Our production research into nations, the web, censorship and control have uncovered a theory posited by internet governance scholar Professor Ang Peng Hwa that
'...there is a "hidden server" that reportedly controls the other 13 servers from a secret location in the U.S. He suggests U.S. manipulations of the master server caused the Iraqi .iq domain name to disappear during the 2003 U.S. invasion, thus crashing the entire Iraqi internet.'
Watch the video of Ang Peng Hwa's speech here (be warned this is on an older platform and may take a long time to load), wherein, after some considerable exposition, he declares that essentially there is one root server controlled by the US Government from which all other servers take their lead, that could be used to disconnect an entire nation from the web.
But, here's our thing - we can't find any further mention of this suggested 14th Server. It's hard to even call it a conspiracy theory with so little information beyond that supplied by Ang Peng Hwa.
Professor Ang Peng Hwa himself jokingly references the X Files when describing the 14th Server. So we're left wondering whether the truth is out there... Is this apocryphal nonsense we should forget about immediately? Or have we stumbled upon the internet's own Area 51?
If you have any knowledge, links, stories around the notion of an all-powerful 14th Server - we'd love to hear from you.
As long as we don't end up in War Games territory...
To clarify and assure that we haven't tumbled completely down the rabbit hole, we're not saying that there are only 13 physical servers that stand between us and total manipulation / destruction of the internet. However, there have been attacks on the 13 servers, and physical root servers have been moved in response to such attacks and security threats.
What there are is there are many hundreds of root servers at over 130 physical locations in many different countries. There are twelve organisations responsible for the overall coordination of the management of these servers.
'Due to its fundamental design assumption of a singly rooted hierarchical namespace, the domain name system (DNS) comprises one of the few (logical) single points of failure within the Internet. More specifically, the root of the Internet namespace is held in 13 geographically distributed root name servers operated by nine independent organizations. In a worst case scenario, loss of all 13 of the root name servers would result in significant disruption to Internet operation as name to address translation (and vice versa) would no longer function.'
This was posted as response to the fears surrounding the turn of the Millennium and the Y2K bug, and is obviously older information than the later blog about 13 servers and the greater distribution.
So the nature and semantics of the 13 Servers are themselves an area of popular concern - a common touchstone for doubts as to the internet's enduring resilience and permanence. There's plenty to read about around that subject - and our research continues as to the indestructibility of the internet.
The Virtual Revolution looks at how the web is shaping our world. Previously known as Digital Revolution (working title), it has been an open and collaborative production, which asked the web audience to debate programme themes, suggest and send questions for interviewees, watch and comment on interview and graphics clips, and download clips for personal use and re-editing.
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