back to article Russia threatens to set up its 'own internet' with China, India and pals – let's take a closer look

Russia is intending to set up its "own internet" according to a number of Russian news sources citing a document signed by President Vladimir Putin earlier this month. At a meeting at the end of the October, the Russian Security Council ordered its telecoms ministry to look at a "system of backup DNS root name servers, …

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Kremlin, lying? Colour me astonished ...

As the article gradually makes clear, the Kremlin's propaganda about this is fundamentally untrue: it has nothing to do with the USA blocking Russian sites. It has everything to do with Putin wanting to censor what his citizens can see and do on the net, because he has envious eye upon China's brutally repressive control of its citizens' online activity. Fact and opinion are information which, if freely shared, have always been the single greatest threat to authoritarians and dictators.

When you boil it down, Putin's desire to control his "own" internet is a simple outgrowth of the lessons of the past and the current demonstration of China's successful crushing of its own people's freedom.

And it is fundamentally driven by the same motives that cause Donald Trump to constantly denounce any media that criticises him as "fake": when you are a despotic liar, nothing frightens you more than truth.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Kremlin, lying? Colour me astonished ...

What would like to bet that Trump will want to set up an equivalent system to the BRICS? He will want to be able to save Americans access. In other words, have tighter control and better able to censor the plebs usage.

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Re: Milton Re: Kremlin, lying? Colour me astonished ...

You were doing fine until your Trump Derangement Syndrome kicked in. Trump loves the open Internet, it allows him to do an end-run round the "mainstream media" with such tools as Twitter, and allows his "deplorables" to rally and rapidly exchange information/propaganda, so he has absolutely no desire to break it.

My own view is that this is Putin's attempt to control what Russians can see on the Internet - make their PDNS (Putin's DNS) only list Putin-approved sites, make use of PDNS mandatory for Russians and use of foreign DNS illegal, then pick up your political opponents by watching for DNS requests to foreign DNS servers.

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Re: Kremlin, lying? Colour me astonished ...

"What would like to bet that Trump will want to set up an equivalent system to the BRICS?"

He will be in prison or at least impeached before he get round to that. He makes Reagan look smart:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cb71YBLCqYU

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Re: Milton Kremlin, lying? Colour me astonished ...

@Jonathan Schwartz

You were doing fine until your Trump Derangement Syndrome kicked in.
Say what?

"With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!"

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/918112884630093825

"The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!"

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/832708293516632065

To Trump and his minions, the truth is what they say it is. Sarah Sanders on the re-tweeted anti-Muslim videos: “I think the president feels that bringing up important issues of our time like extreme violence and terrorism are important to do. That’s what he was doing in that process, and I think he’s going to continue to do that in a number of venues, whether it’s through speeches, whether it’s through Twitter or other social media platforms.”

Trump would absolutely seek totally to control all information concerning his regime if he could get away with it.

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Re: Kremlin, lying? Colour me astonished ...

Not Trump, I think, but his opponents in the Resist "community," especially those who believe he stole the election by collaborating with the Russian efforts that swung all the alt-right votes away from Hillary Clinton (not to mention the authors of the Constitution some two and a quarter centuries back with their diabolical electoral college).

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Re: Milton Kremlin, lying? Colour me astonished ...

It has already taken place for some organizations in Russia. Their website and media content have been banned for some time.

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FAIL

Re: Florida1920 Re: Milton Kremlin, lying? Colour me astonished ...

Your whataboutism has nothing to do with possible censorship of the DNS, but simply highlights another valid point from Trump - should "news" outlets that don't report news unless it fits with a biased opinion still be allowed to call themselves news? And that includes pro-Right Fox as much as the pro-Left media outlets listed by Trump. In my view, all the US's major news outlets are equally bad at reporting real news due to bias. Just because Trump raised the point (or, more likely, because the majority of "news" outlets fit with your anti-Trump viewpoint) doesn't make the point on bias any less valid, especially when the "news" outlets also pretend to be impartial. So, all you did was highlight your TDS even more.

