not to mess up again then mess up?

      Sounds like Canada!

      • This isn't a flame, MoronWhoModdedItDown.

        I'm Canadian and live in Canada, and if you had any awareness of recent political history, you know know that the italicized comment above is frightenly accurate in describing the recent run of Liberal goverments. They screw us, get voted in again while promising not to screw us again, screw us again, ad nauseum.

        To a Canadian, the above should be funny. Maybe funny like a trainwreck, but funny none-the-less, Unless, of course, the Canadian reading it happens to be a liberal supporter regardless of the bullshit politics they've inflicted on this country... if that is the case, thats for your contribution to beating Canada down, assclown =)

    • As a fellow South African, I am deeply concerned by this comment and ones like it whaich have been poseted here. Sure, Mr Mbeki has made some major mistkes in dealing with some pressing issues. Sure, the government's economic policies regarding privatisation and government control are not overly clear.

      Even acknowledging all this problems, South Africa's government is not bad by world standards. Firstly, they hava managed to retain a very high level of freedom for all South Africans, mor than can be said of That Major Democracy Across The Atlantic. Secondly, they have worked very hard to provide for the primary health care and education needs of a largely underprivledged population.Thirdy, they have implemented basically sound economic policies.

      There are a lot of cluess idiots in the South African government, but equally there are many clueless idiots in any government. The important point is that the government is working to make sure that all the tenents of the Bill of Rights are fulfilled for all South Africans.

      Sure, this is a stupid step to take, but it does not make SA a banana republic, any more than the DMCA makes the USA a banana republic.
    • # What do you expect of a country where everyone votes for the same party, regardless whether they messed up, promise to mess up or promise not to mess up again then mess up?

      As opposed to the last party that promised equality to everyone on a "separate but equal" basis fifty years a go and when they were forced out of power still had not provided basic needs like "Lights" "clean water" and "arable land"
    • HIV - AIDS (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sanity (1431)
      1. What do you expect of a country where the Prez does not believe HIV causes AIDS?
      I think that, even if he is wrong, that he is brave to stand-up to the powerful corporate interests that are trying to milk AIDS victims for every penny then can muster before they fall to this disease, whatever its cause. There is a well-researched body of opinion that questions the causal link between HIV and AIDS. I don't know whether they are right or not, but I do know that we should value those who question established wisdom, whether they be right or wrong. If the theory that HIV causes AIDS is true, then it should easily withstand any scrutiny or dissent.

      There are those who say that because AIDS is so dangerous it is irresponsible for people to raise doubts around it, but I would argue that it is essential for people to question such things precisely because it is so dangerous.

      A good source of information on the opinion that HIV does not necessarily cause AIDS can be found here [aliveandwell.org].

  • Yeah and...??? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 08, 2002 @06:28PM (#3666257)
    ICANN better get used to situations like this. Putting up an electronic embargo around a domain name should never be an option for ICANN. What are they going to do next, pull China's TLD because of human rights abuse?

    First of, this is a democratically elected government with a formal bill making process, all of which has been followed. It's not ICANN or the readers of /. job to tell another country what formal process to use in administering their TLD. I don't care what RFC exists that dictates this, it means nothing. Honestly, to the people involved in this who are so upset they were not consulted...blah..blah..blah: Get over yourselves.
    This sort of political manuvering happens everyday in large corporations. Threatening to cause a blackout if the bill is passed only proves their point. I also have to say, I find it insane currently this has been done by one unpaid party with no formal/legal binding to the country. What if this Mike Lawerence guy was smacked by a bus? Who's his backup? Who knows what he knows?
    And so they started their own redelgation process, but the DoC Sun Tzu'd them and came at them with the sun behind their back. Who cares, give it to the Gov't. It's theirs anyhow. They'll figure it out. If they spend 12million (whatever currency) on it, you have something to campaign with when you go for the Chairmens job. That's the way it works.

    Stop acting like the dorky network administer who's pissed off his little department LAN has been absorbed by Corp IT, and he's no longer _GOD_.
    • Yeah, it's delightful to see two corrupt titans in ICANN and South Africa take on one another. ICANN was quick to whip out its preferred weapon of "but if we don't have control, we will shut you down." South Africa just wants to sieze property so it can engage in graft.
  • I suspect these little quarrels between ICANN, South Africa, and other groups are harbingers of major DNS conflicts in the future. For example, what if Microsoft, instead of South Africa, demanded a particular TLD?

    It's not a prospect anyone is looking forward to, but I think we should accept the fact that our system of TLDs and DNS hierarchy is going to fall apart. Our current system demands too high a level of political and economic consistency; eventually some large, politically powerful groups will break away and form their own system; or (perhaps more in line with current trends) the system will fall under the power of large corporations and people will break away and form their own roots.

    So what needs to happen is the development of a system whereby multiple DNS roots can be easily used and DNS conflicts are resolved by the end-user rather than a commitee. It's unfortunate, but the Internet spans too many political and cultural boundaries for a "cathedral" model to be effective.

    • If Microsoft wanted to setup an alternative root they could do so without asking anyone - just make it a 'critical update' and suddenly the majority of browser users are using it.

