One of the worst ever Internet collapses has been blamed on "human error" by InterNIC, the body responsible for distributing Internet addresses. A data entry mistake effectively wiped the server on which the registry of addresses ending in (.com) or (.net) is held, causing thousands of emails to be bounced, delayed or misrouted.
This was the second serious error by InterNIC in a week, escalating the controversy surrounding its monopoly role.
The problem sent the Internet into chaos for hours, with Internet service providers (ISPs) outraged at the problems caused for their customers. "This is the worst outage I can remember," said a source at PSInet.
The error led to the root server assigning incorrect IP addresses when it received user requests for URLs ending in (.com) or (.net). Although InterNIC's parent, Network Solutions, said the database has now been reloaded, there may still be some mistaken files circulating on the Net.
Because the address book of URLs ending in (.co.uk) is kept on a separate UK-based server, UK ISPs and the sites they host were less affected than their US counterparts.
The incident came only days after InterNIC blamed data entry error for another problem, when it accidentally deleted the domain name of Web hosting company Webcom. The two occurrences seem to lend weight to critics' arguments that InterNIC cannot cope with the booming number of domain name registrations.
The quality of the Net is improving, according to a report from Inverse Network Technology. It tested the call failure rates, download times and email services of 13 national US Internet providers, including America Online, AT&T WorldNet Service and CompuServe. Findings include better performance from AOL and more reliable email services.
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