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Maybe we should go back to .ARPA?

Kevin Murphy, February 27, 2010, 13:33:18 (UTC), Domain Tech

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

I registered DomainIncite.com today. In less than an hour, I had a fully functioning web site and email account, and my domain was apparently resolvable pretty much everywhere.

That’s pretty impressive speed. Ten years ago, it could have taken 24 hours to achieve the same result.

Care to guess how long it would have taken 25 years ago?

Six weeks.

Based on some ancient emails I’ve been digging through, six weeks after the first .com was registered, less than 0.1% of mail servers on the internet knew how to use it.

One of the first-ever emails from a .com suggested – possibly jokingly – that everybody should just forget about .com and return to .arpa, “which at least people understand”.

I found this post in the 1985 archive of the Namedroppers mailing list, dated exactly six weeks after the first .com was registered. I’ve condensed the headers a bit and added emphasis.

Date: Fri, 26 Apr 85 12:48 EST
From: Charles Hornig (Hornig@STONY-BROOK.SCRC.Symbolics.COM)
Subject: an experiment with domain names

Since we at Symbolics have switched to using our domain name, we have had some trouble with other mailers not understanding them. To see how bad the problem was, I did a survey of the 1008 hosts advertising SMTP service in the NIC host table. I opened a connection to each of them from my machine and followed the following script for a simple mail relay from that host back to my mailbox.

(220 Greeting message)
HELO HUDSON.SCRC.SYMBOLICS.COM
(250 Response)
MAIL From:<@HUDSON.SCRC.SYMBOLICS.COM:Hornig@STONY-BROOK.SCRC.SYMBOLICS.COM>
(250 Resonse)
RCPT To:<@TARGET-HOST.ARPA:Hornig@STONY-BROOK.SCRC.SYMBOLICS.COM>
(250 Response)
DATA
(354 Response)
Test message to TARGET-HOST.ARPA.
.(220 Response)
QUIT
(221 Response)

The Symbolics.COM domain is registered with the NIC and both of its domain servers were running at the time of the test.

Here are my results:

383 hosts were not up, not accessible, or refused the connection.
40 hosts refused to relay mail.
54 hosts complained about an unknown user name.
39 hosts complained about an unknown host name.
62 hosts complained about an unknown domain name.
43 hosts gave a variety of other errors or reset the connection.
387 hosts accepted the mail.

Of the 387 hosts which accepted the mail, I have received the following responses:

5 from our local SCRC mailers.
1 piece of normal relayed mail.
2 notes from postmasters about strange conditions:
–> a mail loop
–> a host sending mail to itself

I am not heartened by these results. Maybe we should go back to .ARPA, which people at least understand?

Congratulations to PROTEON.ARPA, for being the only non-Symbolics mailer to relay the mail properly.

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Comments (1)

  1. […] The namedroppers mailing list back then was used by academics to test their newfangled domain name system, so it’s a good place to look for firsts. I’ve mentioned it before, in this blog’s inaugural post. […]

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