    • I suspect these little quarrels between ICANN, South Africa, and other groups are harbingers of major DNS conflicts in the future. For example, what if Microsoft, instead of South Africa, demanded a particular TLD?
      This sounds similar to something that equally evil corporate behemoth Clear Channel attempted / is attempting with the .cc domain. Check an article here [weeklywire.com].
  • Alternativly (Score:4, Insightful)

    by barberio (42711) on Saturday June 08, 2002 @06:44PM (#3666319) Homepage
    Okay, lets look at this in another light.

    A country passes legislation that it's elected goverment should have control of its internet policy, and not a quasi-goverment 'board' of unelected officials.

    Is it right for ICANN to mandate things upon an elected goverment? Is it right for an elected goverment to mandate things on ICANN?

    These are issues that need to be adressed, this is just an issue of a goverment wanting to 'control the internet'. South africa do have a bad history of being controled by foreign commities after all.

    I also find it mildly offensive that the Slashdot edditors automaticaly assosiate South Africa with Gun Toating Totalitarianism.
    • For 'just a' read 'not just a'
    • Re:Alternativly (Score:3, Interesting)

      by psaltes (9811)
      I think you didn't read the article.

      There is one person (a south african, not foreign) running the domain right now, not any sort of committee. He has stated that he does not want to continue running it, sice he's been doing it for years without getting paid for it. He is running it basically because he was around when the opportunity to have a .za domain name came up, way back at the beginning. However, he doesn't want to give control to the government without them following ICANN procedures. The law would simply make his administration of the domain illegal.

      I also did not take the comment about guns as a statement about south africa. Every government in the world has guns, and very few seem overly afraid to use them. In fact, there's not a country in the world that the statement "the government, of course, has men with guns" would not apply to. I think this statement certainly wouldn't be out of context if used on, e.g. America.

    • I agree. Regarding quote in the /. story, if it's illegal for him to administer the domain, then it's also illegal for him to shut it down. If the law says "You must hand over the keys", then that he must do. He can contact ICANN and tell them that .za has been taken from him against ICANN rules, and they can then do whatever they want (like cut them off from the central DNS system maybe). Would I be right in thinking that .za domains would continue to resolve within South Africa, but not from the rest of the world?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 08, 2002 @06:46PM (#3666327)
    The more chaos the better.. one day piz.za will be mine.
  • Common Sense... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tim12s (209786) on Saturday June 08, 2002 @06:49PM (#3666342) Homepage
    Top level domains should obviously be controlled and administered by the government of the country they represent. The .za domain is the zone of an entire country. The name registrar is therefore a monopoly of services, and all monopolies should be regulated. The government should delegate management to a (private) organisation that is able to provide the quality services that are required. If that company does not provide the services, then the government should choose a different company.

    Thats the same as the US government not having regulatory control over their own airwaves/airspace. Crazy.

    ---

    The real beef is that governments are historically less speedy in providing the services required, but this should not prevent any government from having regulatory authority over the naming and addressing of the internet within its own borders.

    ---

    -Tim
    A South African.

    ---

    I dont like the idea of potentially putting a company out of business because of governemental involvement, but some of the proposed regulatory changes will have to happen at some point in the future, in many places in the world.

    Q?: Why should ICANN have a whip over the internet naming of an entire country? ICANN should recognise the regulations of govermental regulation of its namespace.
    • Top level domains should obviously be controlled and administered by the government of the country they represent.

      That doesn't follow at all! What happens when I register southafricasucks.co.za, or mbekigoatse.cx.co.za, or what have you.

      government from having regulatory authority over the naming and addressing of the internet within its own borders.

      Hey, that's fine with me. South Africa can use one namespace, and the internet can use another. That way, everyone's happy!

      • There is a lot of misinformation about this bill, primarily coming from the people who don't like it, who we usually respect as honest, upstanding, technicall competant, and above talking bullshit.

        The SA government has passed a bill to nationalise the .za namespace, NOT to take control of subdomains. The bill explicitly forces the government to license registrars to administer subdomains. It does not call for or force the actual technical maintenance of the .za root nameserver to be done by the government - it can be outsourced.

        The bill only puts overall policy control in the hands of the government. This means that the creation of new second-level domains is not restricted by a single person, but decided by a committee. It also means that the government is forced to (by the bill) create a dispute resolution policy, which must be consistent with other SA laws -- something which other countries haven't got right yet.

        The bill is online [namespace.org.za], so please know what you are talking about before shooting your mouth off.

    • A: It's very simple :

      1. The US army (= the governement) created Internet
      2. They authorized universities to connect
      3. They authorized people in the world to connect
      4. They authorized commerce
      5. They delegated THEIR rights to ICANN

      That's it. Internet belongs to the US governement that *GAVE* its control to ICANN.

      Countries have nothing to say like they have nothing to say about Ford Motors or about International Red Cross.

      Now, is that good ? That's ANOTHER question...
      • The internet does *not* belong to the US government. You can say it many times but it doesn't make it true.

