As a follow up to my DNS post, I started trying to answer “Who’s in charge of all this?”.

Basically, I wanted to know what keeps me from claiming a different domain name or for that matter for claiming a different IP address.

I went down a rabbit hole of RFC’s and never quite pulled out the answer to my question, but I wanted to post what I did find out since it’s been languishing in my drafts for too long.


Systems were each keeping track of the list of “names” of hosts and their “addresses” (which seem to just be decimal numbers, it’s unclear what protocol these addresses were for as this was before the IP protocol was developed.).

In 1973, the NIC put out an official list of host names and addresses, afterwhich somebody suggested that the NIC maintain a file that other hosts can pull down. The NIC agreed, and started serving a “HOSTS.TXT” file in ASCII format with the host name and addresses available via FTP.

In 1981, Internet Protocol (IP) was introduced, and J. Postel put out a list of IP ranges assigned to existing networks. These networks were free to assign IP addresses in that range as they saw fit.

In 1982, Feinler updates the HOSTS.TXT format to use IP addresses and to specify networks, gateways and hosts separately.


First computers linked

Engelbart volunteers Stanford Research Institute (SRI) to be the Network Information Center (NIC) since he has NLS (oN-Line System) which could help manage it.


Jake Feinler transfers into ARC (Augmentation Research Center) to work on NIC.

Socket catalog request - RFC 322

RFC 349 - Proposed Socket Numbers Postel suggests there be a czar for socket numbers for standard protocols and that it be him

Socket Number List - RFC 433 Postel specifies the socket number assignent


RFC 597 - List of hosts on ARPANET interestingly the address numbers are between 0 and 255

OFFICE-1 the NIC host is on a PDP-10 along with NLS
Also offers "TENEX"

RFC 606 - Host Names On-Line L. Peter Deutsch recommends a centralized list of host names


RFC 608 - Host Names On-Line Jake commits to updating a text file File lives at HOSTS.TXT Host “OFFICE-1” Host Address = 43 decimal

^^ so Host Addresses were just numbers


NLS sold to Tymshare, with it the machine NIC ran on, so NIC switches to DEC-10

RFC 739 - Assigned Numbers Postel lists the assigned “link” numbers and socket numbers for protocols. Not clear to me exactly what a “link” is. I’m not sure how packets were routed, this was pre-IP though, so maybe it was in a really weird way

Refers to the “internetwork protocols”


RFC 760 - Internet Protocol


Convert from NCP to TCP/IP (NCP was original Arpanet protocol) TCP/IP created?

DDN created

RFC 790 - Assigned Numbers Class A,B,C networks described. IP ranges assigned to different networks

RFC 796 - Address Mappings Class A,B,C networks, describes how network specific addresses correspond to IP addresses.

RFC 791 - Internet Protocol (IP) This is an update


RFC 810 - Host Table Specification

It can be obtained by connecting to host SRI-NIC ( from your local FTP server, logging in as user=ANONYMOUS, password=GUEST, and doing a ‘get’ on HOSTS.TXT.

RFC 811 - Hostname Server SRI-NIC is mentioned to be running on a Foonly Describes command interface for looking up the host addresses for machines by name


Deadline for military to adopt TCP/IP


Domain Name requirements RFC 920

The administrator of a level N domain must register with the registrar (or responsible person) of the level N-1 domain. This upper level authority must be satisfied that the requirements are met before authorization for the domain is granted.

Lays out the information necessary to register a domain. Essentially: email with your information including the IP addresses of the name servers that will host the DNS information.

The IP address listed is of the typical x.x.x.x format.


RFC 995: Hostname server (Feinler update to RFC 811)


NIC took over maintaining assigned numbers and become Arpanet/DDN’s naming auhtority

RFC 1035 - DNS protocol specification


NIC contract awarded to Network Solutions Inc (NSI).


NSI adds root server


RFC 1591 (Postel): - registers second level domains under the TLD’s (com, edu, org, gov, net)

now is US Department of Commerce

.mil - DDN .int - PVM at (USC)


ICANN established

Unanswered Questions

  • If NIC did the host names, what did IANA do?
  • What is TIP? and what is a TIP phone number?
  • What was Namedroppers?
  • What format were addresses before IP? How did things get routed?

Further Reading:

History by Jake Feinler (a) Verisign a root server pre-1991 Network Information Center (NIC) at Stanford Research Institute (SRI) SRI operated one of 3 root name servers.

(b) USC started in 1987 USC b root server

(c) also started in 1987 Cogent c root server

(d) 1988 University of Mayland d root server

IANA Wikipedia

IANA’s role - RFC 1591 “It is extremely unlikely that any other TLDs will be created.” (lol)