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Each user GNS has control over three zones. Each of the zones has a different purpose. These zones are the
The master zone is your personal TLD. Names within the .gnu namespace are resolved relative to this zone. You can arbitrarily add records to this zone and selectively publish those records.
The private zone is a subzone (or subdomain in DNS terms) of your master zone. It should be used for records that you want to keep private. For example bank.private.gnu. The key idea is that you want to keep your private records separate, if just to know that those names are not available to other users.
The shorten zone can either be a subzone of the master zone or the private zone. It is different from the other zones in that GNS will automatically populate this zone with other users' zones based on their PSEU records whenever you resolve a name.
For example if you go to www.bob.alice.dave.gnu, GNS will try to import bob into your shorten zone. Having obtained Bob's PKEY from alice.dave.gnu, GNS will lookup the PSEU record for + in Bob's zone. If it exists and the specified pseudonym is not taken, Bob's PKEY will be automatically added under that pseudonym (i.e. "bob") into your shorten zone. From then on, Bob's webpage will also be available for you as www.bob.short.gnu. This feature is called automatic name shortening and is supposed to keep GNS names as short and memorable as possible.