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Trading one centralized net for another?

Friday, August 07, 2009 by Dave Winer.

Interesting question came up in response to yesterday's piece about naming. Since name resolution is inherently centralized, aren't we trading one vulnerable system for another? Couldn't a hacker take down the name server just as easily as they swamp twitter.com with zombie requests? Permalink to this paragraph

First, I'm not an expert on this subject, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. Permalink to this paragraph

Second, let's summarize the problem we're solving.  Permalink to this paragraph

We're trying to turn a mnemonic like judy into a URL like looselycoupled.net/judy.xml. Permalink to this paragraph

If the name server were to go down, one thing we lose is the ability to find new people. But our clients still know how to find all the people we were subscribed to before the attack. We also lose the ability to relocate feeds that move. But that's only temporary, and we still have HTTP-level redirects, and we don't have that ability in the RSS network today and we seem to get along okay.  Permalink to this paragraph

A picture named meow.gifAnother observation. Somehow the domain name system survives these kinds of attacks (knock wood). That's all we're talking about here, a service that's no more complex than DNS. And like DNS, the net could operate indefinitely even if it went down, though we'd lose the ability to find new people or ones that moved. Permalink to this paragraph

One more comment, unrelated to the centralization question. A question that keeps coming up. Why not have the name be like an email address, like judy@looselycoupled.net instead of judy. There are several reasons why. 1. Twitter has nice short names, and if you want to be as easy as Twitter, you have to have short names too. 2. The goal is to map a name to a URL. If the name has all the info the URL does, why bother mapping at all? No point, just skip the whole thing and have users enter URLs. Permalink to this paragraph

I posted a video excerpt from Oliver Stone's movie Any Given Sunday where Al Pacino tells the team they have to fight for every inch if they want to win. I've learned that simplicity in protocols is the same. You don't get many breakthroughs, most of the simplicity comes from fighting for every inch. Stone, speaking through Pacino, tells the story infinitely better than I can. Permalink to this paragraph

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A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

"The protoblogger." - NY Times.

"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.

One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.

"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.

"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.

"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.


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