        The US government does not own even a controlling interest in the infrastructure. The US government does not own the root nameservers.

        At one point the US millitary owned the internet, as soon as they allowed others to connect at will they gave it up. The US does not own the networks of those they allowed to connect, nor does it own the networks who connect to the networks they allowed to connect, at nauseum.

        The internet is owned by humanity. The namespace for a country should belong to that country for without that country why have the namespace?

        -- iCEBaLM
        • The internet is owned by humanity. The namespace for a country should belong to that country for without that country why have the namespace?

          First of all, control of the 'internet' has zero to do with control of namespaces. Let's say, for example, that all of a sudden, my domain, 'neverending.org' became suddenly popular, and everyone wanted a third-level domain under it. So, to help the situation, I divy up the namespace into country-codes, so there is us.neverending.org, ca.neverending.org, za.neverending.org, and so on. Now why in the world should I be forced to let the South African government control za.neverending.org?

          ICANN owns/runs very top level namespace. It created it. Why should it be told what to do by a foreign government? Artificial namespaces, such as the domain namespaces, aren't owned by humanity, they are owned by whoever created them.

          • The ccTLDs were an agreement between representatives of various countries and ICANN, in order to split the root namespace according to country, and allow each country a namespace to administer independant of ICANN.

            If the .za ccTLD was administered by someone whose dispute resolution policy was "if it has money, it wins", you would be singing a very different tune.

            The point is that no one person or organisation has the right or authority to assume control of a ccTLD, where a representative authority exists and is capable of doing the same thing. That authority is the government.

            • The ccTLDs were an agreement between representatives of various countries and ICANN, in order to split the root namespace according to country, and allow each country a namespace to administer independant of ICANN.

              If this is true, then it does grant some validity to the notion that the country pointed to should be in control of said namespace, but it doesn't convince me fully yet.

              If the .za ccTLD was administered by someone whose dispute resolution policy was "if it has money, it wins", you would be singing a very different tune.

              No I wouldn't, since I know full well that if I didn't like how ICANN was handling its root nameservers, then I could switch to a different root.

    • The .za domain is the zone of an entire country.

      You, along with many others, obviously don't seem to grasp how the domain system works. The .za is simply a namespace partition of the entire namespace created by ICANN, nothing more. The South African government should have absolutely no control over what ICANN does.

    • Provision of names in .za isn't a service such as education or healthcare that a country provides to its citizens; it's merely one part of the vast decentralised database called the DNS. There's nothing "obvious" in saying that any one part of the DNS should be controlled by anyone in particular, other than that it should be controlled by someone competent to do the job (and, by all accounts, the ability to run nameservers competently is not universally believed to be a property of the South African government).

      It's difficult to better the way Jon Postel put it in the relevant standards document, RFC 1591 [isi.edu] ("Domain Name System Structure and Delegation"), sec 3.2: "These designated authorities are trustees for the delegated domain, and have a duty to serve the community. The designated manager is the trustee of the top-level domain for both the nation, in the case of a country code, and the global Internet community. Concerns about "rights" and "ownership" of domains are inappropriate. It is appropriate to be concerned about "responsibilities" and "service" to the community." (emphasis mine).

      • Of course, this statement is entirely at odds with the way DNS is run in practice, anywhere in the world. Domain names are property, and suitable regulation is required to prevent abuse of that property.

        The SA government is taking a bold step in political and legal regulation, but not technical regulation. The gov. is unlikely to run the nameservers itself, but will contract a suitable institution. Its primary concern is the regulation of the .za hierarchy to ensure licensed registrars (not monopolies over various 2LDs) and that there is a uniform dispute resolution policy, which is consistent with SA law.

        • Of course, this statement is entirely at odds with the way DNS is run in practice, anywhere in the world. Domain names are property,

          Yes, perhaps unfortunately, although they're still the stated ideals of IANA (who have acted on them [icann.org] in the not-too-distant past).

          and suitable regulation is required to prevent abuse of that property.

          Indeed. I don't think you're likely to find anyone who disagrees with you on that.

          The SA government is taking a bold step in political and legal regulation, but not technical regulation. The gov. is unlikely to run the nameservers itself, but will contract a suitable institution.

          People elsewhere in this thread have said (though I have no way of knowing whether truly or not) that the SA government have a poor track record in contracting suitable institutions to perform other functions related to communications infrastructure, and so were unlikely to perform any better with the DNS. Many of the concerned comments to this story have been about this question, separately from questions over how and why the SA government have any right to take this step.

    • .za is just a label/name in a distributed computer system managed by ICANN.

      Everyone is free to start an alternative DNS root system. If South Africa wants, they can start their own DNS system (that noone except some South Africans would use) and have full control over .za, and for that matter also over .com, .us, .uk etc.

      Suppose I name a file on my computer file.za, does that mean it should be under control of South Africa?!?

      ICANN owns the DNS system that most people/companies have agreed to use. Most have agreed to do so because they do a reasonably good job on setting fair rules and distributing a fair amount of control to all parties involvd. But in the end ICANN has control, and rightly so. Imagine each state setting up its own DNS system?

