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Wikileaks and Making Sense of DNS

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, December 3 2010

With Wikileaks, the domain name system that makes the World Wide Web work has, kinda amazingly, become central to the global conversation today. And on the off chance that you could use some insight into just how DNS works, the two-and-a-half-minute video above from the Council of European National Top Level Domain Registrars is a concise introduction to the the global, distributed system by which Internet turns IP addresses like 213.251.145.96 into human-intelligible domain names like Wikileaks.org. One thing is certain about this whole Wikileaks episode: it's turning into a real public education about how the Internet and World Wide Web actually work. Turns out, it's not magic!

Now, you might asking yourself, self -- Why does the fact that EveryDNS decided today to stop providing DNS services to Wikileaks mean that the secret clearinghouse's site has to go down? After all, I have my own [mynamehere].com and I've never bothered with any of this DNS mess. In brief, that's because DNS services are generally bundled into a package when you go ahead and register your domain name with a service like GoDaddy.

But EveryDNS is based on the premise that DNS hosting records shouldn't cost you anything, and is particularly appeal to anyone who greater control over their DNS records than is provided by leaving the matter to their domain registrar. Reads the EveryDNS site, "DNS is often compared to the analog equivalent of the White Pages. If this is the case, why do people pay for DNS hosting when their phone number is listed in the white pages for free? We feel that DNS should be free for both listings and lookups, not simply the latter."

And while separating DNS from domain name registration would seem to make sense for an edgy outfit like Wikileaks, but at least one observer thinks that Wikileaks should have paid a bit more attention to the fundamentals behind keeping Wikileaks.org alive for all the world to see. "EveryDNS is a free service with ~500,000 users," tweeted David Ulevitch, EveryDNS' founder. "W[ikileaks] should not be using it. Should do it themselves or pay."

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