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The Internet uses the Domain Name System (DNS) to associate the names of computers with their numeric IP addresses and with other information. The top level of the domain name hierarchy, the DNS root, contains the top-level domains that appear as the suffixes of all Internet domain names. The official DNS root is administered by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). In addition, several organizations operate alternative DNS roots (often referred to as alt roots). These alternative domain name systems operate their own root nameservers and administer their own specific name spaces consisting of custom top-level domains.

The Internet Architecture Board has spoken out strongly against alternate roots in RFC 2826.


The DNS root zone consists of pointers to the authoritative domain name servers for all top-level domains. The root zone is hosted on a collection of root servers operated by several organizations around the world that all use a specific, approved list of domains that is managed by ICANN.

Alternative roots typically include pointers to all of the TLD servers for domains delegated by ICANN, as well as name servers for other, custom top-level domains that are not sanctioned by ICANN, but that are operated by other independent organizations. Some alternate roots are operated by the organizations that manage these alternative TLDs.

Alternative DNS roots can in general be divided into three groups: those run for idealistic or ideological cause, those run as profit-making enterprises, and those run internally by an organization for its own use.

Whilst technically trivial to set up, actually maintaining a reliable root server network is a serious undertaking, requiring multiple servers to be kept running 24/7 in geographically diverse locations.

During the dot-com boom, some alternate root providers believed that there were substantial profits to be made from providing alternative top-level domains.

Only a small portion of Internet service providers actually use any of the domains served by alternate root operators, generally supporting only ICANN-sanctioned root servers. This has led to the commercial failure of several alternative DNS root providers.

A BIZ TLD created by Pacific Root was in operation before ICANN approved the official BIZ domain, operated by Neulevel. For some time after the creation of the official domain, several alternate roots continued to resolve BIZ domains to Pacific Root's servers rather than Neulevel's. Therefore, some domain names existed in different roots and pointed to different IP addresses. The possibility of such conflicts, and their potential for destabilizing the Internet, is the main source of controversy surrounding alternate roots. Many of the alternate roots try to coordinate with each other, but many do not, and no conflict resolution processes exist between them.

List of alternative roots and their domains

This section lists the known alternate DNS roots, and for each root, lists the TLDs carried in addition to the ICANN-sanctioned gTLDs and ccTLDs.

Active public root zones


  • Public website: [47330]
  • Public-Root resolves all 5 kinds of TLDs globally. It is created to offer an alternative, open DNS infrastructure with its own 13 root servers around the world.


Public Access Website: [47331]
  • bbs — aimed toward ( Telnet style ) Bulletin Board System servers, and affiliated/related/owned websites.
  • dyn — Approved by the OpenNIC Community, and will be introduced in mid-2008. Used to resolve Dynamic DNS.
  • free — non-commercial use of the internet
  • furFurry and Furry Fandom related sites
  • geek — anything geeky
  • glue — Sites related to infrastructure
  • indy — Independent News and Media
  • ing — fun TLD. Further details to be confirmed
  • null — miscellaneous non-commercial individual sites
  • oss — Open Source Software
  • parody — Parodies
  • eco — Intended for the use in socially responsible investing (SRI) and ecological cooperatives, wholly owned subsidiaries, and other organisations that exist to promote or support the said co-operative.

See OpenNIC Wikipedia entry for further detail and historical information.

Open Root Server Network (ORSN)

(Shutdown 31.12.2008 00:00 UTC)Website: [47332]
  • Used to be a mirror of the ICANN root, but still has .um and no IDN test TLD.


Website: [47333]
  • agent
  • arts
  • auction
  • chat
  • shop
  • free
  • golf
  • llc
  • llp
  • love
  • ltd
  • school
  • scifi
  • soc
  • video
  • travel — conflicts with ICANN-sanctioned TLD travel
  • tech
  • kids
  • church
  • game
  • mp3
  • med
  • mail
  • xxx
  • club
  • inc
  • law
  • family
  • sport


  • UnifiedRoot enables all existing TLDs and allows new TLDs to be registered at a cost of €50,000 each (plus annual maintenance fees of €12,500).

On the user side, it works by modifying the user's DNS settings to point at UnifiedRoot's servers; it also offers a downloadable tool to do this on Windows. UnifiedRoot have also made agreements with ISPs and telcos to enable access to the provided TLDs. Unified root supports International Domain Names (IDN) for top level domains (TLDs).


Website: [47334]
  • Resolves too many zones to be listed here.


Website: [47335]
  • MobileTLD claims to resolve domains for mobile devices.

Open RSC

One of the notable challengers to ICANN's control of the DNS namespace was Open RSC, a group which grew out of private discussions and morphed into a public mailing list which grew large enough the group decided to submit an application to the US government to run the DNS.

Bylaws and articles of incorporation were posted outlining ORSC's position following extensive public discussion regarding the manner in which DNS was being run.

ICANN chairwoman Esther Dyson acknowledged adopting features such as membership from ORSC in her response to the US department of Commerce.

ORSC publishes a root zone containing additional top level domains not found in the official root zone.

Website: [47336]
  • per — personal pages
  • etc — anything
  • web — for the web
  • shop — online shops
  • pickle — just a general funny name
  • sco — for Scottish culture
  • mail - a tld for email - to reduce spam and clearly identify email servers.

Inactive public root zones

AlterNIC (ceased operation in 1997)
  • exp
  • llc
  • lnx
  • ltd
  • med
  • nic
  • noc
  • porn
  • xxx

eDNS (stopped in 1998)
  • biz — General business use
  • corp — For use by corporations
  • fam — For and about Family
  • k12 — For and about Kids
  • npo — Non-profit organizations
  • per — Personal Domain Name services
  • web — Web-based sites (ie: web pages)

Iperdome (stopped in 1999)
  • per — Personal Domain Name services
  • see the announcement
  • later the TLDs changed to:
    • biz — General business use
    • corp — For use by corporations
    • gay — For and about the Gay Community
    • k12 — For and about Kids
    • npo — Non-profit organizations
    • pol — Related to Poland and Polish organizations
    • web — Web-based sites (ie: web pages)

Active private root zones

A number of organizations have alternative top-level domains configured on their internal DNS infrastructures, accessible only from within the enterprise. For instance, the National Security Agencymarker operates the nsa domain; many NSA internal email addresses are of the form username@r21.r.nsa, mirroring the NSA organizational group structure.

See also


External links

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