Jon Postel, who runs the organization that has ultimate control over how traffic is directed throughout the Internet, last weekend decided to conduct what he called a "test."
Postel--who is head of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) at the University of Southern California, which is run under a Defense Department contract--rerouted the Internet's directory information from its normal destination at Network Solutions to the IANA.
Network Solutions, which is also under government contract, runs the main server that routes directory information on the Net.
The test apparently worked. If it hadn't, email would have gotten lost and users would have had trouble reaching Web sites.
Basically, the system that Postel was testing acts as the master switchboard for Internet domains. Without it, the Net would plunge into chaos. It would be like the phone company losing the ability to match individual numbers to their destination phones.
But not all were pleased with the results of the test. Today, President Clinton's Internet policy adviser, Ira Magaziner, criticized Postel's timing and said at a conference that Postel had promised not to repeat the test, according to the Associated Press.
Postel's redirection came the weekend following the release of the government's long-awaited plan to transfer control of the domain name system to the private sector.
Many criticized Postel's action, calling it political. Postel maintained in a statement that the move was done to test the limits of the domain name system.
Magaziner's plan had called for the eventual establishment of a not-for-profit corporation to take over the function that IANA--and by proxy, the government--now serves as overseer of traffic routing on the Internet. Postel and the IANA would likely be involved in the new corporation.
In light of the report, Postel said he was conducting the experiment to see if the IANA could handle a transfer of power, although some interpreted the move as a snub to the authorities.
"As a verification that such a transfer can be accomplished smoothly and without interruption to the operational service, a test is being performed to rearrange the flow of root zone information," Postel wrote in a statement he released to NEWS.COM. "Once this test is completed, the arrangements may revert to the previous arrangements."