Domain.confusion: Who Should Police Web Domain Names?

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icann.pngHere is a new post-modern twist on a popular idiom:

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then the scholarly path that earnest researchers take while stumbling upon “2 girls 1 cup” is paved with domain name liberalization.

We think that makes sense.

OK, ok, maybe we’re crying wolf. But when the green light flashes on the new domain feeding frenzy, the old whitehouse.com vs. whitehouse.gov debacle may look like a footnote in the domain name confusion manifesto.

Here is what we’re talking about: Beginning shortly, companies and municipalities will be able to purchase domain suffixes in place of “.com.” It opens up tons of potential Web real estate, especially for the frustrated Springfields and Main Street Realities of the world. There are a lot of them.

Of course, several questions loom. For example, if this even a good idea? A widely circulating survey conducted by Future Laboratory and Gandi.net suggests the answer may be “no,” as 65 percent of the 1,000 respondents stated that opening up the domain market will litter the Web with “pointless domain names.” (Obviously, they’ve never visited perezhilton.com)

The other question is who will – or should – steer the effort? After all, companies can gain potentially powerful (and profitable) new domains for $185,000 – a mighty sum for mom and pop shops but a drop in the bucket for even mid-size companies. Only 18 percent of Future Laboratory/Gandi.net thinks ICANN should make the rules, while 13 percent thinks the government should run the show and 10 percent think it should be a truly democratic free-for-all – this is the crowd that owns “Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome” on VHS.

The liberalization movement has the potential to clog up courts, inspire a new wave of vengeful hackers and even cost slow companies millions. But that’s a worst possible scenario. It could also make things right. After all, what cyber squatter had $200,000 of pocket change jingling in his pocket? If anything, I see mammoth entities keeping their traditional URLs and purchasing the new suffixes simply as a defensive move.

As savvy ‘Net denizens and online matchstick men await the fallout of domain name liberalization, we can continue to argue over exactly what will happen, but we can all surely agree on one thing that is coming: More awful GoDaddy.com Super Bowl Commercials. Ugh.


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