"....anti-Muslim videos...." And here you willingly fall into the shoot-the-messenger trap. Was that a burning issue for you because you don't believe that gays are persecuted in Islamic countries - often violently - or simply because you just wanted to attack Trump? Did you spit equal venom at CNN when they reported on how the LGBT community in Egypt lives in fear? I bet you didn't, but then I bet you also weren't even aware of the persecution of homosexuality in Egypt because you hadn't been led by the nose to shriek about it in the same way you have been with Trump.

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Re: Kremlin, lying? Colour me astonished ...

Its about all control - if you control the ROOT zone you control all DNS, which means pretty much everything.

e.g. he could remove the NS records for the Verisign COM zone and install his own - running his own COM registry operator (PutinNet) - then people would have to buy all COM domain names twice - once from Verisign and once from PutinNet.

Given there are 145M names in COM & NET and they bring in ~$8 a year each - wouldn't you want a slice of the action, if you could?

I wrote a document about this in 2009 - https://names.of.london/press/root_hints_file.pdf

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Anonymous Coward

not gonna happen

All of which is a long way of saying: the US kicking a nation like Russia off the internet? Never gonna happen.

Perhaps not. Or perhaps Russians have a longer memory, and a darker-shaded view of the world, and still remeber that disconnecting them from another vital international network - SWIFT - was seriously discussed not so long ago.

In this mad new world anything is possible, as long as it crazy enough.

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Re: not gonna happen

Copied root servers won't save them if they're physically cut off from the internet. That would require all the countries around them to physically interrupt the cable and satellite connections from Russia. Which isn't going to happen because they're next to relatively friendly countries who wouldn't do it. And why would you want to stop the Russian people from accessing outside information - given that cutting Russia physically off the internet still wouldn't stop GRU and FSB people from accessing it via outside connections to spread disinformation.

Cutting Russia off from SWIFT is much easier, and reqires fewer countries to agree. But was still considered a step too far.

Anyway the US and the UK control such a large percentage of the global financial markets between them, that they don't need international agreement to flex those muscles. You can simply make a bank choose between the relatively small profits from dealing with Russia or being alllowed to operate in New York and/or London. The year after sanctions were introduced over the invasion of Ukraine / annexation of Crimea, not a single Russian company was able to roll over their international debts in foreign markets. This meant they had to borrow hard currency from the Russian Central Bank reserves. I think it cost them about $150 billion in a year, failing to prop up the currency and rescuing their large companies.

So far the UK government doesn't seem to have tried this kind of thing independently of the US and EU, so we don't know how effective it could be (presumably less than the US but still somewhat). The US Treasury Department seems to have started looking into targetted financial sanctions about 15 years ago - maybe after the failure to maintain sanctions on Iraq via the UN? Worked reasonably well with Iran and has at least inconvenienced Putin over Ukraine, if it's had no other effects.

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Re: not gonna happen

The BRICS countries created their own alternative to SWIFT a few years ago. That has made them immune to US influence over international payments systems when dealing amongst themselves or with other participating countries.

I suspect if the US were to want to shut down the "ru" domain, they would go after the higher level DNS servers via financial "sanctions". Running a DNS server at the scale we are talking about takes money. Target the money and it doesn't matter what the engineering staff happen to think, they can try running a DNS system in the dark with no electricity and no Internet connectivity if they wish.

Really, if anything at all is surprising, it's that this wasn't done years ago.

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Devil

Re: not gonna happen

I doubt it will happen but for a different reason: cat videos.

Let's call it "Matryoshka-net" - heh

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matryoshka_doll

(because, photo at top of article)

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What happens if the situation were to develop such that the US really doesn't care who knows it's removed the .ru records? If the situation deteriorates to the point that Russia no long has access to the US servers?

