Hindu myths say that a turtle is at the bottom of the universe holding everything up. Don't even bother asking what that turtle is standing on - as various urban legends have it, it's turtles all the way down. (Yes, alert reader - the graphic is from Discworld, which throws a few other wrinkles in, too.)
For many security functions, having that bottom turtle as the root authority is critical - in order to communicate securely and efficiently we need a trusted third party. First we need a trusted directory service just to find out each others email address, IM screen name or web site address, and then, if we want privacy and integrity services, we need a way to obtain a trusted public key.
As the telephone system evolved, trusted directory services emerged - by either calling 411 (and paying a fee) or by flipping through an online or paper directory (and having advertising aimed at my eyeballs) I can easily find a trusted telephone number that is bound to a real world identity. It works pretty well - behind the scenes are lots of mechanisms and agreements that evolved over decades to get us where we are today in the solidity of the directory services underlying plain old telephone service.
The directory service, DNS, underlying the Internet is more than 20 years old but still hasn't reached the maturity level to provide a very solid bottom turtle. While entering www.myfavoritesite.com into a browser usually gets me to where I want to go, you can never really be sure - and have fun clicking on something like 66.666.66.666 as a link. Phishing and pharming attacks take advantage of how easy it is to misdirect you, and trying to use things like whois or reverse DNS lookup to find out what real world entity is associated with a URL or IP address points the biggest part of the problem: the whois information in the registries is basically unreliable. The Regional Internet Registries have had a mishmosh of sloppy or non-existent practices to make those who register domain names provide good data - and the RIR's maintenance of the data has been pretty shoddy, too. Remember, this is what got Choicepoint in trouble.
Until that bottom turtle is fixed, the next turtle up - using technologies like DNSSEC to make DNS less susceptible to poisoning attacks - really can't happen. Which means the next turtle up, Caller ID for the Internet, can't happen - which means the plug-ins that Mitch Kabay reports on for browsers to provide whois type information when you are surfing are not going to be very useful, and the various sender ID proposals to reduce spam aren't going to work very well either.
For all the millions being made on registering domain names, not a heck of a lot of movement forward on providing industrial strength directory services on the Internet has happened. As part of the current ado about who should control the Internet, how about making those directory services a key requirement for whoever does end up with the job?