ACM Software System Award
USA - 2019
For the development of the Domain Name System (DNS), which provides the worldwide, distributed directory service that is an essential component of the global Internet.
When the TCP/IP based Internet was first deployed in the early 1980s, the community relied on a centrally managed hosts.txt file to map host names to their IP addresses; the hosts.txt file was manually updated by SRI and distributed to all the Internet sites on a daily basis. Paul Mockapetris, then working at ISI under the supervision of Jon Postel, took on the task to replace this rudimentary operation with a more systematic solution.
Mockapetris exploited his experience working with the MIT Architecture Machine Group (now the Media Lab) and UC Irvine's Distributed Computer System to specify the Domain Name System and associated query protocol, a bold, disarmingly simple design. He single-authored the DNS specification in RFCs 882 and 883 in 1983, and developed the first DNS server implementation, called Jeeves. He also deployed the implementation at ISI and SRI for the initial root servers, providing the first stable operational DNS system.
Over the rest of the 1980s, Mockapetris shepherded the DNS development and further revised the DNS specification in RFCs 1034 and 1035 (published in 1987) and gave a broader scope by RFC 1101 (published in 1989). He also played an instrumental role in helping others deploy the DNS platform. The DNS's original 100 pages of specification are now dwarfed by over 200 Internet RFCs that have been published over the years which document both various use cases and further extensions of the DNS system.
By providing a worldwide, distributed directory service, DNS has been an essential component of the global Internet. This system has expanded dramatically is scale and function. There are hundreds of millions of second level domain names, on the order of two thousand top level domains and countless lower level domains. The system has scaled in terms of numbers of root servers and their replicas (now in the thousands) from the original thirteen. The distributed database is millisecond responsive. Its functionality has increased significantly and the ability of the design to accommodate new features is a credit to Mockapetris' architecture. The system has spawned an enormous business around the world. Companies offering domain name registry and registrar functions range from modest sized country-code operations to billion-dollar enterprises. DNS was and is a central enabler of the Internet and all that has come from it.
Mockapetris continues to be involved in the DNS to this day.
USA - 2004
For contributions to the Internet, including the development of domain and email protocols.