Alternative DNS Roots - What Are They?

May 6


Michael Bloch

Michael Bloch

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The Domain Name System (DNS) currently used by the majority of Internet users isn't the only one. Several groups operate alternative DNS roots. So how do they work and why are they in existence?


The Domain Name System acts as a huge location service; connecting devices that use the Internet such as home computers,Alternative DNS Roots - What Are They?  Articles cell phones and even appliances, to the relevant data source or service. DNS translates numbers known as IP addresses - unique pointers to services and sources - to human-readable names and vice versa.

DNS doesn't exist solely on any single system; but on millions of servers around the world. However, there are a handful of what are known as "root" nameservers that have a critical role as being the first point of call for translating human readable names into IP addresses.

The official DNS root is overseen by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a body that also administers domain names accessible through the official DNS root - in other words, just about all name extensions we are familiar with.

ICANN is a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation with a global membership and states its primary goal as being dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable. The body was formally established under the ICANN name in October 1998.

Alternative DNS roots have usually been started out by groups of individuals with a common concern relating to beliefs there are issues with the current DNS in terms of ICANN governance, security and choice.

Probably the most popular alternative DNS roots is OpenNIC, an organization run by hobbyists. It describes its activities as a "cooperative effort to provide a non-national, alternative Domain Name System that encompasses and expands upon the legacy Domain Name System."

Aside from offering access to domain name extensions you may not have heard of such as.bbs,.free and.geek; people who use the system can also,.net and all other Top Level Domain (TLD) and country code Top Level Domain (ccTLDs) name extensions approved by ICANN.

However, as most Internet connected computers aren't properly set up to access alternative DNS roots; most users aren't even aware of these additional domain extensions even exist. As such, since they can't be accessed from a system with standard configuration, using one of these alternatives as a primary domain for business purposes would probably be an unwise move.

Additionally, most web hosting services don't have the infrastructure in place to handle domain names offered by alternative DNS roots.