      Or even worse, imagine the UN setting up a DNS system. With what right? Are all states of the world obliged to be a UN member? Would some UN beaurocratic organization do a better job?
      • ICANN runs the DNS system, it doesn't own it. Furthermore it has come to an agreement with country representatives that there will be TLDs corresponding to ISO-standard country codes, which shall serve as a root namespace for that country, so that the generic TLDs (.com, .org, etc) are mostly used for the US and multinationals.

        This is not about SA wanting control over some arbitrary area of the DNS namespace. It is about an area of the namespace specifically reserved by ICANN for SA, which is currently being run by a single person with no sanction from the government or any legal institution, and who has at many time been at odds with the industry.

        It is also about an industry which has been granted a monopoly on 2LDs, and has on several occasions abused that monopoly.

        ccTLDs are, and must be considered as, a national resource. This gives the government every right to dictate regulatory policy to the extent that they can within the framework afforded by ICANN, both technically and politically.

        The issue here is that the one person currently maintaining the .za namespace does not want to hand over the namespace to the body which will be appointed by the govt., because he has issues with the new law. And he is using ICANN's rules regarding transfer of ownership to block that handover, and threaten destabalisation of the SA internet in order to bolster public support.

    • Top level domains should obviously be controlled and administered by the government of the country they represent.

      Based on what evidence? I hear of very few complaints (well none to be honest) about the UK TLD controller Nominet, and they are a non-profit organisation with no government affiliation. A domain name costs $3.65/year and service is excellent.

      Other posters have already covered much of what I would say about the rest of your post. Your concepts of borders and sovereignty are misguided but understandable. It's a difficult area to understand if you don't know its history.

      Phillip.
    • Well said. For all those who misunderstand the intent of this bill (the govt. is NOT hi-jacking all domain names in SA - it is creating a regulatory framework for the .za domain, which inter alia requires the licensing of registrars for second level domains, independant of government), you can find the bill online here [namespace.org.za] (section 60).

  • by alizard (107678) <alizard@@@ecis...com> on Saturday June 08, 2002 @07:00PM (#3666381) Homepage
    The remark from their Minister of Communications saying that they believe taking the .ZA domain will increase Internet availability and other remarks in the cnet article demonstrates that the government simply has no clue as to what they're taking, just as the domain admin has said.

    I think the admin should leave the country, a government this irrational is likely to blame him when they take over and find either that they've been unplugged from the root or that their attempts to do well meaning but wrong things will have the same effect.

    • The following remarks ONLY apply to the government of South Africa, and not necessarily its people. The government of SA is one of the most clueless and inept I've seen of a decent sized country. The president of SA firmly believes that the HIV virus DOES NOT cause aids. Now I dont know about you, but if thats not a grade A as in Aol case of ignorance and stupidity, I dont know what is. And while icann may be bunch of smucks, a government that thinks yanking direct control of their TLD is somehow going to spread Internet access is pathetically stupid to say the least.
      • I think the problem is that you are taking a government pronouncement of the reasons for an action at face value.

        Governments always lie about their reasons for doing things. They don't have any choice in the matter. This is because a government is not a unitary entity. Each separate individual has a reason for his acts. The government doesn't. A government has the intelligence of an earthworm. Maybe. It reacts to stimuli. Some people are in the position to apply more effective stimuli: Presidents, Premiers, Cabinet Ministers, etc. Others are less effective, clerks, etc. But each component part has their own agenda, and their own reaction. When a Senator say what HE intends to do, he may be telling the truth. When he, as a spokesman for the Government, says what the government intends to do, he is automatically lying, whether he realizes it or not (he's usually more effective if he doesn't realize this).

        But just how much attention to you expect this Senator to devote to ensuring that the government acts in the way that he has said it intends to act? Usually the answer is "practically none". He hasn't said what he intends to do. He hasn't said that he will ensure that the government acts this way. He's said that the government intends to act this way. And he has no way of knowing HOW the government intends to act, since it has no unitary intention.

      • Good morning. You are a fuckwit.

        The bill is not about grabbing the ccTLD. That makes up sections 60-65 of 80. The bill makes is encumbant upon the government to provide means to facilitate Internet access to everyone (the government views the Internet as a basic communications medium ... which is a heck of a lot more progressive than most countries), and sets up regulatory frameworks for e-commerce, including the recognition of digital signatures as being legally binding.

    • Start by understanding the process. This bill has been in the making since 1998. Nine technical committees were set up to research various aspects of the bill, and their membership was, indeed, technical, and not political. The bill has gone through three periods of public comment, and eventually made it to parliament and been passed.

      The comment about "internet availability" are, as is usual for the media, somewhat out of context, and refer to practices by registrars which have been considered discriminatory. Some registrars have no published dispute resolution policy, and will not act except on a court order. Others, like the .org registrar, make no attempt to consider status - either you are a section 21 company (non-profit) or you pay a full commercial fee (and can be anyone, including companies). These practices are inconsistent with the law AND the intent of the domain system.

