Root servers: The real Net power

Delegates from third-world nations spent much of last week at a United Nations summit here railing against the Bush administration's alleged control of the Internet.

But in reality, the U.S. government has strictly limited influence on which top-level domains--such as .com, .org, and .uk--are actually seen by Internet users.

The real power behind the network lies with the group of 13 organizations which, through a mechanism little-known outside of technical circles, operate the root servers that guide traffic to each one of those top-level domains.

Some root servers, named A through M, are located inside the U.S. at organizations such as VeriSign, NASA Ames, and the U.S. Army Research Lab.

Not all. The M server is operated by the WIDE Project in Tokyo, and the K server is managed by Amsterdam-based RIPE. The F, I and J servers point to many addresses around the world through the anycast protocol, yielding a total of 80 locations in 34 countries.

This process doesn't involve the United Nations or its agencies at all, which is just fine with the root server operators. The U.N.'s International Telecommunication Union, on the other hand, signaled earlier this year that it wouldn't mind taking over the oversight operations.


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