Yes, in theory it should be possible for everyone to route around such a problem, but it would be negligent for any government to allow control of an infrastructure element as important as the Internet to rest in a location that would be obviously subject to pressure from a potential hostile power.

I'm not saying such a scenario is likely, but in the event of a major conflict involving the US, why would anyone else want to be depending on US infrastructure? Russia doesn't even need to be a direct party to any such conflict, the chaos it would be likely to cause would be a good reason to wish to lessen your dependence on the system run by an independent body that just happens to be head-quartered in the US.

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They are obliged by law to do that

Somebody on the reg desk does not read old el reg articles. We had (if memory serves me right) 3 articles lamenting about possible censorship use of the minor clauses in their Internet legislation. I cannot be arsed to look them up, it should have been whoever wrote it doing that.

During the discussion and reading (by those of us которые могут читать закон в оригинале) a few interesting details came to light. Namely:

1. Russia has introduced an official regulatory regime on all Internet things deemed to be critical infrastructure (*).

2. Failing to secure critical infrastructure which by law includes THE ZONE FOR RU AND ALL SERVING NAME SERVERS, peering points, authentication and authorization databases in telecoms providers, etc is a criminal offense with company directors being personally responsible if they run the infra in question.

3. All operators of such must have appropriate resiliency and disaster recovery plan.

So frankly, this was coming. Not doing so would have been a jail term for all people dealing with .RU.

It was written into their law code months ago (if not even last year). Anyone who did not see it reads too much Pravdauidad, watches too much RTNN and does not actually look at the sources. While it is excusable for us, mere commentards, for el reg to blindly repeat the party line instead of looking at the source is IMHO unexcusable. Bring us back Lewis, biased as he was he did his research.

(*) By the way, the legislation was written by someone who knew what is an autonomous system and how DNS operates. It was a pleasure to read and I wish we had that instead of HMG and MI5/6 having "interesting" requirements to the LiNX CTO job and doing sh*t via the backdoor. And do not even get me started on Dido Harding and where she would be if we had a proper regulatory regime on this.

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Pirate

Re: ITU

Really Icann and related stuff should not be under the USA, no matter about this Russian idea. They should be under the ITU, set up in the Victorian era to ensure smooth running of international telegraphs, then posts and phones. Later radio spectrum allocation was added. After WWII it was taken of by UN.

TLD and Internet management needs to be by International convention and consensus, no matter how corrupt and poor that can be. It can't remain under the duopoly of US politics and US corporations.

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Re: ITU

Where CIS and China could threaten the freedom of not just their own people but everyone by buying or bullying other countries in the ITU. Yeah, that's an excellent idea </sarcasim>

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Re: ITU

"They should be under the ITU"

Or the wider internet community as a whole. They could take the steps outlined in the article as a possible response to a Trump meltdown. The time to have done that was when, as the article recounts, they failed to get adequate controls over ICANN.

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Kieren's credentials

Kieren has written and researched articles about ICANN, internet infrastructure and internet governance for more than 15 years. He worked for ICANN for three years - and later founded an events company that ran a couple of successful events on internet governance. Feel free to disagree with him, but Kieren knows what he is talking about. As for the three articles that you agree with and think we published and which may have been written by someone else who, if it wasn't Kieren, is not an expert on ICANN, internet infrastructure or internet governance....

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Re: They are obliged by law to do that

I think most people would agree that there's good reasons for spreading the thirteen root servers around the world. Ideally to such an extent that even if (for example) the US and Russia both decided to fiddle with them, there'd still be enough independent copies out there.

And that's ignoring all of the non-political problems that come with clustering services too closely together geographically.

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Re: Kieren's credentials

I don't think anyone would question Kieren's expertise about the Internet. I certainly don't.

But some of his offhand comments about Russia and Mr Putin suggest that he is not quite as knowledgeable about present-day geopolitics. Russia is already threatened by thermonuclear missiles belonging to the USA (and other nations, including the UK) and literally surrounded by military and naval bases, all capable of launching devastating strikes into Russia at little or no notice. The "ABM" sites in Poland and Romania are capable of launching cruise missiles with thermonuclear warheads instead of the defensive missiles with which they are supposedly loaded - and even the Poles and Romanians would never know.

