Network Working Group                                          J. Postel
Request for Comments: 1591                                           ISI
Category: Informational                                       March 1994

              Domain Name System Structure and Delegation

Status of this Memo

   This memo provides information for the Internet community.  This memo
   does not specify an Internet standard of any kind.  Distribution of
   this memo is unlimited.

1. Introduction

   This memo provides some information on the structure of the names in
   the Domain Name System (DNS), specifically the top-level domain
   names; and on the administration of domains.  The Internet Assigned
   Numbers Authority (IANA) is the overall authority for the IP
   Addresses, the Domain Names, and many other parameters, used in the
   Internet.  The day-to-day responsibility for the assignment of IP
   Addresses, Autonomous System Numbers, and most top and second level
   Domain Names are handled by the Internet Registry (IR) and regional

2.  The Top Level Structure of the Domain Names

   In the Domain Name System (DNS) naming of computers there is a
   hierarchy of names.  The root of system is unnamed.  There are a set
   of what are called "top-level domain names" (TLDs).  These are the
   generic TLDs (EDU, COM, NET, ORG, GOV, MIL, and INT), and the two
   letter country codes from ISO-3166.  It is extremely unlikely that
   any other TLDs will be created.

   Under each TLD may be created a hierarchy of names.  Generally, under
   the generic TLDs the structure is very flat.  That is, many
   organizations are registered directly under the TLD, and any further
   structure is up to the individual organizations.

   In the country TLDs, there is a wide variation in the structure, in
   some countries the structure is very flat, in others there is
   substantial structural organization.  In some country domains the
   second levels are generic categories (such as, AC, CO, GO, and RE),
   in others they are based on political geography, and in still others,
   organization names are listed directly under the country code.  The
   organization for the US country domain is described in RFC 1480 [1].

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RFC 1591      Domain Name System Structure and Delegation     March 1994

   Each of the generic TLDs was created for a general category of
   organizations.  The country code domains (for example, FR, NL, KR,
   US) are each organized by an administrator for that country.  These
   administrators may further delegate the management of portions of the
   naming tree.  These administrators are performing a public service on
   behalf of the Internet community.  Descriptions of the generic
   domains and the US country domain follow.

   Of these generic domains, five are international in nature, and two
   are restricted to use by entities in the United States.

   World Wide Generic Domains:

   COM - This domain is intended for commercial entities, that is
         companies.  This domain has grown very large and there is
         concern about the administrative load and system performance if
         the current growth pattern is continued.  Consideration is
         being taken to subdivide the COM domain and only allow future
         commercial registrations in the subdomains.

   EDU - This domain was originally intended for all educational
         institutions.  Many Universities, colleges, schools,
         educational service organizations, and educational consortia
         have registered here.  More recently a decision has been taken
         to limit further registrations to 4 year colleges and
         universities.  Schools and 2-year colleges will be registered
         in the country domains (see US Domain, especially K12 and CC,

   NET - This domain is intended to hold only the computers of network
         providers, that is the NIC and NOC computers, the
         administrative computers, and the network node computers.  The
         customers of the network provider would have domain names of
         their own (not in the NET TLD).

   ORG - This domain is intended as the miscellaneous TLD for
         organizations that didn't fit anywhere else.  Some non-
         government organizations may fit here.

   INT - This domain is for organizations established by international
         treaties, or international databases.

   United States Only Generic Domains:

   GOV - This domain was originally intended for any kind of government
         office or agency.  More recently a decision was taken to
         register only agencies of the US Federal government in this
         domain.  State and local agencies are registered in the country

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RFC 1591      Domain Name System Structure and Delegation     March 1994

         domains (see US Domain, below).

   MIL - This domain is used by the US military.

   Example country code Domain:

   US - As an example of a country domain, the US domain provides for
        the registration of all kinds of entities in the United States
        on the basis of political geography, that is, a hierarchy of
        <entity-name>.<locality>.<state-code>.US.  For example,
        "IBM.Armonk.NY.US".  In addition, branches of the US domain are
        provided within each state for schools (K12), community colleges
        (CC), technical schools (TEC), state government agencies
        (STATE), councils of governments (COG),libraries (LIB), museums
        (MUS), and several other generic types of entities (see RFC 1480
        for details [1]).

