internet, dns system, oatmeal and monopoly power
I'm here to talk about what happens when you type in "oatmealdream.com". Why Oatmeal Dream? Because perhaps you want to start a website about the dreams you have about Oatmeal. It's going to be huge. There are major business implications for the oatmeal and sleep businesses. The first thing you do is check if your domain name is available. You type it into a web browser. The web browser market is dominated by Google with one of its flagship products Chrome. There are competitors but most people use Chrome. Only heathens and people required by business contracts us Edge, a product built and maintained by Microsoft. This does not mean the Chrome web browser is better than Edge. It just means for whatever reason, most people use Chrome. I use Chrome lol.
The U.S. Justice Department (part of the Executive Branch of government) is suing Google based in Mountain View for having a monopoly on the search engine market. Chrome is one piece in Google's domination of the freeking "internet search" market. They dominate the channel by which our country accesses information. You can read the full compaint by the government in this legal document. It's another example of Concentrated Corporate Power in America.
Anyway, why does AT&T page come up when I type in "oatmealdream.com"? If you type it in to your web browser (whatever you use) you're likely to get something different. This is because of the Domain Name System (DNS) that powers the internet as we know it.
What is the Domain Name System (DNS)?
The above header is an example of an H2 tag that is important for search results. Google craws the web to look for HTML structures like
H1, h2, H3, h4 and other HTML tags. Google is even launching it's own format tomake the web easier to index and control. It's called AMP. There's an entire industry of corporations, consultants and employees dedicated to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) where companies pay billions to Google and Facebook exclusively to make sure their information is accessible to the masses.
Congress has filed a Congressional Investigation into Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon's domination of digital markets. The Domain Name System (DNS) is the system that maps website domains to Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. For example, if you type Amazon.com into a web browser the web browser will be able to map the letters in "amazon.com" to numbers that computers on the internet network understand like
18.104.22.168. Amazon has a division worth billions of dollars to manage this complexity for software developers. The division is called Amazon Web Services. Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud services allow people to host their websites on Google or Amazon's hardware. Instead of having a computer managing traffic to the internet you can rent space in a server farm and manage everything from your local computer with an internet connection. Companies have multiple IP addresses for multiple servers. These servers can be located all around the world. The web page loads faster for people closer to where the site is hosted. DNS Providers allow web masters to host and cache websites sites on servers close to their users. The DNS translates domain names to IP addresses.
What is an IP address?
This brings us back to our deams of oatmeal and the website we want to build. DNS Providers are businesses that use the Domain Name System (DNS) to map internet domain names like "google.com" to IP addresses. DNS providers is a bottleneck of concentrated corporate power. Google, Microsoft and Amazon all run DNS Provider businesess. For Amazon the product is called Amazon Route 53. Google offers a free product called Public DNS and Microsoft has Azure DNS to provide DNS services. DNS services translate domain names into IP addresses. The protocol itself is managed by ICANN, a nonprofit organization. They provide the structure of the internet that we all benefit from.
So what really is an IP address? The internet is a network. Every participant on that network needs a unique identifier. An Internet Protocol (IP) address is a unique identifier for a computer on the internet network. Servers have static IP addresses that don't change. Every time you access the internet you have an IP address. You can find your IP address by typing "what's my IP address" into Google search. You may have heard of IPv6. This was a major global initiative to structure the internet network in a way so there are more IP addresses available for everyone. It also opened up some fun new domain name endings like
.dev, .info, .io, .ai and many more.
The story for our oatmeal dreams internet entrepreneur does not end here. When we typed oatmealdreams.com into our internet browser electricity traveled through a series of tubes like ethernet cables and over the air waves through wifi to return us back information. The DNS lookup failed. There's no registry for "oatmealdreams.com" in the Domain Name System. Since the DNS lookup failed we were redirected to a site provided to me by my Internet Service Provider (ISP), the corporate monopoly AT&T who owns the fiber laid in our neighborhood making it difficult for other firms to compete.
What is an Internet Service Provider (ISP)?
An internet service provider provides access to the internet. The biggest ones in the United States of America are Comcast, AT&T and Verizon.
Google is making moves to control the ISP market through next generation Fiber networks. AT&T is currently the leader in fiber internet services. Google's ISP service is called Google Fiber. Backed by billions in revenue from shareholders on Wall Street and profits from its other divisions Google could end up controlling the fiber ISP market in addition to its current monoplies in online search, video streaming, web browsers and mobile phone operating systems.
Buying domain names
To verify that the domain name "oatmealdreams.com" is indeed available we need to check with a Domain Name Registrar. As you may have guessed Google has it's own Domain Name Registration business called Google Domains. Through this service we can see that the domain name indeed has not been taken in the DNS registry.
Other popular DNS registrars include Amazon Route 53, Bluehost and GoDaddy. If current trends continue there will be further consolidation in this space leading to more concentrated power and money available to fewer hands.
Launching a website
To actually launch the website to "oatmealdreams.com" we need to buy or rent a server. That will give us an IP address. Then we'll need to put HTML files (at the minimum) on that server and have a domain name mapped to our IP address in the DNS registry. Google and Amazon control the key arteries of the internet and profit at every level. The only entity powerful enough to reverse this trend in the United States is the United States Government.
Words of encouragement
The government launched a lawsuit against Google and is looking to take further action against Facebook, Amazon and Apple. These lawsuits were filed under Republican executive leadership and there may be broad bipartisan support for breaking up internet giants. Elizabeth Warren has been an early advocate. Tides are shifting and people are demanding government takes a stand on the side of the public. We are more than just consumers. We are citizens and producers. The government makes the rules and we need to take action to make the fruits of the internet age available to everyone. If you ahve questions about corporate power, monoploy or the DNS system hit me up on twitter or send me an email :)