Take a minute to improve the Internet!

Take a minute to improve the Internet!

What is this? Many Internet services are not as stable and quick as they can be. Email is an example of a rock solid service, but the world wide web obviously is far less mature. This difference is not needed, it only requires a somewhat better understanding of the naming structure of the Internet. You can easily help to improve the Internet by changing a few habits:

Please take a minute for self-improvement!

Proper use of domain names: The domain name system introduces names (like dns.vanrein.org in the URL http://dns.vanrein.org/tools/query) to refer to services on the Internet. There are two important uses of such names. Either (1) a name is a computer, or (2) a name is a domain with any number of computers.
Directly referencing a single computer is very useful for local users, but not if you're browsing from far away! Still, the common www in a URL is mostly a computer name; if that computer is down, you won't get the web page you requested. Wouldn't it be much better if your computer automatically selected a mirror in that case? If the domain names are enhanced with so-called SRV records, this becomes possible: it lists multiple definitions for one name, and a supporting browser can try hosts to serve a web page until succeeded. This approach is the power behind the stability of email and name servers; bringing the same stability to the world wide web seems an overdue issue!

TODO when you browse: Try to stop typing www before a domain name (hence the logo) if possible. It's hardly ever necessary, and should go away in the future. At the very least, avoid mailing or posting URLs with the www prefix when it is optional. If the prefix is necessary, you could perhaps point webmasters to this page. Good techniques for domain-based addressing exist with the aforementioned SRV records, but they are rarely used because of the heritage of addressing computers directly.

TODO when you choose client software: Look in the list of clients that support SRV records and complain to the manufacturer of your client if it is not listed. This is why. You can refer interested parties to the technical documentation in rfc2782 or to this page. These SRV records make it possible to have mirrorred servers provide the services for the same domain. The browser (in general, the client) software can automatically select one of the mirrors, you need not do this manually anymore!
List of software that supports SRV records

TODO for webmasters: First, download the toolkit for webmasters. Support your website as http://yourdomain.com and discourage the use of http://www.yourdomain.com with the downloaded package; forward the latter to the former and for secure sites, request a site certificate without the www prefix.
Another TODO is to start using meaningful (and not technically inspired) names for derived servers, such as http://helpdesk.yourdomain.com.

TODO for DNS admins: If you don't do it yet, please start using SRV records now. They are really not that complex, they're much like MX records. These SRV records can co-exist as superior alternatives with old-fashioned A and CNAME records. You are welcome to generate any examples you need here, or test your domain's SRV records here.
The documentation in rfc2782 is, in contrast to common RFC practice, short and readable. Don't worry about name server support, these things have been part of bind for a long time.


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