Maybe instead of:

        <whatever>.COM being considered as three
        tokens and being looked up as:
                ask a ROOT nameserver for COM NSes
                ask a COM nameserver for <whatever> NSes
                ask a <whatever> nameserver for appropriate info
                (all modulo caching)
        instead we treat it as (leaving out the '<' '>' stuff out of laziness):

        and look up like this:
                ask a ROOT nameserver for M NSes
                ask a M nameserver for O NSes
                ask a <w> nameserver for appropriate info
that will scale to a huge number of generally
unformatted labels for things.

And, unfortunately, scale to taking huge numbers of seconds for stuff that
isn't already cached. I just queried a bunch of sites and got times from .1s
to 8s for 3-lookup queries. While I'm willing to wait for 10 seconds for
a return, I'm not sure I'd be willing to wait 1.5 minutes. People have
this perception that the net should go fast (unfortunately even when they're
dialed up with 2400bd modems :-). This'll be a win for, but a real
lose for :-).