[arin-ppml] The root of the disagreement?

Tom Vest tvest at pch.net
Thu Jun 26 18:01:01 EDT 2008

Hi Milton,

Was just reading back through Ruling the Root, when I (re)discovered  
your overview on methods for allocating goods.
Very illuminating -- truly. Is there anyplace where those who do not  
have the book could peruse your chapter on "The Political Economy of  
Identifiers" online?

The part I find most illuminating is around p. 22 in my edition, where  
you discuss the significance of identifier semantics, and their  
relationship to the value of individual identifiers, and by  
implication to the overall value of identifier systems. In one  
paragraph on domain names, you dismiss some argument (with a cite to  
Vixie 1995, no less) in favor of equalizing and thus eliminating  
semantic differences between domain names. In this context, you write  
that "such 'solutions' are attempts to avoid rather than cope with the  
problem," and that "eliminating the meaning eliminates the basis for  
disputes, but it also eliminates most of their value." You conclude  
that such arguments are akin to "proposing to cure a headache by  
cutting off one's head."

Do you think that IP addresses are, or should have, the same semantics- 
based value that domain names currently have? Would you argue that the  
value of IP addresses, and and the overall system that they support,  
would be more valuable if, instead of being unique but only  
unidimensionally so (i.e., globally homogeneous in all other  
nontrivial respects), IPv4 addresses were characterized by similar  
hierarchies of use value (memorableness, etc.) and exchange value ($$ 
$) that is characteristic of individual domain names?

Since domain names are used for human, intentional/purpose-directed  
navigation, I can understand the argument, even the necessity, for  
heterogeneity across those identifiers. However, since IP addresses  
are used for automated, dynamic, algorithmic navigation by machines  
(which are operated by humans who also/already have access to DNS and  
other, even more reliable semantic guideposts), I'm assuming that  
there must be some *other* rationale for thinking that they should be  
evaluated on the same terms...?

Since that's a classic "loaded question", and on the advice of counsel  
I'd be invoking my Fifth Amendment right on any questions related to  
wife-beating anyway, I'll complete my own offload first ;-)

I believe that the value of the IP address pool, and by reverse  
derivation the value of individual addresses, is determined first by  
the *number* and diversity of the things that can (maybe even "do")  
participate in a common/shared system of data/traffic/information/ 
value exchange relationships by virtue of that fact.  Of course some  
online things are more valuable/interesting than others, for different  
people, at different times, but it's not clear how (or how much)  
overall value would be improved by facilitating differential access to  
IP addresses for such such popular nodes *when such differentiation  
would reduce the capacity for additional new valuable/interesting  
things to emerge thereafter.*

We could revisit old debates about the relative tradeoffs between  
making life marginally/temporarily more complicated for current large/ 
popular operators vs. making independent existence impossible for a  
few more hypothetical/future operators if you like (all settled by the  
institutionalization of RFC 2050 rather than RFC 1744). However, first  
I want to focus on the gross "more" dimension  -- the vastly more  
important one, IMO.

Basically, the idea is this: today IPv4 and IPv6 are both technically  
and semantically distinct; IPv4 is proven, has had a couple of decades  
of development and debugging, whereas lots of hardware and software  
still has trouble with IPv6. Perhaps that's a transient problem, but  
even assuming so, the semantic gap will still be be profound absent  
other developments. The thing is, if those other developments *do*  
happen, then the overall value supported by the expanded address pool  
(and hence the incremental value of *all* of the individual addresses  
therein) gets to continue growing and growing, for a long long time at  
least. The alternative is what we've got today +/- 50%, if you're  
wildly optimistic.

I believe that we really need some of those "others things" to happen,  
whatever they might be, so that the semantic distinction completely  
disappears, and the expansion of value may proceed unhindered.

In other words, I believe that the same rationale that has supported  
the "needs-based" approach to IPv4 conservation also applies to the  
question of how to prioritize IPv4 preservation efforts like resource  
transfers vs. those that contribute to relatively faster, more  
orderly, but dead-certain IPv6 migration.

Your turn...


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