A Unique, Authoritative Root for the DNS - The Internet Protocol Journal - Volume 4, Number 3

by M. Stuart Lynn, ICANN

The following
Internet Coordination Policy
(ICP) is being posted for the information of the Internet community by the
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
(ICANN) and is a statement of policy currently followed in administering the authoritative root of the Domain Name System. Comments on this article are welcome and should be directed to


This article reaffirms ICANN's commitment to a single, authoritative public root for the Internet
Domain Name System
(DNS) and to the management of that unique root in the public interest according to policies developed through community processes. This commitment is founded on the technical and other advice of the community and is embodied in existing ICANN policy.

The DNS is intended to provide a convenient means of referring to sites available on the Internet. By offering users an easy-to-use and reliable means of unambiguously referring to Web sites, e-mail servers, and the Internet's many other services, the DNS has helped the Internet achieve its promise as a global communications medium for commerce, research, education, and cultural and other expressive activities.

The DNS is a globally distributed database of domain name (and other) information. One of its core design goals is that it reliably provides the same answers to the same queries from any source on the public Internet, thereby supporting predictable routing of Internet communications. Achievement of that design goal requires a globally unique public name space derived from a single, globally unique DNS

Although the Internet allows a high degree of decentralized activities, coordination of the assignment function by a single authority is necessary where unique parameter values are technically required. Because of the uniqueness requirement, the content and operation of the DNS root must be coordinated by a central entity.

Where central coordination is necessary, it should be performed by an organization dedicated to serving the public interest and that acts according to policies developed through processes that are developed through the participation of affected stakeholders. Traditionally, the responsibility for performing the central coordinating functions of the global Internet for the public good, including management of the unique public DNS root, has been carried out by the
Internet Assigned Numbers Authority
(IANA) [12]. ICANN's core mission is to continue the work of the IANA in a more formalized and globally representative framework, to ensure the views of all the Internet's stakeholders are taken into account in carrying out this public trust.

Over the past several years, some private organizations have established DNS roots as alternates to the authoritative root. Some uses of these alternate roots do not jeopardize the stability of the DNS. For example, some are purely private roots operating inside institutions and are carefully insulated from the DNS. Others are purely experimental in the best traditions of the Internet and are carefully managed so as not to interfere with the operation of the DNS. These both operate within community-established norms.

Frequently, however, these alternate roots have been established to support top-level or pseudo-top-level domain name registries that are operated for profit. Yet other alternate roots have been established by certain individuals to protest the policies developed by the broader community processes for management of the authoritative root, or to express their disinterest in participating in those processes. These alternate roots have not been launched through any ICANN consensus processes, so they have not been entered into the authoritative root managed by the IANA or ICANN.

These alternate roots typically substitute insular concerns in place of the community-based processes that govern the management of the authoritative root. Their operators decide to include particular top-level domains in these alternate roots that have not been subjected to the tests of community support and conformance with consensus processes—coordinated by ICANN—that would allow their inclusion in the authoritative root. These decisions of the alternate-root operators have been made without any apparent regard for the fundamental public-interest concern of Internet stability. The widespread use of active domain names in these alternate roots could in fact impair the uniqueness of the authoritative name-resolution mechanism and hence the stability of the DNS.

ICANN's mandate to preserve stability of the DNS requires that it avoid encouraging the proliferation of these alternate roots that could cause conflicts and instability. This means that ICANN continues to adhere to community-based processes in its decisions regarding the content of the authoritative root. Within its current policy framework, ICANN can give no preference to those who choose to work outside of these processes and outside of the policies engendered by this public trust.

None of this precludes experimentation done in a manner that does not threaten the stability of name resolution in the authoritative DNS. Responsible experimentation is essential to the vitality of the Internet. Nor does it preclude the ultimate introduction of new architectures that may ultimately obviate the need for a unique, authoritative root. But the translation of experiments into production and the introduction of new architectures require community-based approaches, and are not compatible with individual efforts to gain proprietary advantage.