   To find a contact for a TLD use the "whois" program to access the
   database on the host  Append "-dom" to the name of
   TLD you are interested in.  For example:

                       whois -h us-dom
                       whois -h edu-dom

3.  The Administration of Delegated Domains

   The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is responsible for the
   overall coordination and management of the Domain Name System (DNS),
   and especially the delegation of portions of the name space called
   top-level domains.  Most of these top-level domains are two-letter
   country codes taken from the ISO standard 3166.

   A central Internet Registry (IR) has been selected and designated to
   handled the bulk of the day-to-day administration of the Domain Name
   System.  Applications for new top-level domains (for example, country
   code domains) are handled by the IR with consultation with the IANA.
   The central IR is INTERNIC.NET.  Second level domains in COM, EDU,
   ORG, NET, and GOV are registered by the Internet Registry at the
   InterNIC.  The second level domains in the MIL are registered by the
   DDN registry at NIC.DDN.MIL.  Second level names in INT are
   registered by the PVM at ISI.EDU.

   While all requests for new top-level domains must be sent to the
   Internic (at, the regional registries are
   often enlisted to assist in the administration of the DNS, especially
   in solving problems with a country administration.  Currently, the
   RIPE NCC is the regional registry for Europe and the APNIC is the

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RFC 1591      Domain Name System Structure and Delegation     March 1994

   regional registry for the Asia-Pacific region, while the INTERNIC
   administers the North America region, and all the as yet undelegated

      The contact mailboxes for these regional registries are:

         RIPE NCC

   The policy concerns involved when a new top-level domain is
   established are described in the following.  Also mentioned are
   concerns raised when it is necessary to change the delegation of an
   established domain from one party to another.

   A new top-level domain is usually created and its management
   delegated to a "designated manager" all at once.

   Most of these same concerns are relevant when a sub-domain is
   delegated and in general the principles described here apply
   recursively to all delegations of the Internet DNS name space.

   The major concern in selecting a designated manager for a domain is
   that it be able to carry out the necessary responsibilities, and have
   the ability to do a equitable, just, honest, and competent job.

   1) The key requirement is that for each domain there be a designated
      manager for supervising that domain's name space.  In the case of
      top-level domains that are country codes this means that there is
      a manager that supervises the domain names and operates the domain
      name system in that country.

      The manager must, of course, be on the Internet.  There must be
      Internet Protocol (IP) connectivity to the nameservers and email
      connectivity to the management and staff of the manager.

      There must be an administrative contact and a technical contact
      for each domain.  For top-level domains that are country codes at
      least the administrative contact must reside in the country

   2) These designated authorities are trustees for the delegated
      domain, and have a duty to serve the community.

      The designated manager is the trustee of the top-level domain for
      both the nation, in the case of a country code, and the global
      Internet community.

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RFC 1591      Domain Name System Structure and Delegation     March 1994

      Concerns about "rights" and "ownership" of domains are
      inappropriate.  It is appropriate to be concerned about
      "responsibilities" and "service" to the community.

   3) The designated manager must be equitable to all groups in the
      domain that request domain names.

      This means that the same rules are applied to all requests, all
      requests must be processed in a non-discriminatory fashion, and
      academic and commercial (and other) users are treated on an equal
      basis.  No bias shall be shown regarding requests that may come
      from customers of some other business related to the manager --
      e.g., no preferential service for customers of a particular data
      network provider.  There can be no requirement that a particular
      mail system (or other application), protocol, or product be used.

      There are no requirements on subdomains of top-level domains
      beyond the requirements on higher-level domains themselves.  That
      is, the requirements in this memo are applied recursively.  In
      particular, all subdomains shall be allowed to operate their own
      domain name servers, providing in them whatever information the
      subdomain manager sees fit (as long as it is true and correct).

   4) Significantly interested parties in the domain should agree that
      the designated manager is the appropriate party.

