A Personal Brush with Domain Name Scarcity

David Keaton

19 March, 1996

You’ve heard the stories of domain name conflicts in the news, but now it’s finally hit home for me.

A part of network management that is visible to the outside world is domain name management.  This means choosing which domain name to use, deciding whether to use multiple domain names to cover several campuses or one domain name overall with a subdomain at each campus, and choosing how your e-mail addresses appear to the outside world.

About a decade ago, I first became a net citizen when I put an AT&T 3b1 on the UUCP network, with a node name of dmk3b1.  (It was fashionable at the time to include the machine type in the node name.)  Later, as I acquired more machines and started to acquire more consulting clients, I decided to make my address more portable and shortened my node name to just dmk (my initials).  My e-mail address was then dmk!dmk which was easy for my clients to remember.

Just over four years ago, in February, 1992, I had a LAN and needed to put it on the Internet.  The obvious choice for my domain name was dmk.com -- both for its shortness and for continuity with my previous UUCP address.  Ever since then, my e-mail address has been . Clients like this because they don’t have to type much and it’s easy to remember.

Slowly over the past four years, I started making services under my domain name available to people outside.  I created and maintain the ISO and ANSI C committee’s ftp archive at ftp://ftp.dmk.com/DMK/sc22wg14/ and I have other public information available on the web at http://www.dmk.com/.

My point is that over a period of 10 years, and especially the last four years, I have become inextricably attached to the domain name dmk.com.  It is part of the store front for my consulting services as well as the public-interest ftp and web services I provide.

Today I got a phone call from a company in another part of the country that wants my domain name.  They are an Internet Service Provider (ISP) signing up a company whose initials happen to coincide with mine.  They thought it was just a vanity-plate kind of domain name and they would easily be able to talk me out of it.  I explained the situation to them and they realized they would have to find another name.

This time it worked out in a friendly manner.  In fact, the ISP that called me ended up saying “Hey, we do the same kinds of consulting you do.  Wanna do some work for us?”  However, they said I would still receive a call from their client and would have to explain the situation to them.

This adds a whole new dimension to domain name management.  You have to keep defending it indefinitely into the future.  It looks like this particular instance for me will end up wasting a total of ½ day of time but possibly getting me more consulting work.  In the long run, though, as short domain names become more and more scarce, I expect to be bombarded to no good effect and I will have to allocate time for it.  I wonder if eventually large companies may have to have a full-time person defending their existing domain name.  Some of them already have lawyers doing it part time, since there are no legal standards established for dealing with the situation.

To put this into perspective, imagine what it would be like if people called each other up saying, “I’m sorry, but you have a phone number that I want.  I’d like you to give it up for me.”