The Technical Need for a Single Authoritative Root

The DNS was originally deployed in the mid-1980s[13] as an improved means of mapping easy-to-remember names (i.e.,
) to the IP addresses (i.e.,
) by which packets are routed on the Internet. It is a distributed database that holds this mapping information (as well as various other types of technical information regarding computers on the Internet) in
resource records
. The DNS provides these resource records in response to queries it receives from programs called
on individual computers throughout the Internet. The resolvers translate domain names into the corresponding IP addresses.

From the inception of the DNS, its most fundamental design goal has been to provide the same answers to the same queries issued from any place on the Internet. As stated in RFC 1034, the basic specification of the DNS's "Concepts and Facilities,"[16], "The primary (design) goal is a consistent name space which will be used for referring to resources." And as reiterated in RFC 2535, "Domain Name System Security Extensions,"[15] "It is part of the design philosophy of the DNS that the data in it is public and that the DNS gives the same answers to all inquirers."

The DNS is hierarchical. By design, the hierarchy begins with a group of
root nameservers
(often called simply
root servers
), which are specially designated computers operated under common coordination that provide information about which other computers are authoritative regarding the top-level domains in the DNS naming structure. These set of root servers house the
authoritative root
. Thus, a resolver seeking information concerning a domain name such as
obtains one of the root servers' resource records about
, which tells the resolver which computers have authoritative information about names within the
top-level domain. The resolver then queries one of those authoritative
nameservers about
, to locate the nameservers for
. A query is then made to one of those nameservers obtain the IP address of the computer designated by the name

The principal advantage of this hierarchical structure is that it allows different parts of the naming database to be maintained by different entities. According to the DNS's design, each domain was intended to be administered by a single entity.[19]

When the DNS was deployed in the mid-1980s, a set of root nameservers was designated and several top-level domains were established. These root nameservers (there are now 13 of them distributed around the world) are intended to provide authoritative information about which nameservers hold the naming information for each of the top-level domains. Since the authoritative root nameservers operate at the top of the hierarchy, resolvers find them by referring to IP addresses prestored at local computers throughout the Internet.

Over the past several years, some groups have established alternate root nameservers on the public Internet that distribute different information than the information distributed by the authoritative root nameservers. These groups then seek to persuade ISPs and Internet users to replace the pre-stored IP addresses of the authoritative root nameservers with those of their alternate servers. For a variety of reasons, these alternate roots have not to date achieved a significant level of usage on the public Internet.

Fortunately, the rare usage of alternate roots has thus far limited their practical effect on the Internet. If these alternate roots were to become prevalent, however, they would have the potential for seriously disrupting the reliable functioning of the DNS. Some of the consequences include:

Providing the Wrong Location: The presence of alternate public DNS roots can result in different answers being given to the same DNS query issued from different computers on the Internet, depending on whether the inquiring computer is programmed to access the authoritative root or a particular one of the alternate roots (or more precisely a domain-name resolver associated with one or the other of these). The fundamental DNS design goal of providing consistent answers to DNS queries is therefore frustrated.[1]
Reaching the Wrong Computer: The main consequence of such inconsistent data is that the same domain name can identify different computers depending on where the name is used. Put another way, Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) are no longer uniform. Thus, typing in a Web site address at two different computers configured to reference different roots can result in reaching different Web sites—a particularly disturbing possibility if, for example, money is to change hands or privacy or security concerns are violated. Similarly, the same piece of e-mail sent to the same address from the two computers can be directed to different recipients. The return of inconsistent DNS data defeats the globally consistent resolution of domain names that is vital to the Internet achieving its promise as a universal communications and applications medium for commerce, research, education, cultural exchange, expressive activities, and other uses.
Consequences Unpredictable to Most Users: The set of DNS answers that will be received (from the authoritative root or one of the several alternate roots) is not predictable by most end users. Most users on the Internet employ a local DNS resolver that is configured by another person. Few users are likely to appreciate the significance of the resolver's DNS configuration; even fewer are likely to have detailed knowledge of that configuration. As the number of users on the Internet has grown, the proportion of users knowledgeable about technical concepts such as DNS resolvers and root servers has diminished. Yet these non-technical users are precisely those for whom the Internet in general—and the DNS in particular—hold the greatest potential benefits.
Intermediate Hosts Add to Confusion: Moreover, some Internet services depend on the actions of DNS resolvers employed by intermediate hosts. Alternate roots introduce the possibility that the DNS answer obtained by the intermediate host alters the character of the service in an unexpected way. A similar phenomenon can occur where one user sends another a reference to a URL, such as an e-mail reply address or a link on a Web site. If the recipient of an e-mail or the visitor to the Web site is using a computer that employs a different DNS root than intended by the sender of the e-mail or the designer of the Web site, unexpected results are likely to occur. For example, the e-mail could end up with the wrong person.
Cache Poisoning: Alternate roots also introduce the possibility of misdirected Internet activities due to the phenomenon known as cache poisoning. For performance reasons, the DNS design calls for resource records to be passed around among the nameservers on the Internet, so that a resolver can obtain quicker access to a local copy of the resource record. Because the DNS assumes a single-root system, resource records are not marked to distinguish them according to the root from which they emanate. Thus, the presence of alternate roots introduces the possibility that Internet activities by those intending to use the authoritative root could be misdirected by a stray resource record emanating from an alternate root. Indeed, some malicious hacking attacks have been based on this principle, prompting the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to propose a series of not-yet-fully-implemented improvements known as DNS-Security or DNSSec.

