[IANAtransition] DMARC snafu as a wake-up call

Miles Fidelman mfidelman at meetinghouse.net
Sat Apr 12 13:06:02 UTC 2014


Maybe this is a little off-topic, but it strikes me that recent events - 
notably "Yahoo breaks every mailing list in the world including the 
highlights a really big pitfall of a purely consensus process of 
Internet governance - i.e., one large bad actor can do tremendous 
damage, particularly if a couple more go along with it.  (Speaking as 
one who manages a couple of dozen email lists - I'm tearing my hair out 
right now dealing with the damage).

As it relates to the issue at hand:  We all know the kinds of things 
that go wrong with various parts of DNS and other things that rely on 
Internet numbering - when everyone is behaving properly.  Things could 
go very, very badly if one of the core actors (like IANA, or the 
operator of one of the root nameservers, or a registry) decided to make 
an arbitrary change to how they do things, or simply got lazy.

So far, the process has been working pretty well - the Internet keeps 
growing and functioning - through a combination of billions of people, 
and millions of organizations that "play nice with each other," some 
core institutions that operate through consensus, and a tiny amount of 
oversight and accountability (via the NTIA contract) that has never 
really been exercised (or had to be exercised).  As close as anybody has 
come to exercising even the threat of punitive measures was when ICANN's 
contract came up for renewal.

It strikes me that the current system of checks and balances pretty much 
works - but.... the current snafu with Yahoo and DMARC seems to 
highlight what can go wrong when those checks and balances fail. Seems 
like a lesson to keep in mind as we think about NTIA, ICANN, and IANA.

(And..... If anybody has some thoughts about an appropriate "Internet 
Governance" response to the Yahoo/DMARC debacle, that would be both 
illustrative to the current situation, and immediately helpful.  At 
least it strikes me that when a large actor, puts a protocol into 
production, that is nothing more than an informational internet-draft, 
not even an RFC, and wreaks wide-spread damage - that seems to merit 
some kind of institutional response with teeth.)

Miles Fidelman

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice.
In practice, there is.   .... Yogi Berra

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