Alternative DNS root

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The Internet uses the Domain Name System (DNS) to associate numeric computer IP addresses with human readable names. The top level of the domain name hierarchy, the DNS root, contains the top-level domains that appear as the suffixes of all Internet domain names. The most widely used (and first) DNS root is administered by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). In addition, several organizations operate alternative DNS roots, often referred to as alt roots. These alternative domain name systems operate their own root nameservers and commonly administer their own specific name spaces consisting of custom top-level domains.

The Internet Architecture Board (IAB) has spoken out strongly against alternate roots in RFC 2826.[1]


The DNS root zone consists of pointers to the authoritative domain name servers for all TLDs (top-level domains). The root zone is hosted on a collection of root servers operated by several organizations around the world that all use a specific, approved list of domains that is managed by ICANN. By contrast, alternative roots typically include pointers to all of the TLD servers for domains delegated by ICANN, as well as name servers for other, custom top-level domains that are not sanctioned by ICANN. Some alternate roots are operated by the organizations that manage these alternative TLDs.

Zach Bastick proposes that alternative DNS roots have allowed for more democratic control of the Internet:[2]

"The implementation of alternative gTLDs predates any significant debate on name space extension by official actors, and this exemplifies how democratising the DNS alters the pace of developing Internet policy, the nature of decisions that justify that policy development, and political dynamics and user autonomy in the network infrastructure." (p.103)

Unless one specifically changes their DNS resolution settings, alternative DNS top level domains are generally unreachable, and very few Internet service providers provide this configuration by default.

Alternative DNS providers[edit]

Some organizations provide alternate DNS root services, such as additional Top Level Domains.


Emercoin provides the top level domains .coin, .emc, .lib, and .bazar via a blockchain-based DNS resolution service.[3] Resolution is also provided by OpenNIC.[4]


Namecoin supports the alternative top-level domain .bit.[5] The alternative domain .bit is resolved by any computer running a namecoin full node and bridging software such as, nmcontrol, ncdns, and the freespeechme browser plugin. A centralized server which bridges DNS and Namecoin can also be used, meaning that users who use the centralized server do not benefit from Namecoin's decentralized and secure nature. Alternatively, its resolution is also provided by OpenNIC.[6]

New Nations[edit]

New Nations provides domains to nation-states or regional efforts that are not listed in the ISO 3166-1 standard and therefore do not have a ccTLD delegated to them. Examples are .ko (Kosovo), .ku (Kurdish people), .te (Tamil Eelam), .ti (Tibet), and .uu (Uyghur people). Domain name resolution is provided by a peering agreement with OpenNIC or New Nations' own DNS servers.

Open Root Server Network (ORSN)[edit]

Open Root Server Network (ORSN) is a network of Domain Name System root nameservers for the Internet. ORSN root zone information is normally kept in synchronization with the "official" root nameservers coordinated by ICANN. ORSN Public DNS Servers are operated by the community of ORSN, providing Domain Name System access freely for everyone, without any limitation. ORSN public DNS servers respect privacy and do not log usage. "Open Root Server Network - General Information about this Project". Retrieved 2017-07-28.


OpenNIC is a user owned and controlled alternative to InterNIC and ICANN providing a non-national democratic alternative to traditional domain registries. OpenNIC servers are able to resolve all ICANN top-level domains, some OpenNIC original top-level domains, and the resolution of other Alternate DNS Roots with which they have reached peering agreements.[4][7][8]

Defunct providers[edit]


eDNS (Enhanced Domain Name Service) was founded by a coalition of ISPs led by Karl Denninger of the Chicago-area MCSNet.[9][10] It ceased operation in 1998. It served the following domains: biz (general business use), corp (corporations), fam (for and about family), k12 (for and about children), npo (non-profit organizations), per (personal domains), web (web-based sites, Web pages).

Open RSC[edit]

One of the notable challengers to ICANN's control of the DNS namespace was Open RSC (Open Root Server Confederation), a group that grew out of private discussions and developed into a public mailing list. It grew large enough that the group decided to submit an application to the United States government to run the DNS.[11]

The organization posted bylaws and articles of incorporation outlining ORSC's position following extensive public discussion regarding the manner in which the DNS was operated.[12][13]

ICANN chairwoman Esther Dyson acknowledged adopting features such as membership from ORSC in her response to the United States Department of Commerce.[14]

ORSC publishes a root zone containing additional top level domains not found in the ICANN root zone.


Microsoft offered the RealNames service on its Internet Explorer browser address bar. RealNames, to users of Internet Explorer, was in effect a domain registry. RealNames shut down operations in 2002 following a decision by Microsoft to redirect the 1 billion page views per calendar quarter that RealNames was resolving from the browser address bar into its MSN search engine.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ RFC 2826 (informational), IAB Technical Comment on the Unique DNS Root, Internet Architecture Board, The Internet Society (May 2000), Quote: "There is no getting away from the unique root of the public DNS." (page 5)
  2. ^ Bastick, Zach (2012). "Our Internet and Freedom of Speech 'Hobbled by History': Introducing Plural Control Structures Needed to Redress a Decade of Linear Policy" (PDF). European Commission: European Journal of ePractice. Policy lessons from a decade of eGovernment, eHealth & eInclusion (15): 97–111.
  3. ^ Redman, Jamie (2016-01-13). "Emercoin: 'Setting the New Standard for Top Blockchains' - Bitcoin News". Bitcoin News. Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  4. ^ a b "Emercoin Reaches Peering Agreement with OpenNIC". January 15, 2015. Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  5. ^ "Dot-Bit: Secure Decentralized DNS". Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  6. ^ ".bit TLD:OpenNIC Wiki". Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  7. ^ "What is OpenNIC?:OpenNIC Wiki". Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  8. ^ "OpenNIC Peers:OpenNIC Wiki". Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  9. ^ Rodger, Will (February 1997). "Schism hits Domain Name System". Inter@ctive Week. 4 (5). Retrieved 2013-01-05.
  10. ^ "Rogue domains revolt". CNET. 1997-03-04. Retrieved 2013-01-06.
  11. ^ "ORSC proposal of 8 October 1998". Archived from the original on 9 November 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-06.
  12. ^ "ORSC bylaws". Archived from the original on 21 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-06.
  13. ^ "ORSC articles of incorporation". Archived from the original on 9 November 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-06.
  14. ^ "NTIA Reviewing ICANN November 6 Submission". Archived from the original on 8 November 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-06.