(It should be noted that the original design of the DNS provided a way to operate alternate roots in a way that does not imperil stability. See "Experimentation" below for details.)

These potentially destructive effects of alternate roots have long been accepted by the vast majority of Internet engineers. Despite this broadbased recognition, some have sought to justify the alternate roots by downplaying these effects. In response, and to document what it referred to as "some of the problems inherent in a family of recurring technically naive proposals," in May 2000 the
Internet Architecture Board
(IAB)[14] issued RFC 2826, entitled "IAB Technical Comment on the Unique DNS Root." The IAB summarized its comments (in relevant part) as follows:

"Summary: To remain a global network, the Internet requires the existence of a globally unique public name space. The DNS name space is a hierarchical name space derived from a single, globally unique root. This is a technical constraint inherent in the design of the DNS. Therefore it is not technically feasible for there to be more than one root in the public DNS. That one root must be supported by a set of coordinated root servers administered by a unique naming authority."

"Put simply, deploying multiple public DNS roots would raise a very strong possibility that users of different ISPs who click on the same link on a Web page could end up at different destinations, against the will of the Web page designers."

For some concrete examples of potential failures and instabilities that would likely result from alternate roots prevalently used on the public Internet, see the draft "Alt-Roots, Alt-TLDs."[17]

In the face of the destabilizing consequences of alternate roots, as articulated by the IAB and others, ICANN's prime directive of preserving the stability of the Internet and DNS requires an unwavering commitment to promote the continued prevalence of a single authoritative root for the public DNS. Any other course of action by ICANN would be irresponsible.

The Public Trust in Coordinated Assignment Functions

The Internet's proper operation requires assignment of unique values to various identifiers for different computers or services on the Internet. To be effective, these assigned values must be made broadly available and their significance must be respected by the many people responsible for the Internet's operation. For example, every computer on the public Internet is assigned a unique IP address; this address is made known to routers throughout the Internet to cause TCP/IP packets with that destination address to be routed to the intended computer. Without common agreement to respect the assignment, the Internet would not reliably route communications to their intended destinations.

Beginnings to 1998: Central Coordination as a Public Trust

From the very beginnings of the Internet, the technical community has recognized the need for central coordination of the unique assignment of the values of identifiers. The IANA, now operated by ICANN was created to fill this need; it now makes assignments of unique values for approximately 120 different identifier types. This responsibility has always been understood to be a public trust, and the IANA long ago adopted the motto: "Dedicated to preserving the central coordinating functions of the global Internet for the public good."

The most commonly known of the Internet's uniquely assigned identifiers, of course, are domain names. From the time the DNS was deployed, the Internet community made the IANA "responsible for the overall coordination and management of the Domain Name System (DNS), and especially the delegation of portions of the name space called top-level domains."[18] As in its other assignment responsibilities, the IANA's role is to act in the public interest, neutrally, and without proprietary motives.

