Mark Gritter (markgritter) wrote,
Mark Gritter

New Feed for Internet Policy Geeks

igp_blog is the blog of the Internet Governance Project--- Dr. Milton Mueller is a founder and writes for the blog. The latest kerfluffle about .XXX has generated some lively discussion.

And now for the rant...

Kathryn Kleiman, co-founder with Mueller of the "Noncommercial Users Consitituency", writes on USACM-INFO:

You should know that the vast majority of those of us involved in the policies and constituencies of ICANN wanted .XXX. Those of us who believe in free speech, freedom on expression, fair use, and more, want to see the artificial scarcity of the .COM regime end. We see a tremendous need, and a great ability, for new gTLDs to address personal,political, hobby speech -- not to mention new commercial TLDs where entrepreneurs and new businesses will not have to fight prior ".COM" owners just to name their business with basic words. The domain name world as we have it today is driven by extreme artificial scarcity.

To which Lauren Weinstein (laurenweinstei) replies:

The business world by and large only cares about one TLD -- dot-com.
They may protectively grab domains in other TLDs out of copyright
and customer confusion fears, but other than very narrow
constituencies, dot-com rules for business. As other TLDs have
opened, the demand for dot-com addresses -- since they stand out
among the clutter, has only increased -- even among nonprofits and
other non-business organizations who we might naturally expect to be
interested in non-dot-com domains exclusively.

I tend to side with Weinstein on this issue. (In fact, I had the opportunity to discuss the issue of new TLDs with Kleiman a while back.) The scarcity of domain names is not due to lack of TLDs; it is an unavoidable effect of having a global naming scheme. We cannot put more "good names" into existence by creating more TLDs, because ".com" registrations are seen as the default and overshadow registrations in other domains. There are only so many good names to go around, and for the most part they're already in ".com". (Think about 1-800-FLOWERS. Is a competitor going to go into business advertising as 1-866-FLOWERS?) The cost of large companies registering their trademarks in new TLDs--- as they will--- is trivial and eliminates some of the proposed benefit.

Any new-TLD name that is sufficiently "good" can be included into the ".com" registry instead. Suppose I am founding a Web 2.0 company that delivers genetically-engineered grapefruit utilizing user-supplied content. (Props to Michael Ward for the idea.) Oops... is already taken.

How are new TLDs going to help me? Only if I believe that alternatives such as

are superior to

But note that even if I have a preference for items in the first category, I am still unhappy if somebody has registered the corresponding names in the second category! Almost no new TLD is going to be compelling enough to avoid competing with the "hyphenated" alternative in .com. Adding new TLDs does not expand the namespace, because the namespace is fundamentally one of attention. Where the "dot" goes is of little impact.

Many films have registered -movie or -themovie domains. No doubt they would be registered in .movie if it existed, but the -movie alternative wouldn't be thereby freed up for other uses. The .com version would still be registered.

Now, I think we'd be better off with unlimited TLDs. But the way to get there is not to approve new TLDs one at a time as they come up. That road just leads to more rent-seekers leeching registration fees from duplicate domains. We need to eliminate the need for regular cash payments to dedicated database maintainers altogether.
Tags: dns, geek, policy, rant
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