Four out of the 12 servers that control the world's internet traffic suffered a 35 minute failure this week causing them to stop responding to requests for links to web sites ending in .com.
A senior executive at Network Solutions (NSI), one of the organisations that run the so-called root servers, described the failure which happened on Wednesday as a "major, major incident". Web addresses ending in other suffixes, such as .org and .net were not affected.
According to NSI the incident was caused by a glitch in the Berkley Internet Name Domain (Bind) server application which connects IP addresses to web site names. NSI said the affected computers were using a relatively new method to update directory information from a specially designated transfer computer.
The four root servers are located in Tokyo, California and Virgina and are run by NSI, the US Defense Department, the University of Southern California and anorganisation in Japan.
NSI vice president Mark Rippe said in an email message during the failure that the glitch was "a major, major incident and our problem." But an NSI spokesman, Christopher Clough later characterised the incident as "a minor hiccup invisible to end users." He said it appeared to have been caused by a technical glitch rather than a malicious attack and that no users or web sites were affected.
Clough also said operational changes have already been made to prevent any suchoccurrences in the future.
The internet can, in theory, operate using one root server although the volume of traffic would make it very sluggish. The root servers are controlled byuniversities, corporations, government agencies and research centres.
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