Ruling the Root: Internet Governance and the Taming of Cyberspace
In Ruling the Root, Milton Mueller uses the theoretical framework of institutionaleconomics to analyze the global policy and governance problems created by the assignment of Internetdomain names and addresses. "The root" is the top of the domain name hierarchy and the Internetaddress space. It is the only point of centralized control in what is otherwise a distributed andvoluntaristic network of networks. Both domain names and IP numbers are valuable resources, andtheir assignment on a coordinated basis is essential to the technical operation of the Internet.Mueller explains how control of the root is being leveraged to control the Internet itself in suchkey areas as trademark and copyright protection, surveillance of users, content regulation, andregulation of the domain name supply industry.Control of the root originally resided in aninformally organized technical elite comprised mostly of American computer scientists. As theInternet became commercialized and domain name registration became a profitable business, a six-yearstruggle over property rights and the control of the root broke out among Internet technologists,business and intellectual property interests, international organizations, national governments, andadvocates of individual rights. By the late 1990s, it was apparent that only a new internationalinstitution could resolve conflicts among the factions in the domain name wars. Mueller recounts thefascinating process that led to the formation of a new international regime around ICANN, theInternet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. In the process, he shows how the vauntedfreedom and openness of the Internet is being diminished by the institutionalization of theroot.