Competition as a Value Guiding the Internet's Technical Management

In the Internet's early years, with limited exceptions day-to-day registration activities for domain names were done by a single company (first SRI International and later Network Solutions) under the IANA's guidance.

By the mid-1990s, however, the growth and increasing commercialization of the Internet led the U.S. Government's Green [2] and White [3] Papers to note the emergence of "widespread dissatisfaction about the absence of competition in domain name registration." This dissatisfaction prompted the Green and White Papers to include the promotion of competition in registration services as one of the four values (stability; competition; private, bottom-up coordination; and representation) that should guide the Internet's technical management. Both documents made clear that, of these four values, preservation of stability was to be paramount.

Building on the IANA model of a non-profit entity carrying the public trust to perform the vital central coordination functions, the U.S. Government reconciled the need to ensure Internet stability with the desire to introduce competitive domain-name registration services as follows:

"In keeping with these principles, we divide the name and number functions into two groups, those that can be moved to a competitive system and those that should be coordinated. We then suggest the creation of a representative, not-for-profit corporation to manage the coordinated functions according to widely accepted objective criteria. We then suggest the steps necessary to move to competitive markets in those areas that can be market driven." [4]

This dichotomy recognizes that the Internet is, after all, a network (albeit a network of networks), and networks require coordination among their participants to operate in a stable and efficient manner. It also reflects the phenomenal success of the Internet's tradition of cooperatively developed open and non-proprietary standards. Those standards have provided an environment of highly interoperable systems that has allowed competition and innovation to flourish.

ICANN Assumes the Public Trust

After public comment on the Green Paper, the United States Government issued the White Paper, which laid out the basic charter on which ICANN was founded and continues to operate. The White Paper re-emphasized the prime directive of stability and, to that end, the need to avoid creation of alternate roots:

"The introduction of a new management system should not disrupt current operations or create competing root systems. During the transition and thereafter, the stability of the Internet should be the first priority of any DNS management system." [5]

The United States Government then invited the Internet community to form a not-for-profit corporation to perform the "coordinated functions" that should be handled as a matter of public trust, rather than according to a competitive regime that would not be conducive to stability. Among the "coordinated functions" were management of the root-server system and decisions to introduce new TLDs:

"Similarly, coordination of the root server network is necessary if the whole system is to work smoothly. While day-to-day operational tasks, such as the actual operation and maintenance of the Internet root servers, can be dispersed,
overall policy guidance and control of the TLDs and the Internet root server system should be vested in a single organization
that is representative of Internet users around the globe."

"Further, changes made in the administration or the number of gTLDs contained in the authoritative root system will have considerable impact on Internet users throughout the world. In order to promote continuity and reasonable predictability in functions related to the root zone, the
development of policies for the addition, allocation, and management of gTLDs and the establishment of domain name registries and domain name registrars to host gTLDs should be coordinated.
" [6]

In response to this invitation for the formation of a non-profit, Internet-community-based organization, ICANN was established in 1998. ICANN was subsequently selected by the United States Government from among several proposals submitted precisely because it was open, consensus-based, and rooted in the Internet community. The establishment of ICANN had followed extensive dialogs among different constituencies of the Internet community to ensure that ICANN could be responsive to the needs of these various constituencies.

ICANN, among its other responsibilities, now acts as the coordinator for operation of the authoritative root-server system and the policy forum for decisions about the policies governing what TLDs are to be included in the authoritative DNS root. [7]

In linking the formation of ICANN to the global Internet community, the White Paper established a public trust that required that the DNS be administered in the public interest as the unique-rooted,[8] authoritative database for domain names that provides a stable addressing system for use by the global Internet community. This commitment to a unique and authoritative root is a key part of the broader public trust—to carry out the Internet's central coordination functions for the public good—that is ICANN's reason for existence.

