Every few years since 1995, some Filipino netizens get all riled up about the management of the .PH domain and want to start a revolution. It’s as cyclical as fashion. Well, it looks that time has come again.
The latest brouhaha was instigated by a recent DNS hack that redirected users of Sulit.com.ph to its competitor AyosDito.ph. In investigating the incident, Sulit concluded there was nothing wrong with its own site security, the hack was done on DotPH’s servers, and even got the hacker to admit to the deed. The hacker also revealed that there was something amiss with DotPH’s security.
Rather than rehash the whole story, here are some handy links to the coverage so far:
Needless to say, news of the Sulit-DotPH incident spread like wildfire through social media. Over at the Startup PH group on Facebook, technopreneurs wondered if DotPH incompetency was a liability for the country’s tech startup scene, Over the course of a few online discussions, the question was raised – is it time to replace DotPH as the Philippines’ Internet domain administration?
Or as Franky Branckaute (a.k.a. “Franky Branc“) of local tech punditry site “The Bobbery” noted in his piece: Can DotPH run the Philippine Domain Registry Competently?
And so the idea emerged from Facebook discussions and made the rounds of the web:
So here we have people wondering if it’s time for a change, and DotPH’s monopoly over the PH domain should end.
It’s an interesting idea – and an old one. The issue dates back to at least 1994 – when the educational network Philnet was being established to connect the Philippines to the Internet, discussions were opened up with the PH Domain administrator Joel Disini to transfer the domain management to the Philnet foundation – and those negotiations quickly turned sour. I interviewed the Philnet personalities in 2001 about that chapter and the narrative lives on when I reposted the newspaper feature on the blogosphere. The post is “Showdown at the .PH Corral” and you can read it here.
The second brouhaha took place sometime in 1999.
I had a yahoogroups mailing list called “The Philippine Cyberspace Review” (a.k.a. PH-Cyberview) and among the many discussions that took place, there was a thread about complaints about the DotPH administration. The initial issue was DotPH pricing – .PH domains then and now remain more expensive than global top level domains like .COM and .NET. Since .PH was run by a single organization that controlled pricing, policies, and everything but the kitchen sink, the sentiment then was that it was time to open up the PH domain to more players and possibly involve the local internet community in the policy-maing process.
The mailing list discussions spun off a series of organized moves to study the PH domain issue, recommend reforms, and present this to some government body. The activities culminated in a landmark white paper written in October 2001 called “The PH Domain and the Need for Policy Reforms“ which outlined the issues point by point. You can read a copy of the paper on Scribd.
The paper was submitted to a body called ITECC (Information Technology and Electronic Commerce Council) – which evolved into the CICT (Commission on Information Communications Technology) under the Office of the President.
Based on the PhilDac white paper, the CICT issued memorandum #1 in August 2004, “Guidelines for the Administration of the PH Domain“.
Predictably, the CICT memorandum did not sit well with DotPH Inc, who spent the next few years protesting it.
The history of the PH Domain issues (and a summary of points) have been documented in 2007 in this fine FMA Study Paper on the .PH Domain Administration which you can now read on Slideshare.
Other important documents from this era include this excellent piece by Bombim Cadiz, “On the DotPH Comments to the NTC Proposed Guidelines on the Administration of the Philippine Country Code Top Level Domain” now on Scribd.
My participation in these activities is documented in the FMA paper, but I will have to admit that the role of the quixotic crusading do-gooder did take its toll and wore me out. After the PhilDac paper, I distanced myself from the issue and let others continue the fight. The issue was always too esoteric for the mainstream internet user, and when interest began to wilt, DotPH continued on its merry way, unhindered by government or community driven oversight. The CICT guidelines were largely ignored, and the dissolution of the CICT in 2011 left the question of oversight over DotPH pretty much a question mark.
So now here we are in 2012, and the questions about the PH domain have arisen again. And if you ask me, the issues being raised are prety darn similar to the same ones dating back to the 2001 white paper. Deja vu – but with a new set of players manning the opposition.
If the members of the Startup community of 2012 feel they have a sound case, then Godspeed.
Maybe in the age of social media this movement will steamroll to the point that we have a bigger clamor for reform. After all these years, the Philippine Internet community may have its say in the policies of the PH domain.
But please count me out of the cyberactivism this time around. I haven’t recovered from the wear and tear of the last uprising. But I’ll still be on the sidelines cheering the troops on.