P2P-based alternative to DNS hopes to challenge ICANN

The former Pirate Bay spokesman is tired of ICANN

A group led by former Pirate Bay spokesman Peter Sunde is forming to develop a peer-to-peer-based alternative to today's ICANN-controlled DNS system, according to a blog posted on Tuesday.

DNS (Domain Name System) is a key building block of the Internet. The technology's most important task is translating IP (Internet Protocol) addresses to host names. ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is a nonprofit organization responsible for managing IP addresses and top-level domain names.

Sunde went public with the project, which also includes an alternative root server, on his Twitter account. The first step is a new root server, and the second step will be a new DNS system, he said.

The P2P DNS project is aimed at keeping the Internet uncensored, the blog post said. Having a centralized system that controls the flow of information is not acceptable. The timing comes down to the availability of competent people and laws in the U.S. that have made it extremely important to come up with an alternative, Sunde said via e-mail.

One of the things that has Sunde worried is the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), which the Senate Judiciary Committee has recommended for a full Senate vote. The bill would allow the U.S. government to shut down websites suspected of hosting infringing materials, and allow the Department of Justice, through court orders, to order U.S. ISPs to redirect customer traffic away from infringing foreign websites.

Also, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have with seizure orders in hand shut down 82 sites for alleged involvement in the sale of counterfeit goods, officials from the agencies said Monday.

That has helped drum up interest for the P2P DNS Project. Rarely have people been as upset as they are now, Sunde said. The project is still looking for more people to get involved, but Sunde has been impressed with the speed at which people have come together so far. However, he doesn't want to say who else is involved at this point.

The underlying infrastructure will be based on BitTorrent technology, and will be simple yet secure. To improve security the data and the transmission will be signed, Sunde said. The goal is to build a system that users can put more trust into than the existing DNS.

Currently, there is some proof-of-concept code, and an RFC (Request for Comments) is on the way. When it arrives remains to be seen: "we don't want any time pressure," said Sunde.

Sunde is most known for his previous involvement with The Pirate Bay. On Friday, Sunde and two others involved in running the site were found guilty of being accessories to crimes against copyright law by the Svea Court of Appeals. He was sentenced to eight months in prison, but remains free as his case is going to be appealed to the Supreme Court. Currently, Sunde is also involved in Flattr, a social micropayment platform.

Developing a system that can compete with DNS will be not be easy. One of the main challenges will be to offer the same robustness, said Fredrik Ljunggren, IT security advisor at Swedish consultant Kirei. The P2P DNS Project could succeed in attracting users in file-sharing circles, but will have a hard time getting other users on board.

The project could also come to realize Ljunggren's greatest fear, which is that DNS will be split into different parts.

"That risk becomes bigger as politicians get more involved," he said.

ICANN could not immediately be reached for comment about Sunde's project.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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