The Public Trust and the Introduction of New TLDs

It is essential that the centrally coordinated functions be performed in the public interest, not out of proprietary or otherwise self-interested motives. For this reason, ICANN was founded as a not-for-profit public-benefit organization, accountable to the Internet community. Longstanding Internet principles also require that the policies guiding the coordinated functions be established openly based on community deliberation and input. For these reasons ICANN's structure is representative of the geographic and functional diversity of the Internet, and relies to the extent possible on private-sector, bottom-up methods.

As the White Paper emphasized, the decisions about the introduction of new TLDs are appropriately done within this open, non-proprietary, and broadly representative framework, rather than by individuals or entities not accountable to the community and that ordinarily act for their own proprietary motives:

"As Internet names increasingly have commercial value, the decision to add new top-level domains cannot be made on an ad hoc basis by entities or individuals that are not formally accountable to the Internet community." [9]

Within the framework of its commitment to a unique root system and to the stability of the Internet, last year ICANN launched a process for carefully introducing several new generic TLDs to the DNS. This introduction was fashioned as a proof of concept of the technical and business feasibility of introducing more TLDs into the DNS. Proceeding with an initial proof of concept was in response to the advice of ICANN's
Protocol Supporting Organization
(PSO) and its
Domain Name Supporting Organization
(DNSO) to proceed cautiously and in an orderly fashion. The PSO and the DNSO represent the consensus views of the technical and the user/business/other institutional communities, respectively. Generic TLDs had not been introduced for many years, and there were and still are serious questions as to what the effect of introducing new TLDs will be on the stability and reliability of the DNS; and many questions about what should be the appropriate contractual and business context.

In response to an issued RFP, forty-seven institutions and groups submitted proposals for the establishment of new TLDs. They chose to work within the community-based ICANN process, even though they knew that only a "limited number" of TLDs would be selected—at least in the first round. In fact, seven were selected, and, following a methodology which allowed for considerable community input, contracts have or will shortly be signed with these initial seven. ICANN looks forward to the successful introduction of these new TLDs and will work with the community to monitor their performance so that a community decision can be made on moving forward with the introduction of more TLDs, should this be the conclusion of the proof of concept.

Outside the Process

Some private organizations have established DNS roots as alternates to the authoritative root. Some uses of these alternate roots do not jeopardize the stability of the DNS. For example, many are purely private roots operating inside institutions and are carefully insulated from the DNS. Others are purely experimental in the best traditions of the Internet and are carefully managed so as not to interfere with the operation of the DNS. These both operate within community-established norms.

Frequently, however, these alternate roots have been established to support top-level or pseudo-top-level domain name registries that are operated for profit. Yet other alternate roots have been established by certain individuals to protest the policies developed by the broader community processes for management of the authoritative root, or to express their disinterest in participating in those processes. These alternate roots have not been launched through any ICANN consensus processes, so they have not been entered into the authoritative root managed by the IANA or ICANN.

These alternate roots typically substitute insular concerns in place of the community-based processes that govern the management of the authoritative root. Their operators decide to include particular top-level domains in these alternate roots that have not been subjected to the tests of community support and conformance with consensus processes—coordinated by ICANN—that would allow their inclusion in the authoritative root. These decisions of the alternate root operators have been made with no apparent regard for the fundamental public-interest concern of Internet stability. The widespread introduction of active domain names into these alternate roots could in fact impair the uniqueness of the authoritative name resolution mechanism and hence the stability of the DNS.

In fact, some of the operators of these alternate roots state that stability is not an important attribute for the DNS. This thesis, for reasons already stated, is at fundamental variance with ICANN policy as embodied in its founding documents. Some of these operators and their supporters assert that their very presence in the marketplace gives them preferential right to TLDs to be authorized in the future by ICANN. They work under the philosophy that if they get there first with something that looks like a TLD and invite many registrants to participate, then ICANN will be required by their very presence and force of numbers to recognize in perpetuity these pseudo TLDs, inhibiting new TLDs with the same top-level name from being launched through the community's processes.