The Pentagon has recently been in the news after it advertised for Russian DNA and tissue samples - just for general medical research, you understand. Only a paranoid would wonder if the Pentagon - the US government's organ of war - might conceivably have some hostile motive.

Many Western experts have urged the Russian government to stop being so dangerously trusting and, in particular, not to believe any assurances from the USA or NATO. That is very good advice. The Russians, the Chinese, and the rest of the independent world must take all possible steps to remove all reliance on any resources under US government control - because they WILL be used as weapons.

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Re: Kieren's credentials

I am quite baffled by this post. Surely everyone knows of mainland China's human-rights record, and its brutal repression of Tibet and Uighuristan. And of Russia's aggression, first against Georgia, and then against the Ukraine for having the effrontery to overthrow a tyrant who was a buddy of Putin. And surely everyone knows too about the fact that the United States has free elections and a free press, that work very well in dealing with that country's imperfections, making it a democracy.

What the Russian government should do is hand the United States its unconditional surrender. That would be the quickest step to world peace they could take.

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Re: Kieren's credentials

Kieren has written and researched articles about ICANN, internet infrastructure and internet governance for more than 15 years.

Well, he clearly did not research this one.

What is happening is a direct and natural consequence of their laws on critical infrastructure. It was BOUND to happen. The question is not if, but when. They are obliged to prepare a disaster recovery plan and "separation under attack" plan regardless of who would be running root servers, registries and registrars. ICANN or no ICANN. US involvement or no involvement. This is what the law says.

Go and read it. We discussed it extensively here multiple times.

By the way - we should plagiarize these parts of it verbatim. It is well written and whoever consulted on the tecnical content of the relevant sections knew about DNS and how the internet works at a level which can be matched by a double digit number of people in the UK today. The person who did that job also had a very clear idea of attack and DOS mitigation methods used at that level (that probably narrows that number down even further).

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FAIL

Re: Kieren's credentials

I might have more sympathy for Putin if it wasn't for the wars of aggression he has launched against Georgia and Ukraine. If it wasn't for the cyber attacks against Estonia. The meddling in US elections to weaken democracy and trust in institutions. As it is, the world has plenty of reason to worry when they see Putin making a power grab in internation instutions because when he needs a distraction and make the Russian people cling to him no matter how low he has brough their standard of living, he attacks a target of oppertunity. As for the Chinese, I don't have enough time to list how they use and abuse the internet. That Chinese intelligence or law enforcement officals broke their own laws by kidnapping people from Hong Kong, tortured them, forced them to sign documents before releasing them shows how much they can be trusted.

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Re: Kieren's credentials

They don't need to surrender, just stop viewing the world as a zero sum game and that by attacking and bringing others low they raise themselves up.

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Re: Kieren's credentials

too about the fact that the United States has free elections and a free press,

Faux news... free press... Or Time. Once the Cox brothers have finalized their Christmas shopping spree...

You forgot the sarcasm tags mate. As I read your post, as someone who has lived in BOTH USA and Russia (and has no intention in living in the future in either - they are much more alike than you may think...), you need to share what you are smoking. While smoking cool stuff is not a crime, not sharing it is.

As far as the difference between USA and Russia - I suggest you look up Paragraph 23 of the Russian constitution and quote me the USA equivalent (if you had too much of what you are smoking you will probably end up quoting the FISA section of the Patriot Act).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Kieren's credentials

... as someone who has lived in BOTH USA and Russia (and has no intention in living in the future in either - they are much more alike than you may think...) ...

Seconded on both points.

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Mushroom

Re: Kieren's credentials

> Faux news... free press... Or Time. Once the Cox brothers have finalized their Christmas shopping spree...

