- Issue 4 - June 2018, Volume 45

Territorialization of the Internet Domain Name System

Article by: Marketa Trimble

45 PEPP. L. REV. 623 (2018)

Territorialization of the internet—the linking of the internet to physical geography—is a growing trend. Internet users have become accustomed to the conveniences of localized advertising, have enjoyed location-based services, and have witnessed an increasing use of geolocation and geoblocking tools by service and content providers who—for various reasons—either allow or block access to internet content based on users’ physical locations. This article analyzes whether, and if so how, the trend toward territorialization has affected the internet Domain Name System (DNS). As a hallmark of cyberspace governance that aimed to be detached from the territorially-partitioned governance of the physical world, the DNS might have been expected to resist territorialization—a design that seems antithetical to the original design of and intent for the internet as a globally distributed network that lacks a single point of control. However, the DNS has never been completely detached from physical geography, with which it has many ties, and this article shows that the trend toward increased territorialization is detectable in the DNS as well.  This article contemplates what impact, if any, the trend will have on the future of the DNS. While the future of the DNS is challenged by the role of internet search engines, whose predominant use by internet users could render the DNS, as we know it today, obsolete, disputes over domains and domain names with geographical meaning, such as .amazon and france.com, suggest that the DNS remains very much relevant and that territorialization presents a significant friction point in the DNS.

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