This page looks at addressing: identification of websites
and other locations on the network.
It covers -
As Christine Borgman notes in From Gutenberg to the
Global Information Infrastructure: Access To Information
in the Networked World (Cambridge: MIT Press 2000),
if you can't find information it - for practical purposes
- doesn't exist. While there is been much talk of the
web as a global digital library, access to the sites that
comprise that library or to people is dependent on agreement
about identification of entities on the network.
Determination of rules for identification, in particular
the structure of the Domain Name System (DNS)
and the allocation of names, is thus particularly contentious.
Globally and in Australia there is debate about the operation
of bodies such ICANN and ownership of addresses or the
network. Should names be allocated on a 'first come, first
served' basis or to those bodies that 'own' the name offline?
And how do we resolve disputes?
ICANN and the DNS
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names &
is the non-profit private sector body formed in 1998 to
assume responsibility from the US government for four
key Internet functions: management of the domain name
system, allocation of IP address space, assignment of
protocol parameters (the 'http' you see in web addresses
is a protocol) and management of the root server system.
Its determination of the global rules for what a web site
can be called and how that site can be found has significant
ramifications. As a result it has been described
by Dan Schiller - author of Digital Capitalism
(Cambridge: MIT Press 2000) - as the "unelected parliament
of the Web" and by Karl Auerbach and Milton Mueller
as "now essentially an organ of the trademark lobby",
setting policies that will significantly affect free expression
and privacy by favouring commercial interests.
ICANN continues to grapple with widespread, although often
unfair, criticism. We have explored the 'ICANN Wars'
in a more detailed profile.
A separate profile dealing with Top Level Domains (TLDs)
Within Australia there was similar debate about the move
to industry self-regulation of the Australian domain space.
We have examined that debate later in this guide and there
is a more detailed profile
on auDA, the Australian domain administrator.
is the acronym adopted by the Internet Engineering Task
Force's (IETF) telephone numbering working group to describe
use of the DNS to relate E.164 numbers to URLs.
E.164 is the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
standard identifying telephone number formats.
Potential use of ENUM is wide-ranging. It might, for example
allow a single contact identifier for individuals. Digital
business cards could comprise a single number rather than
a long list of addresses for the owner's email
address, mobile phone, home phone, business phone and
fax, with services using the net to translate that one
number into specific addresses.
ENUM's architecture is simple. Applications first convert
phone numbers to their domain name equivalents - taking
an international phone number that begins with the country
code (for example +44 20 362 8752), reversing the sequence,
inserting periods between each digit and adding a .e164.arpa
suffix to produce a domain address (eg 22.214.171.124.126.96.36.199.2.4.4.e164.arpa).
That address is queried against a name server, which refers
to one or more Naming Authority Pointer (NAPTR) records,
each of which features a 'contact resource' (eg an email
address) and associated information that enables applications
to process the contact. Preferences enable the address
'owner' to specify how contact is handled, with a cascade
of messages or allmessages to one box. An NAPTR for example
might first direct an ENUM-enabled phone to ring a business
phone, then mobile phone, then home phone and then a voice-to-email
gateway if the initial calls are unanswered.
ENUM remains contentious at both a technical and political
Discussions in December concluded without the expected
agreement and the process of achieving a global standard
may be protracted. The ramifications of ENUM are uncertain.
Proponents argue that like the web, a range of business
models and software applications will evolve once there's
agreement on standards.
Privacy advocates such as the US Electronic Privacy Information
have expressed concern about potential misuse of ENUM
as a unique global identifier, accordingly organising
to "Just Say ENO to ENUM". So far there is no
campaign against VeriSign's similar WebNum
Anthony Rutkowski's September 2000 column
ENUM: the Internet's Glueball Infrastructure is
a short introduction. There is more detail at
the ITU's ENUM page
and the Washington Internet Project's page.
The 2001 ENUM proposal by the former Australian Communications
Authority to the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity Standardization
Program Forum is here.
other resource identification schemes
RealNames and other keyword schemes, URNs, PURLs and
other digital resource locator schemes are discussed in
more detail in the metadata
and search profiles elsewhere
on this site.