essentials 1| start 1|1 ctrlaltdel.org

project: DNvorscher (updated)

The initial idea of the DNvorscher project was to develop real-time software that would give you an abstracted image of how much domains were in real use versus in use by domains squatters used to create in income (see below for the initial project plans). In the process of the development of the project I discovered that the data (whois data) needed to build such a map were 1. not unlimited available and 2. were changing because of privacy/ spam issues. In other words the material I needed was something subjected to change. Because of the importance of making visible the changing landscape of internet, in the sense of more and more domain names are just becoming non-sites to lure innocent visitors into clicking and so making a profit for the owner, I pulled through the idea of building a map. The change in plans however is that I made the whole process of researching the domaintrade and that of actually building a map total open. In this sense the visitor of the project can actually get an understanding (through the links and articles provided) of how domaintrade and the process of making money by just owning empty sites works. Besides this I made some open source tools that can be used to do mass scraping of whois databases (though very slow) and provide the idea of an interactive static domain ownership map. All resources can be used to further the idea of map making software. If you use any of the scripts provided or develop them further let me know and I'll place a link from this site to the site that uses them. Also new vesions of scripts can be sent to me and I'll add them to the existing ones.

New issues about domaintrade keep appearing, the latest issue is typo squatters (people that buy misspelled domain-names and use it to gather traffic) using google adsense to get more traffic and thus to make more money. More info about this can be found in the essentials part of this site.

Peter Luining 30 may 2006

DNvorscher - the actual project idea
Stage 1

To get a deeper understanding of the exact nature of the issues involved in domain trade and how it changes the internet I want, in the first place, to do more thorough research. I think here of identifying the bigger domain squatters and what exactly they own, the techniques that are used by squatters to generate money (i.e. just aggressive pop-ups or offering fake-sites to seduce ignorant surfers to click) and which strategies squatters use to add more domains to their virtual portfolio (to establish which domain-names are interesting) and where they get them.

Stage 2

In this stage I want to create a series of static interactive maps from the research data I found in stage 1. With static maps I mean that I enter the data of ownership and/or use myself. In these maps the stress will be on relations of domain-ownership and their actual influence on the landscape of the internet. I think here of maps that visualize the “squatted” vs “real domains” in certain areas (i.e. 2 or 3 letter .com, .net and .org domains) and how domain names are used, for example as “real use”, aggressive pop-ups or fake sites that look normal.

The visualization of these maps will be done in the abstract language used in my earlier pieces like BGO MUI*5 or ZNC browser, where shapes, colors and sounds have a clear relationship with underlying data. In the case of ZNC browser such data was, for example, characters of an HTML page that were translated one by one in ASCII numbers. These numbers were in turn used 1. to produce colors based on the internal color palette of the Operating System and 2. to produce audio tones to the exact height of the ASCII number.

In the case of DNvorscher I will set up maps that translate data into coloured squares that are positioned in a certain way. For example in a map of domain ownership (squatted vs "real" domains) the ownership data will be translated into squares that differ in size depending on how much domains a company or individual owns. The squares will be positioned on a map based on the physical server location of the domain name (the location where the domain is hosted). In other words the starting point is a blank map that has the measures of a world map on which smaller and larger squares will be positioned according to their position on a real world map. For example a domain name that is hosted on a server located in Amsterdam (location: Latitude: 52.35 Longitude: 4.9) will show up as a square somewhere a little bit above the middle. The color of the squares will be based on domain ownership. Domains in the hands of larger squatters (so not in "real" use) will be for example colored black, domains in real use will be white and green stands for unregistered names.

The interactive part of the map exists of linking sounds to the squares. This means that with a mouse-over a square it will make a sound: a dark loud noise with a big black square (a series of domain names owned by a squatter) and a soft sounding pure sinoid tone with a white one (= a domain name by an individual in “real” use). Given the landscape the user will not only see the visualization but can also interact with it in terms of sound.

Stage 3

In the final stage I want to research how I can make the static maps dynamic. With this I mean that instead of using data that I gathered myself from the internet and put in a program, I want to develop software that does this data gathering and building the map by itself. For example in the case of domain ownership I think of software that searches online in a whois database (domain ownership database) for changes in ownership and directly updates the map when it is for example launched. The program itself will contain a list of domain squatters so it can immediately check if a name is still in “real” use or not. This list could in the future also be updated when online. Of course the whois data can also be used for positioning of the squares on the map because they contain the information of the physical location of the server too.

Depending on the precise technical execution of the project the addition of a programmer with specialized knowledge of online databases and scraping data from them might be needed. I also think of 2 important functions of the software itself: 1. every time the map is opened it will remember the locations, colours and sizes of the squares. This way, animations of the changes over time in the map can be built, while at the same time the interactive elements (mouseover/ sound) can still be used, so a new dynamic element of interactivity is added. 2. based on past changes of the map the software could extrapolate how certain area of domainnames might look in the future. Besides this extra functionality of animation in time and the extrapolation function the look and feel of the dynamical “drawn” maps will be the same as the static versions.