Is this what the Internet Research Agency told you to write? Really guys, you need to work on your propaganda bullshit (агитпроп). It's gotten very lame lately.

How come the frequency of your posts increases geometrically every single time there's a negative article - or comment - about Russia? Inquiring minds want to know.

Also: I have no idea what the Cox Brothers have to do with Russia.

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Re: Kieren's credentials

"What the Russian government should do is hand the United States its unconditional surrender."

That's almost what happened in the Yeltsin era. The result? Rape of assets, plummeting male life expectancy. And ultimately Putin.

"That would be the quickest step to world peace they could take."

Deserta faciunt pacem appellant.

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Re: Kieren's credentials

"What the Russian government should do is hand the United States its unconditional surrender."

I so far deliberately left this one out of the equation, but feck it, I will bite.

We all (the ones who live in the so called "rest of the world") understand that this is the only expectation USA has from all of us. We all understand that this is the only language of negotiation USA knows. We all know that this is the actual content of any treaty USA signs (the most recent example being the Iran nuclear program agreement and Trumps' "they did not stick to the spirit of it, but to the letter. Sticking to letter, bad. That is not what we meant. Bwaaaa, Bwaaaa, Bwaaa, our toys are out of the pram").

As someone who understand Russians, let me tell you - there will be only one answer to the idea of "unconditional surrender" from them. It will be: "Пшел на хуй" (no, will not translate that). This is if you do not push them too far.

If you push them too far you will get "Прощание славянки" (Farewell of the Slavic Woman) on the tannoy and trust me, if you value your life, you do not want to be anywhere near. They do not give a damn about what their losses are once they get into that modus operandi. Napoleon, Hitler and quite a few other people with delusions of grandeur learned that one the hard way.

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Re: Kieren's credentials

"(no, will not translate that)"

I defer to your much greater knowledge of the complex and beautiful Russian language, but isn't <<Пошёл на хуй>> a little more correct?

Also, in such circumstances and given the teachings of the Russian Orthodox Church and the profound Russian feeling for domestic life, wouldn't a common response be to advise the requester to love his mother very much? Russian and the US are two nations united in their desire to see other people loving their mothers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Kieren's credentials

I defer to your much greater knowledge of the complex and beautiful Russian language, but isn't <<Пошёл на хуй>> a little more correct?

In modern Russian, your version is grammatically correct. As far as my fading knowledge of the Great and Mighty [*] goes, Behemoth's version follows the 19-th century rules. In modern Russian it sounds a bit archaic, and carries an extra degree of contempt towards the addressee. As a profanity, it would be an appropriate response to a suggestion so stupid that it does not even merit getting properly angry about.

If this this were a Russian drama class, I'd say full marks to mister B. for getting both the form and the substance exactly right.

[*] "Великий и Могучий" - if you ever took a proper Russian class, you know where this is coming from ;-)

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Re: Kieren's credentials

a common response be to advise the requester to love his mother very much?

That would be Bulgarian. In Russian, a motherly love reference does not include an "Implied Facepalm" (TM), while in Bulgarian it does. In most other Slavic languages it is usually rather anatomical.

So if you want to convey the disdain for that nice American idea of "unconditional surrender" as a synonym of "we will negotiate a treaty with you", you will have to do it differently in each language. The general idea will always be an "Implied Faceplam" full of disdain.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Kieren's credentials

"they are much more alike than you may think"

Both have terrible teeth?

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Re: Kieren's credentials

"In Russian, a motherly love reference does not include an "Implied Facepalm" (TM), while in Bulgarian it does."

Thank you. Come for the IT angles, gain a useful insight into international profanity. (I am being factual by the way.) My pre-Revolutionary dictionary is no help on older forms of verbs of motion, unfortunately.

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Re: They are obliged by law to do that

"the thirteen root servers"

Have you ever looked at the A records for "The thirteen root servers" ?

There are a LOT more than 13

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Linux

Re: Kieren's credentials

"What the Russian government should do is hand the United States its unconditional surrender. That would be the quickest step to world peace they could take."