No current policy allows ICANN to grant such preferential rights. To do so would effectively yield ICANN's mandate to introduce new TLDs in an orderly manner in the public interest to those who would simply grab all the TLD names that seem to have any marketplace value, thus circumventing the community-based processes that ICANN is required to follow. For ICANN to yield its mandate would be a violation of the public trust under which ICANN was created and under which it must operate. Were it to grant such preferential rights, ICANN would abandon this public trust, rooted in the community, to those who only act for their own benefit. Indeed, granting preferential rights could jeopardize the stability of the DNS, violating ICANN's fundamental mandate.

Alternate roots inherently endanger DNS stability—that is, they create the real risk of name resolvers being unable to determine to which numeric address a given name should point. This violates the fundamental design of the DNS and impairs the Internet's utility as a ubiquitous global communications medium. Some of these alternate systems also employ special technologies that— ingenious as they may be—may conflict with future generations of community-established Internet standards. Indeed, can there be any guarantee that these proprietary technologies can or will be adapted to future changes in Internet standards?


Experimentation has always been an essential component of the Internet's vitality. Working within the system does not preclude experimentation, including experimentation with alternate DNS roots. But these activities must be done responsibly, in a manner that does not disrupt the ongoing activities of others and that is managed according to experimental protocols.

DNS experiments should be encouraged. Experiments, however, almost by definition have certain characteristics to avoid harm: (a) they are clearly labeled as experiments, (b) it is well understood that these experiments may end without establishing any prior claims on future directions, (c) they are appropriately coordinated within a communitybased framework (such as the IETF), and (d) the experimenters commit to adapt to consensus-based standards when they emerge through the ICANN and other community-based processes. This is very different from launching commercial enterprises that lull users into a sense of permanence without any sense of the foregoing obligations or contingencies.

Moreover, it is essential that experimental operations involving alternate DNS roots be conducted in a controlled manner, so that they do not adversely affect those who have not consented to participate in them. Given the design of the DNS, and particularly the intermediate-host and cache poisoning issues described earlier, special care must be taken to insulate the DNS from the alternate roots' effects. For example, alternate roots are commonly operated by large organizations within their private networks without harmful effects, since care is taken to prevent the flow of the alternate resource records onto the public Internet.

It should be noted that the original design of the DNS provides a facility for future extensions that accommodates the possibility of safely deploying multiple roots on the public Internet for experimental and other purposes. As noted in RFC 1034, the DNS includes a "class" tag on each resource record, which allows resource records of different classes to be distinguished even though they are commingled on the public Internet. For resource records within the authoritative root-server system, this class tag is set to "IN"; other values have been standardized for particular uses, including 255 possible values designated for "private use" that are particularly suited to experimentation.[10]

As described in a recent proposal within the IETF,[11] this "class" facility allows an alternate DNS namespace to be operated from different root servers in a manner that does not interfere with the stable operation of the existing authoritative root-server system. To take advantage of this facility, it should be noted, requires the use of client or applications software developed for the alternate namespace (presumably deployed after responsible testing), rather than the existing software that has been developed to interoperate with the authoritative root. Those who operate alternate roots for global commercial purposes, however, have not followed this course.

In an ever-evolving Internet, ultimately there may be better architectures for getting the job done where the need for a single, authoritative root will not be an issue. But that is not the case today. And the transition to such an architecture, should it emerge, would require community-based approaches. In the interim, responsible experimentation should be encouraged, but it should not be done in a manner that affects those who do not consent after being informed of the character of the experiment.


The success of the Internet and the guarantee of Internet stability rest on the cooperative activities of thousands, even millions, of people and institutions collaborating worldwide towards a common end. This extraordinary—even unprecedented—community effort has served to impel the incredible growth of the Internet. Many of these people and institutions compete intensely among themselves yet agree to do so within a common framework for the overall public good. Their collective efforts provide a policy framework for technical and entrepreneurial innovation, and the advancement of economic, social, and educational goals.

Most members of the global community and most institutions with which they are associated recognize that it is in their best long-term interests to work within these community-based processes, even if that means foregoing short-term advantages to particular individuals or groups. The over-arching principles outlined in this document override exclusive and narrowly focused self-interest.