      The IANA tries to have any contending parties reach agreement
      among themselves, and generally takes no action to change things
      unless all the contending parties agree; only in cases where the
      designated manager has substantially mis-behaved would the IANA
      step in.

      However, it is also appropriate for interested parties to have
      some voice in selecting the designated manager.

      There are two cases where the IANA and the central IR may
      establish a new top-level domain and delegate only a portion of
      it: (1) there are contending parties that cannot agree, or (2) the
      applying party may not be able to represent or serve the whole
      country.  The later case sometimes arises when a party outside a
      country is trying to be helpful in getting networking started in a
      country -- this is sometimes called a "proxy" DNS service.

      The Internet DNS Names Review Board (IDNB), a committee
      established by the IANA, will act as a review panel for cases in
      which the parties can not reach agreement among themselves.  The
      IDNB's decisions will be binding.

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RFC 1591      Domain Name System Structure and Delegation     March 1994

   5) The designated manager must do a satisfactory job of operating the
      DNS service for the domain.

      That is, the actual management of the assigning of domain names,
      delegating subdomains and operating nameservers must be done with
      technical competence.  This includes keeping the central IR (in
      the case of top-level domains) or other higher-level domain
      manager advised of the status of the domain, responding to
      requests in a timely manner, and operating the database with
      accuracy, robustness, and resilience.

      There must be a primary and a secondary nameserver that have IP
      connectivity to the Internet and can be easily checked for
      operational status and database accuracy by the IR and the IANA.

      In cases when there are persistent problems with the proper
      operation of a domain, the delegation may be revoked, and possibly
      delegated to another designated manager.

   6) For any transfer of the designated manager trusteeship from one
      organization to another, the higher-level domain manager (the IANA
      in the case of top-level domains) must receive communications from
      both the old organization and the new organization that assure the
      IANA that the transfer in mutually agreed, and that the new
      organization understands its responsibilities.

      It is also very helpful for the IANA to receive communications
      from other parties that may be concerned or affected by the

4. Rights to Names

   1) Names and Trademarks

      In case of a dispute between domain name registrants as to the
      rights to a particular name, the registration authority shall have
      no role or responsibility other than to provide the contact
      information to both parties.

      The registration of a domain name does not have any Trademark
      status.  It is up to the requestor to be sure he is not violating
      anyone else's Trademark.

   2) Country Codes

      The IANA is not in the business of deciding what is and what is
      not a country.

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RFC 1591      Domain Name System Structure and Delegation     March 1994

      The selection of the ISO 3166 list as a basis for country code
      top-level domain names was made with the knowledge that ISO has a
      procedure for determining which entities should be and should not
      be on that list.

5. Security Considerations

   Security issues are not discussed in this memo.

6. Acknowledgements

   Many people have made comments on draft version of these descriptions
   and procedures.  Steve Goldstein and John Klensin have been
   particularly helpful.

7. Author's Address

   Jon Postel
   USC/Information Sciences Institute
   4676 Admiralty Way
   Marina del Rey, CA  90292

   Phone: 310-822-1511
   Fax:   310-823-6714
   EMail: Postel@ISI.EDU

7. References

   [1] Cooper, A., and J. Postel, "The US Domain", RFC 1480,
       USC/Information Sciences Institute, June 1993.

   [2] Reynolds, J., and J. Postel, "Assigned Numbers", STD 2, RFC 1340,
       USC/Information Sciences Institute, July 1992.

   [3] Mockapetris, P., "Domain Names - Concepts and Facilities", STD
       13, RFC 1034, USC/Information Sciences Institute, November 1987.

   [4] Mockapetris, P., "Domain Names - Implementation and
       Specification", STD 13, RFC 1035, USC/Information Sciences
       Institute, November 1987.

   [6] Partridge, C., "Mail Routing and the Domain System", STD 14, RFC
       974, CSNET CIC BBN, January 1986.

   [7] Braden, R., Editor, "Requirements for Internet Hosts --
       Application and Support", STD 3, RFC 1123, Internet Engineering
       Task Force, October 1989.

Postel                                                          [Page 7]

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