  • by isdnip (49656) on Saturday June 08, 2002 @07:22PM (#3666439)
    DNS is merely a directory that applications consult. There is nothing cast in stone about ICANN's choices, or a government's. Only the users' settings matter. The user selects a server, and the server selects its root server(s). It's a hierarchy of trust up to "."

    So if the South African government and ICANN don't agree, then each DNS administrator (at least for the main root nodes that others consider authoritative) around the world, or for that matter each non-root DNS server operator who knows how, can select whichever ".za" TLD server they prefer. The government can run one, and the incumbent can run one. Frankly, it is more important what John Sidgemore thinks, because he runs the largest backbone ISP. ICANN exists because Bernie Ebbers before, and John now, let it. My guess is that ICANN would not advise the server operators to obey a government over itself. Operators within South Africa might have to, but the rest of the world is not subject to that jurisdiction.

    Likewise, if users don't like ICANN, they can move to a different DNS for .com, .org, and other TLDs too. The problem is that most end users don't know how to choose anything but what their ISP tells them. And there has been no reason to "fork the root" yet. A few non-ICANN domains exist, but they're not widely accepted yet.
    • So if the South African government and ICANN don't agree, then each DNS administrator (at least for the main root nodes that others consider authoritative) around the world, or for that matter each non-root DNS server operator who knows how, can select whichever ".za" TLD server they prefer. The government can run one, and the incumbent can run one.

      This is a pretty bad idea. The result of this is that nobody really knows whether a particular .za domain will work, depending on what DNS servers they might happen to be using at the time. Consequently the value of the .za TLD will be reduced to nearly zero, and everyone will stop using it, except the fanatical nutballs and the spammers.

      Frankly, it is more important what John Sidgemore thinks, because he runs the largest backbone ISP.

      Just because Worldcom provides connectivity to a large number of ISPs doesn't mean a large number of users query Worldcom's DNS servers. End users normally query their own ISP, which queries ICANN's root servers directly - not Worldcom. I've worked for several different ISPs and have not yet seen one that used its backbone provider's DNS servers.
      • This is a pretty bad idea. The result of this is that nobody really knows whether a particular .za domain will work, depending on what DNS servers they might happen to be using at the time. Consequently the value of the .za TLD will be reduced to nearly zero, and everyone will stop using it, except the fanatical nutballs and the spammers.

        Consider the issues you brought up to be a problem with any non-single-authority naming system. If you don't like the flexibility of choosing root servers DNS system offers you, tough luck; we're so sorry you have freedom, and we'll be glad to take it away from you. But most of the rest of us like having a choice.

  • by dgym (584252) on Saturday June 08, 2002 @07:25PM (#3666450)
    Why should the government or indeed anyone in South Africa claim right to a convention that is used by the entire world to simply refer to them?

    .za should not belong to South Africa because it refers to them, .za belongs to every single entity on the internet (using the current domain name system) because it is there to serve us as a reference to South Africa.

    I think if myself and the other residents on my street joined together and tried to seize control of our postal code (after all, it is how people send stuff to our street) we would be laughed at because it makes no sense.

    Now I realise that puchasing of domain names has lead to a way of thinking that domain names belong to their owners, and therefor who better to own a country wide domain name than a body in that country, but I feel that is a misconception.

    A more correct term for purchasing domain names is registering domain names (which can involve the transfer of money) which actualy implies the assignment of rights rather than the assignment of ownership. You get the exclusive right to have that name point at you, but it is never owned because it is just a name, and it belongs to the people using it to refer to you as much as anyone else.

    Now what would help people (myself included) understand the situation better is an explaination of what you can actually do once you have 'seized control of .za'. Is this actually an issue?

    Please would someone care to explain the implications of such a situation. If it has all sorts of potential implications on how the internet or other global systems could pan out then it would be of great interest if these were explored in detail, otherwise who has control of a domain name seems rather irrelevant news.
  • It's not like all the possible extensions are used up. If an island with a few hundred people can have its own TLD, why not let South Africa be associated with two, the current .za for people who don't want to go through a corrupt government monopoly, and something appropriate for those who want to show pride in their government by using a domain it controls?

    That said, if this dispute can be used to help destroy ICANN, that should be encouraged.
    ___
  • Staying On topic (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Char Lander (584162)
    Just to inform all those misinformed people. South Africa is predominatly encompassed by people of the white pigment not black. But if you insist on calling someone black a "nigger" you can take your comments to www.kkk.com or some place that deals with derogitory, spiteful comments. I have always believed slashdot to be openminded and I still believe it to be. So before you go off ranting about "nigger control" and other racists remarks dealing with a government and country that is mostly white, do a little research so you don't look uneducated. I do not accept racists and I would like to believe that most of the slashdot community does not accept them either.

    Now for the topic at hand. I would like to believe that if a country has a direct relation to a domain name that they would be in control of it. Similar to .uk. However, I believe some legislation needs to be done in the ICANN in order to keep things under control so one government does not get bent-out-of-shape because they lack control of what is thought to be, in essence but not in actuality, theirs.

    The internet is supposed to be a free community and strong arm tactics from anyside should not be tolerated.