Community-based policy development is not perfect. It may proceed slower than some would wish. The introduction of new TLDs has proceeded at deliberate speeds. Impatience in the context of Internet timescales is perfectly understandable. The outcome of orderly processes based on the wishes of the community, however, is assurance that the Internet will continue to function in a stable and holistic manner that benefits the global community, and not become captured by the self-interests of the few. That, in the minds of most, is a price worth paying.

ICANN—in deference to its public trust—will continue to collaborate with these citizens of the Internet community to advance the notions of a unique root system as a prerequisite to Internet stability, and to ensure that community-based policies take precedence. ICANN encourages responsible experimentation designed to further advance the Internet as a useful, stable, and accessible medium for the public good.


[1] Ironically, to avoid name conflicts in a multi-root system, a single-root system would need to be created-adding a higher level to the hierarchy.

[2] "Improvement of Technical Management of Internet Names and Addresses," (Green Paper), 63
Federal Register
8825, 8827 (20 February, 1998).

[3] "Management of Internet Names and Addresses," (White Paper), 63
Federal Register
31741, 31742 (10 June, 1998).

[4] Green Paper, 63
Federal Register
at 8827.

[5] White Paper, 63
Federal Register
at 31749. The Green and White Papers both made additional references to the need for a single authoritative root system. For example, in response to comments received from the Green Paper, the White Paper notes:

"In the absence of an authoritative root system, the potential for name collisions among competing sources for the same domain name could undermine the smooth functioning and stability of the Internet."
[6] White Paper, 63
Federal Register
at 31749 (emphasis added).

[7] ICANN's corporate charter emphasizes its role in overseeing operation of the unique DNS root:

"... the Corporation shall ... pursue the charitable and public purposes ... of promoting the global public interest in the operational stability of the Internet by ... (iv) overseeing operation of the authoritative Internet DNS root server system ..."

ICANN Articles of Incorporation, para. 3. The phrase "the authoritative Internet DNS root server system" is decidedly in the singular.

[8] The Memorandum of Understanding between the United States Government and ICANN that governs the transfer of responsibilities from the U.S. Department of Commerce to ICANN also makes reference to the authoritative root in the singular, not in the plural:

"In the DNS Project, the parties will jointly design, develop, and test the mechanisms, methods, and procedures to carry out the following DNS management functions: ...

"b. Oversight of the operation of the authoritative root server system;

"c. Oversight of the policy for determining the circumstances under which new top level domains would be added to the root system ... "

See also:
[9] White Paper, 63
Federal Register
at 31742.

[10] Eastlake, D., Brunner-Williams, E., Manning, B., "Domain Name System (DNS) IANA Considerations," section 3.2, RFC 2929, September, 2000.

[11] Klensin, J., "Internationalizing the DNS—A New Class," Internet Draft, work in progress, December, 2000.

[12] Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). See

[13] Postel, J., "Domain Name System Implementation Schedule—Revised," RFC 921, October 1984.

[14] Internet Architecture Board (IAB). See

[15] Eastlake, D., "Domain Name System Security Extensions," RFC 2535, March 1999.

[16] Mockapetris, P., "Domain Names—Concepts and Facilities," RFC 1034, November 1987.


[18] Postel, J., "Domain Name System Structure and Delegation," RFC 1591, March 1994.

[19] Postel, J., and Reynolds, J., "Domain Requirements," RFC 920, October 1984.

Dr. M. STUART LYNN is President & CEO of The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Dr. Lynn has had a distinguished career in computing and information technology that dates back almost four decades. His most recent position until his retirement in 1999 was as Associate Vice President for Information Resources and Communications for the University of California Office of the President where he served as chief information officer for the combined University of California system. Dr. Lynn also served as President and Chairman of the Board of the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC). Dr. Lynn has also held positions at Cornell University, UC Berkeley, Rice University, Baylor College of Medicine, IBM and Chevron. Over the course of his career, he has been active in several professional organizations including the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the American Federation of Information Processing Societies. In 1994, he was elected a Fellow of the ACM. In addition, he has served on numerous boards of directors, advisory committees and as a consultant to academia, government and industry. Dr. Lynn holds a M.A. and Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of California at Los Angeles and a B.A. and M.A. in Mathematics from Oxford University. E-mail: