In the mid-1990s, the National Science Foundation privatized the internet. Various telecomunnications companies took over the actual moving of data, and by and large that’s gone well at the backbone level. (If you don’t have unmetered high-speed internet in your home for under US$40 a month, blame the US telephone companies, because that’s what the rest of the first world has.) In addition to moving bytes, though, the internet also depends on some bookkeeping. Our computers use Domain Name Service to translate names like into numbers like This implies a registration scheme for keeping track of all of the names and numbers, and big computers to let everybody on the internet look up names. The NSF handed a monopoly on this function to Network Solutions, later acquired by Verisign. NetSol/Verisign has <a href=“>abused the monopoly and accumulated 270 complaints and an unsatisfactory rating from the BBB and a <a href="legal injunction against fraudulent advertising. They’re scum, basically. And they’re the people who maintain the DNS system.

Before last week, when you typed in a name that didn't exist, you got an error. Unless you used MSN or one of the other seach engines that shows you advertising instead. But the underlying internet mechanism sent back an error for non-existent domains. People who design internet applications depend on this behavior, just as they depend on many other standard behaviors of the internet, as determined by a set of rules called Requests For Comment. These are the blueprints for the internet, and each document can take several years of design, testing, and argument before it is approved.

Last week Verisign decided to unilaterally change the behavior of the internet. Because they can, and because they profit from it. When you look for a non-existent domain, you now get a Verisign advertisement instead of an error. This is bad for two reasons. First, it breaks a lot of things, such as spam tests that detect bogus domains in the source address. Second, it ignores and undermines the very successful design process of the entire internet.

The internet's first response was to treat this as a bug and people started changing their software to ignore Verisign's change. Finally, under intense pressure, including from ICANN, the semi-legitimate governing body of the internet, Verisign announced:

"Without so much as a hearing, ICANN today formally asked us to shut down the Site Finder service," Russell Lewis, executive vice president of VeriSign's Naming and Directory Services Group, said in a statement. "We will accede to the request while we explore all of our options." As of 3:30 p.m. PDT Friday, the site was still up.

Hearing? Why the hell should you get a hearing? You ignored decades of procedure to commit an action of private gain and now you want a hearing before giving it up?

Meanwhile, on a seemingly unrelated topic, the telemarketers are upset about all the phone calls they're getting since Dave Barry published their phone number:

''The ATA received no warning about the article from Barry or anyone connected with him,'' Searcy said. ``. . . the Barry column has had harmful consequences for the ATA. An ATA staffer has spent about five hours a day for the past six days monitoring the voice mail and clearing out messages.''

That's correct: The ATA received NO WARNING that it was going to get unwanted calls! Not only that, but these unwanted calls were an INCONVENIENCE for the ATA, and WASTED THE ATA'S TIME!

My question is, when these people steal from or harrass others (respectively) and then complain about the consequences, do they honestly feel aggrieved, or are they putting on a show? Do they really not understand the origins and legitimacy of the backlash?