Monday, 24 June 2019 11:04

When one man ran the Australian domain name system...

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When one man ran the Australian domain name system... Pixabay

A lone individual, Robert Elz, managed the domain name system for the .au domain from the time Australia hooked up to the Internet until he was forced to pass it over to a the current organisation, auDA, in 2001.

Elz, then an academic at Melbourne University, did not look kindly on attempts by the National Office of the Information Economy to take control of the .au domain namespace, and, according to a report in Fairfax Media in 2001, flatly ignored repeated requests to do so.

In 1995, Elz had signed a five-year licence with the University to allow its own commercial unit, Melbourne IT, to sell .com.au domains for a fee. But he never made any money out of it.

Sunday marked 30 years since the Internet came to Australia.

The NOIE and auDA, which was endorsed by then Federal Communications Minister Richard Alston to take control, then elevated the fight to ICANN, the international organisation that governs Internet domains.

By September, Elz had been forced to relinquish his control and auDA took over running the .au namespace. He moved to Thailand later and has been become something of a recluse.

Geoff Huston, the chief scientist at the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre and one of the pioneers in establishing the Internet in Australia, told iTWire that the seizure of control of the .au namespace was one of the "least creditable acts", largely driven by then prime minister John Howard and the head of the NOIE, Paul Twomey.

He said that for a long time, the Internet was a private network, with even naming conventions being "our thing".

When Twomey placed the network in public hands, Huston said, there should have been compensation for seizure of a private asset. It was "a dark and despicable act in my book", he added.

He said the trust systems that underpinned the Internet in the past were more a matter of faith these days, describing the current state of things as "deeply worrying".

"We are sacrificing everything, including security, for a fast network. It is all built on short-term expediency, he added.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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