    What do other people think?
    • Speaking of misinformed... South Africa is not "predominately encompassed by people of the white pigment". Please don't think that I'm trying to make this a racial thing, because I'm not. South Africa is controlled by the white minority... get your facts straight.
    • While everybody else reams you out about your comment that most of SA is "encompassed by," (whatever you meant by that), people of the white pigment, I will take you to task the "white pigment" bit.

      I thought everybody was reasonably aware these days that the only human skin pigment was the "black" one.

      "White" people are simply deficient in pigment and are thus the color of human *flesh* rather than human "skin" color, much as blanched asparagus is the color of cellulose rather than green.

      ( Making the whole "flesh colored" crayon thingy kind of ironic really, it really was flesh colored, just not *skin* colored).

      KFG
    • Nigger
      Pronunciation: 'ni-g&r
      Function: noun
      1a: one that nigs b: a tool or machine for nigging.

      Common. Lets all grow up now. After all, when was the last time you saw somebody nig?
    • Sorry but the UK government does not have control of .uk. That is controlled by a non-profit organisation called Nominet [nominet.net], set up originally by Demon Internet (one of the first UK ISPs). And a very good job they do too. As I mentioned in an earlier post, excellent service for only $3.65/year per domain.

      Phillip.

      PS Not smart playing into the racists hands. The only time I saw the 'n' word was in *your* post because you put it in a +2 post (presumably the post you are replying got modded down out of view, as you should have expected it would have been)
      PPS South Africa is not "predominatly encompassed by people of the white pigment not black", as "Black South Africans make up about 70 percent of the country's population of over 44 million people" (ref [bellanet.org]).
  • Who gave ICANN the say so over this? The South African government wanting control over the .za domain seems to me to be less of an issue than ICANN wanting control over the . zone.

    • The US military did. The Internet was, orignally, created by them. It was called ARPANET back in the day. Now as time went on they authorised the connection of research instutions, and then the public. As time went on control and administration of the network was transfered to the private sector. ICANN, being the administrator of the namespace.

      Now as with most everything on the internet, you don't have to obey the rules. You are welcome to setup your own namespace with your own root servers and the whole 9 yards. However people are then perfectly free to ignore you. There are a few orginisations that have started their own DNS structure to attempt to add new TLDs, however they are by and large failing because DNS administraators are not choosing to add their servers to the list of roots they check.
      • See, government control! That is a precedent that the government of South Africa can use. The .ZA namespace does NOT belong to the USA. Therefore it cannot be given by the USA to ICANN. Therefore it does not belong to ICANN, either. It rightly belongs to South Africa. The government of South Africa then has the say on how it is set up, delegated, or whatever.

        • The South African government can declare the name theirs, oust the admin and all that. Then, ICANN can tell the root servers to stop accepting updates from them. The .za domain will the effectively cease to exist to the world. Only DNS admins that specifically add the SA servers to their list of roots will see it.

          The DNS system, and most of the Internet is all about cooperation and following established rules. Noone is forcing yuo, but if you don't you just won't work with anyone else. It's like IP addresses, those are handed out by ARIN, RIPE and the other organisations like them. Well you are free to ignore them if you want. You can program your network equipment to use whatever IP addresses you like, even ones you don't own. However, your upstream provider will refuse to route your traffic if you do. You can run your own little network however you please with whatever addressess you like, but if you want to play on the Internet, you have to use the ones given to you or your traffic won't go anywhere.

          It's the same thing with DNS. I run a DNS server and I can do anything I want with it. I can add domain names to it that someone else owns, nothing is stopping me. However, only people that use that DNS server will see my mapping. Everyone else will see the correct mapping. I can also tell it what root servers I want it to search. I am free to add the root servers from an alternate TLD orginisation (there are a couple out there) or even remove the root-servers.net servers entirely. If I wanted, I could even setup a root with my own TLDs. However, this all just affects people that trust and use my DNS. If I were to create a root and add the .sycraft TLD, only people that added my server to their root list (or used it directly) would ever see it.

          So the situation is the same with South Africa. Sure, they "take control" of the .za domain if they like, but root servers can refuse to accept updates from them. All the roots except for I and K are located in the US (I is in Stockholm, K is in London). Now since ICANN runs the roots, they make the rules.

          Again, if you don't like the roots, you can move to or create an alternate root authority. Noone is stopping you, however most of us only take the ICANN controled roots as authorative, so we will never see your DNS updates. That's how freedom on the internet works. You are free to ignore the established rules and protocols, and noone will arrest you or anything. However the rest of us are then free to ignore you and your method of doing things.
          • Then, ICANN [icann.org] can tell the root servers to stop accepting updates from them.

            And do you think ICANN [icann.org] would be so stupid to do that? I hope they do so we can finally get rid of ICANN [icann.org] once and for all.

            All country code TLDs should be under the control of the specific country identified. That seems to be the case with many, and maybe most. I think that the government of South Africa [www.gov.za] has the right to designate who (be it a government department, a corporation, or even an individual) runs the zone, and even specify the policies under which it operates. The fact that some governments already do have that control just makes the case all that much stronger.

            I run a DNS server and I can do anything I want with it. I can add domain names to it that someone else owns, nothing is stopping me. However, only people that use that DNS server will see my mapping. Everyone else will see the correct mapping.

            What makes you say that any one name space is the correct one? How do you define correct? Is it correct if it's what you think is right? Is it correct just because ICANN [icann.org] runs it?

            If I wanted, I could even setup a root with my own TLDs.

            Been there, done that [ipal.net].

            My real point is, however, that if it comes down to two different sources of .za TLD zone data, people will demand to use the officially government sanctioned source, as opposed to the one that the current operator runs. If ICANN [icann.org] fails to use the government one, I predict it will be the final stake through the heart of an organization that should have been terminated years ago.

            And yes, I will put the South African government [www.gov.za] sanctioned .za zone delegation in my root zone as soon as they set one up.

  • by Alsee (515537) on Saturday June 08, 2002 @08:28PM (#3666610) Homepage
    Anyone who wants to manage an internet namespace (.ZA in this case) has three choices. (1) Overthrow ICANN, (1) Work within ICANN's rules, or (3) Ignore ICANN.

    South Africa's mistake is that they chose option 3, and I will explain.

    Option 1, overthrowing ICANN is an interesting option (good? bad? I dunno). This is clearly NOT South Africa's intent however.

    Option 2, Working within ICANN's rules would have saved everyone a big headache. The current .ZA administrator would be happy to unload this unpaid job he's doing. Heck, buy it from him for $1.

    So, what's wrong with Option 3? A web site is useless unless people can find its IP address. The only way to find the IP address is to look it up in the list published by the official domain administrator. To find this list they ask their LOCAL ISP (probably NOT in South Africa). If the South African government "seizes" control - publishes it's own list and preventing the current administrator from publishing a list, then the "official list" vanishes".

    It would then be up to individual LOCAL ISP's to take it upon themselves to use the unofficial South African government list, or to follow the rules and answer "UNKNOWN".

    The internet works on COOPERATION. Without it .ZA does not exist outside South Africa's physical borders.

    -
    • So the goverment is doing number 2. Just not paying him the $1. Claiming it is thiers.

      Since it is only forth a $1, what is the problem?

      He lives in South Africa, he is under thier authority, they win.

      Note: South African Government List is the Offical List. Just not preferred list.
      • So the goverment is doing number 2. Just not paying him the $1. Claiming it is thiers.
        Since it is only forth a $1, what is the problem?


        No, they aren't. The $1 was just a suggested symbolic EXTRA, and is irrelevant to the process.

        He lives in South Africa, he is under thier authority, they win.

        In order to view a .ZA site from anywhere outside South Africa you access a DomainNameServer(DNS) outside South Africa. These servers (thousands) are NOT under South Africal authority, they lose.

        It's like a Texas unilaterally announcing its telephone area codes is 666. If the telephone switches in the rest of the country aren't changed then the calls won't get routed into Texas. It will vanish off of the US (and global) phone system. You can dial out, but you can't dial in.

        South Africa has no control over internet routing outside South Africa. They can dial out, but no one else can dial in.

        -
        • No true - with .ZA

          There is a guy in South Africa with THE LIST. The government now has THELIST. The government supplies THELIST now.

          Noone outside of South Africa is effected, unless thay WANT to be stupid. A leagal transition occurred.

          It may not be right, but it is leagal.

          About Texas, you are right becuase the group that control that list is not inside Texas, so Texas can not take action.

          Where it is sticky is 1 is both Canada and US. Also there are a few islands that are also under 1. Now the US can not create a new Area Code unless all agree, then it files with a UN chartered agency for all the world to know the new area code. Since the US / Canada controls that area code list. They can do that.

          Note list was owned by AT&T until breakup, then US took authority -- Wait that is South Africa over .ZA -- Oh my god!! NO ONE CALL ME!!!
          • SA=South Africa, SAG=SA Gov.

            A leagal transition occurred.

            It's important to note what legal transitions occurred and what did not. SAG can take the hardware. They can take the data. They can even bar him from transmitting the data. What they cannot grab is his foreign ownership/control of records in a foreign computer.

            Almost the entire world uses the top level ICANN servers (directly or indirectly) to resolve domain names. Those servers are not in SA. Your computer doesn't know the SAG's list even exists unless ICANN servers point to it. ICANN granted the guy control over the .ZA entry on ICANN root level servers. THELIST is anything he says it is. He has the sole authority to add and delete entries.

            As I originally said, SAG needs to either work within the system or work to replace the system. Neither side wants .ZA to vanish into a black hole. I'm sure SAG will go through the ICANN process for transfer of control and ICANN will go easy on the rules to help resolve the government SNAFU.

            SAG didn't realize they were trying to grab something that was outside their borders. Is it right? .ZA is supposed to be for SA, so maybe. Is it legal? No.

            -
  • You know, I had just always assumed that it was up to each nation's government to decide how their own TLD was controlled. They could control it themselves, give the job to ICANN, sell it to the highest bidder or even ask some mystic to sort the whole thing out by astrology if they want.