First we need to add Mexico's provinces to our states. Mexico is too dangerous a trainwreck to ignore. Next, any country we have to send support efforts to, should accept the US flag.

Then, with regard to Russian fears, it's about time to completely redefine Internet Protocol. What we have is broken and leaking beyond the point of audience participation.

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Facepalm

Re: Voland's right hand Re: Kieren's credentials

".....They do not give a damn about what their losses....." You mean the current inhabitants of the Kremlin have zero qualms about letting the peasants be massacred as long as the inhabitants of the Kremlin are safe. Not much changed there from the days of Stalin then.

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Gedankenexperiment

The article is correct in its analysis, but I'd like to offer couple of additional thoughts (that may or may not be right):

1. A mirror (i.e., the current system described in the article) is not a backup. The point of a backup may be in not syncing blindly. I can imagine a system under Russia/BRIC control that mirrors everything but those countries' TLDs and "augments" the zone file used, thus making sure that the .ru, .cn, etc. parts are under control for the users that use nameservers that sync with such a root server. The "augmentation" ("restore from backup") may be performed after a comparison.

2. The "live experiment" that Russia ostensibly did could, in principle, be conducted under complete Russian control. E.g., make sure that some (Russian, regional) subtree of nameservers pull updates not from the global root servers but from a controlled experimental system such as outlined in item 1 above. Then one could screw up the .ru part of the controlled zone file in various ways and study the consequences. The world "zone experts" interviewed by El Reg would be none the wiser, and if something went wrong the observable effects would be some disruption of service to some Russian users at worst, barring leaks from thoroughly vetter Russian personnel involved or covert James Bond activity.

The recent Putin's decree may be about moving from experimental setup of #2 to production system of #1.

Any possibility to mess with the Russians' (Chinese, etc.) internet user experience would be completely coincidental. Of course.

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Re: Gedankenexperiment

The real chaos could occur when they start offering the service to other countries.

The US isn't going to hand over .ru to somebody else, but it might hand over .yemen or .qatar to say Saudi Arabia. They did this with Iraq's TLD and US politicians have been calling for the govt to take over Libya and Syria

So the Russians offer alternate DNS for .ly which conflicts with the other .ly and your ISP has two choices for which cute-millenium-name .ly social web app to send you to. Both with official https certs

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Live experiment is easy

If you have the capability to run a few VMs you could do the experiment yourself right now.

All DNS servers have a cache file they start up with that tells them where the 13 root servers are. So you set up an experimental DNS server that has changed those IPs to point somewhere else, i.e. some VMs you've set up as root name servers that use a modified copy of the root zone file. Then you point clients at your experimental DNS server and they see the world via the modified root zone file. If it is missing .ru, then no .ru names will be resolved by your experimental DNS server but it will perform recursion for anything else. If there was a .porn TLD where all porn was kept, it would be easy for countries that want to make a porn-free environment to use a root zone file that excludes the .porn TLD.

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Re: Live experiment is easy

"It would be easy for countries that want to make a porn-free environment to use a root zone file that excludes the .porn TLD.

Until someone set up an alternate root server, shared with the cognoscenti, that adds .porn back in?

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Obligatory xkcd

Devotion to Duty

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Pint

Re: Obligatory xkcd

Pint, for you Sir, obviously!

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Joke

Russia threatens to set up its 'own internet'...

With blackjack and hookers no doubt...

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Re: Russia threatens to set up its 'own internet'...

Dammit. You beat me to it.

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Re: Russia threatens to set up its 'own internet'...

@malle-herbert

Forget the blackjack!

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Holmes

Re: Russia threatens to set up its 'own internet'...

Don't forget the BlackJack!

Russia is the place where the house ALWAYS wins.

And in case you happen to have the audacity to win, things happen to you.

You get arrested, sham trials and the likes.

Count yourself lucky if you don't get polonium.

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