[IRP] [Expression] openDNS - seems to be a decent way of content filtering

Karl Auerbach karl
Sun Jul 12 23:34:41 EEST 2009

On 07/12/2009 10:59 AM, Max Senges wrote:

> last night i met someone from www.openDns.com <http://www.openDns.com>

Of course, using DNS as a filter for web traffic is sort of like using a 
sledge hammer to open eggs - The problem being that DNS is used by many 
other protocols than those used by web browsers.  In other words, the 
filtering is overbroad.  The IETF/IAB/ICANN reports on sitefinder 
described this pretty well.

But when a system is voluntary, such as openDNS, who are we to say an 
internet thing is bad if a user chooses to do it and that user can stop 
using it at any time he/she wants?

(By-the-way, it is only a very short step from things like openDNS to 
acceptance of competing DNS root system.  And if we, in subsequent 
discussion, want to take that step we would find solutions to the new 
top level domain [TLD] wars that have shaken ICANN since its inception.)

As far as the community thing goes - As Milton points out it is not 
infrequent for that community to have been infiltrated by some people 
with extreme views about things.  (For example, what about an image or 
sculpture of a man being tortured by having his hands nailed to wooden 
pieces and then lifted upon those pieces and left to die a slow death? 
Described that way some might find that to be pornographic violence. 
Many would find that to be Jesus on the Cross.)

For the web there was an interesting system that was developed and 
deployed.  But it withered a decade ago from non-use.  That system, 
which is (or at least was) supported by Microsoft's Internet Explorer 
was called PICS - Platform for Internet Content Selection - 
http://www.w3.org/PICS/ - and as you can see by the URI, it is from the 
W3C, the IETF-equivalent for web protocols.

That system allowed the creation (by anyone) of content ranking 
authorities and each could use its own criteria  Those authorities could 
publish their rankings in a PICS defined way and you, as a user, could 
chose which authorities, if any, you could honor.  Your PICS capable 
browser would then use the chosen authority.

It was a good idea, but it kinda faded.  It is an idea that is a lot 
better than the sledge hammer of DNS filters.  PICS is focused on web 
content a lot more flexible and capable of better matching user desires 
with filtering policies (indeed, in the extreme case, the user can, if 
the user wants, form his/her own filtering authority.)  PICS also leaves 
non-web protocols unfiltered.

Perhaps rather than using DNS as the universal hammer we should revive 
better focused and less draconian things like PICS and bring them up to 

(But let us also not forget that the path illuminated by openDNS is a 
way to solve the new TLD problem - but let's discuss that later in 
another thread.)


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