    I guess this just proves once more that when it comes to internet law and politics one's assumptions about the obvious are rarely correct.

  • I'm a South African (Score:4, Informative)

    by theolein (316044) on Saturday June 08, 2002 @11:23PM (#3667156) Journal
    To dispell a few myths(at the risk of being called redundant but it seems necessary given the level of knowledge here about places not big in the news): South Africa has a white minority of some 6 million people in a country of about 42 million, the rest being mostly black of various tribes, with about 3 million of mixed race and about 1 million asians. It's pretty varied culturally and worth a visit. It was ruled by the white minority for most of it'S political history and started changing after 1989 with the ending of racialy biased laws. It had it's first truly democratic elections in 1994 which the current government, the ANC won.

    It has had a lot of ups and downs and has a horrific crime rate and a lot of problems, but, in general, it has done a lot better than many whites predicted(myself included). It has won a major legal struggle against international drug companies in it's efforts to legally produce cheap , generic anti-AIDS drugs.

    One of it's unsolved problems is that the government is new in historical terms and tends to do things in ridiculously bureaucratic ways. This messing with the .za domain seems to be one of those things. Basically it seems as if they are trying to make the admin of the TLD *and* registrations more available to the majority of the population which is very poor and has no internet access. While I applaud this, I think they're going about it in the wrong manner and at the wrong place. Having control of the TLD isn't going to give anybody DSL or even Dial-Up overnight and even if they had the access, they still wouldn't have the computers. My guess is that this is going to end up in a bureaucratic, corrupt mess that some other government will have to sort out in the future. But you never know.
  • I wish I was the global administrator of some stuff!

    Nobody could be as 1337 as me, if I was a global administrator of something. I could tell my boss to suck it.
  • by bushboy (112290) <lttc@lefthandedmonkeys.org> on Sunday June 09, 2002 @03:14AM (#3667793) Homepage
    Firstly, The .za debate is still ongoing, there's a lot that will happen still and hopefully common sense will prevail.

    Secondly, I'm frankly not amazed at the kind of total troll bait that's filled up this topic, but what I am shocked about is some white South Africans attitude toward thier country.

    The whole attitude of 'everything has gone to shit in the last 10 years'

    Well, leave the country then - we don't need your negativity or short-sightedness.

    Fact: everything was shit for 80% of the population for 100 years !

    Fact: our new government now has to build an infrastructure to support 40 million people as opposed to 3 million 'privileged' whites and you expect it to happen overnight ?

    Fact: There was no 'bloody revolution' and as a white South African, you have your patient fellow black South Africans to thank for that - give that some thought.

    Yes, we have wide-scale corruption, crime, rape and numerous other problems - we have to fix that somehow. Name me a country without similar problems !

    Yes, government is messing up badly on many issues, but heck, at least most people have a fighting chance to succeed these days.

    Get over the fact that your a white South African and become just 'a South African' and for gods sake, help make the country work instead of publically degrading it at every opportunity !

    We, as South Africa, are, like it not, a roll model for the rest of Africa - if we mess up badly, Africa stays in the dark ages for another 50 years.

    As a white South African remember one thing, your living in AFRICA - wake up, this is not 'the colonies' anymore.
    • I think I'm the only white South African to have openly posted here and fail to see what was was so racist about my post. A lot of Americans were talking about "Niggers" etc but I didn't see the usual crowd of embittered ex-Rhodesians drop in.

      So I would point you to my post "I'm a South African" and ask you to read it again.

      Further I should tell you that I think you are exhibiting exactly the problem that is rife in the government: Any criticism and and they start screaming "racists". Amazing how that helps them avoid the onus of having to be accountable for their actions doesn't it?
  • Okay, all the "right way/wrong way" and political stuff aside, I don't understand one thing:

    How does the control over who maintains the domain list affect anyones ability to access the Internet? I'm reading the article as saying that by South Africa maintaining the TLD itself, more people will have better access to the Internet.

    Is this change suddelly going to put more computers or network connections in to remote/poor sections of the country?
  • As a South African, I find the following quote from the article most distasteful:

    "...the government, of course, has men with guns, so it's not like he's going to win in the end, it's only a question of how ugly it will get."

    We have the rule of law,you know, and an excelent constitution. I trust our constitution to protect my rights. More so than in most "first world" countries.

    This argument will certainly not be settled by men with guns, but most likeley in the South African Constitutional Court.

    The goverment has been challenged on constitutional grounds before, and have in many cases lost. And the beautiful thing is, the decision of the Constitutional court is respected, and upheld.
    • We have the rule of law,you know, and an excelent constitution. I trust our constitution to protect my rights. More so than in most "first world" countries.

      Ehmm. Suppose Mike Lawrie states that he's doing a good job, and is not going to hand over the domain. Eventually the "men with guns" show up to haul him into court.

      Of course he will probably get the chance to go to court by himself. But the fact that he goes is based on the knowledge that the "men with guns" will show up a bit later on if he doesn't.

      Roger.

It is surely a great calamity for a human being to have no obsessions. - Robert Bly

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