News and commentary from the cross-platform scripting community.
cactus Mail Starting 5/30/98

From: beno@xs4all.nl (Michel Benevento);
Sent at Sun, 31 May 98 21:42:56 +0200;
Re:Making Money from DNS

I select URLs from my bookmarks, I click on links, I double click on them in e-mails, I copy/paste them, but I rarely type them in my browser. I have my 'FOOD' keyword implemented as a bookmark-subfolder or I use Yahoo as a point of reference. The KNS (keyword name system) you are talking about puts a commercial filter between me and Net's information, and I'll ignore it like I ignore the press-section of a company's website looking for objective information.

From: ebear@presto.com (Eric Bear Albrecht);
Sent at Sun, 31 May 1998 09:08:19 -0700;

Yeah, sure you can make money with a scheme like you are talking about for pissing in the soup of DNS. You can make money by selling tacos mae from the neighbors' cats and dogs too. I like the way "frob" gets translated into http://www.frob.com/ and I'll get pissed if somebody goes and breaks it for the sake of greed.

From: gwbst5@pop.pitt.edu (George Bell);
Sent at Sun, 31 May 1998 10:59:00 -0400;
Atlas Shrugged

I'm reading Atlas Shrugged. Doesn't it seem that the Microsoft DOJ case is right from this book?

I'm sure that the DOJ's position is a farce. There are software companies besides Netscape, such as Opera software, that also make browsers. They are not named as parties in the DOJ's suit. If this case were about freeing the software industry from a Microsoft hegemony, they would certainly be named. To my knowledge, no one has even asked them if they feel oppressed by Microsoft.

A few weeks ago there was an editorial by Bork, he's Netscape's counsel, in the back of the front page of the WSJ. Did you read it? If you did, what is your opinion of his editorial? I thought it was a load of crap.

From: malpern@scott.skidmore.edu (Micah Alpern);
Sent at Sat, 30 May 1998 18:54:38 -0700;
Re:Making Money from DNS

There used to be a feature in a beta version of Netscape (I think it was back in 3.0) that worked so that if a DNS lookup failed, the browser submitted the URL to a search engine. So you could type in: Greek Food at the URL and get an Excite output back. However, this feature never made it into the release version. I think I prefer this more 'free market' approach, although I realize it just puts the power in the hands of the Search Engine companies and not the browser makers.

At least in my experience (Comunicator 4.0, Navigator 3.04, or IE 4.0, on a Mac) the URL guessing mechanism does not work as you described it. While the browser will try putting a www. at the Beginning and a .com at the end, if these fail it will NOT go on to try .edu, .org, .net, or .gov.

For example consider www.skidmore.edu. At least for me if I type in "skidmore " all I get is an error message. Perhaps things are different on Windows.

From: phoffman@proper.com (Paul Hoffman);
Sent at Sat, 30 May 1998 18:46:24 -0700;
Re:Making Money from DNS

Not too deep in a control panel on your system is a pointer to the machine your software sends DNS requests to. You'll change that number to the number of a machine running at Netscape or Yahoo or Microsoft or Oracle or Compaq, or whoever grabs the top of this hill and wins the hearts of Internet users.

I hope you're wrong about this guess (but I think the Netscape hack is fine). As you know, the DNS server is for everything on your PC, not just the Web browser. If whoever says "point at our DNS server" isn't set up to scale, all your Internet services on your PC go down, and with nary an understandable error message. (Try it: reset the DNS server setting on your computer to a bogus value, restart, and see if you can understand the various error messages you get when you try to use email or the Web).

The Netscape hack works because they can make a crucial assumption: any value that doesn't have an internal period is a keyword search, all others go to the user's DNS setting. You are unlikely to enter "food.and.music".

From: galmast@gte.net (Richard Roberts);
Sent at Sat, 30 May 1998 14:54:02 -1000;
Re:Making Money from DNS

It looks like Microsoft has already done some work on this. I downloaded the Internet Explorer 4.0 PowerToys from:


One of the features is Quick Search. This PowerToy lets you reach the search engines of your choice faster than ever. For example, typing "av ActiveX" into the address bar launches a search with Alta Vista on the keyword "ActiveX." If you do not prefix your search with anything, it goes to Yahoo (if it could not find a DNS for your search term) and pulls up a list of possibilities. It would not be too hard for Microsoft make the default go to their own lookup engine first before going to Yahoo. It's a good idea, my non-geek friends would really like something that easy to use.

From: durrell@innocence.com (Bryant Durrell);
Sent at Sat, 30 May 1998 17:45:13 -0700 (PDT);

Nice column -- just wanted to give you a pointer or two and make a couple of technical notes...

First off, check out http://www.gtld-mou.org/ for what the Internet Society, Jon Postel (godfather of the DNS system), and others are trying to do with DNS. This isn't directly related to your column but it's relevant in a way.

Second, while I think people will inevitably be able to type "food" in their URL window and get a specific page, that doesn't have to be linked with DNS and in fact it shouldn't be. Why not? Because there is no reason at all that "food" might not become its own top level DNS domain someday. Unlikely, maybe, but very possible. If it did, and there was already a "food" keyword implemented via DNS, there would be problems.

Let's see... I'm looking at the Infoworld article, and it looks like they're implementing it the way I'd have recommended -- no need for it to be done with DNS, when you can have a separate server used for this purpose specifically. That way there's no risk of namespace collision. I'd go a step further if I worked at Netscape, and phase in a new field which is for those keywords only -- and then over time phase out the URL/Location field. Make it accessible for us bitheads but not needed for the average user.

Oh, and a final little feature I first found in Netscape a few months ago -- type "/scripting Dave" into the URL/Location field. (Without the double quotes.) Hit return. It's pretty cool. Doesn't work on single words, alas.


From: tomalak@dsoe.com (Lawrence Lee);
Sent at Sat, 30 May 1998 16:28:17 -0700;
Re:Making Money from DNS

Have you already mentioned/looked at Real Names...? It'll probably be similiar to the inital NetCenter offerings.


And that News.Com Steve Capps interview:

"We just spent the last decade convincing people that typing filenames is stupid--à la DOS--and now here we are typing things that are worse than filenames. Walter Smith (a former Newton team member who followed Capps to Microsoft) pointed out that unfortunately people might expect to see "www" now. It becomes kind of an iconic tag that says, "Here is a Web site." So, even if we wanted to get rid of it, we may not be able to. So as you're driving down 101, you see on a billboard, www.bofa.com. You kind of say, "Oh, that's a Web site." So the www actually may outlive its usefulness in terms of the technical reason for navigating to a certain site, but people may keep it around just because it's a way of saying, "Hey, I'm a Web address." You know, it's shorthand to say "visit us at the Web." The UI (user interface) is ready to crash and burn. So like I said, let's try to sneak a new paradigm in before people get calcified in what they expect from browsing."

It's not billed as www.cnnfn.com, but cnnfn.com. Soon, cnnfn or finance. =)

From: jbaty@fusionary.com (Jack Baty);
Sent at Sat, 30 May 1998 18:50:26 -0400;
Re:Making Money from DNS

Inevitable, but a terrible idea.

When I type the word 'FOOD' in my browser, I should be presented with a nicely organized list of food-related resources. I do not want to be sent to the web site of the company with enough money to 'own' that particular keyword. And worse yet, next month it could be a different site. That introduces a level of inconsistency which I can do without. Perhaps companies could pay a smaller amount to be _listed_ under a particular keyword. I'm open to allowing those who pay more to be at the top of the list, but I'm not as interested in granting exclusive rights to a single company .

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