Friday, 18 January 2013

Get Ready For A Gold Rush?

Originally posted on the Reckless New Media website.

ICANN announced yesterday that a plethora of new top level domains are to be considered ready for release in May 2013. That's not to say that they'll all see the light of day, but it's certainly a big bonus for the campaigns to make .cymru, .wales and .scot domains available for those companies, organisations and individuals who like to assert their national identity!

Oddly, though, there doesn't seem to be a ".england" proposal on the list. A Scottish friend of mine, now living in England, has said that he finds it quite strange how St.George's Day isn't celebrated in England to anywhere near the same extent as St.Patrick's, St.Andrew's or St.David's Day by their respective countries. My own feelings are that England already enjoys a cultural dominance in the UK and so has far less need to assert it's national identity, although a number of other social and historical factors also come in to play. Anyway, as interesting a subject as it is, this blog's not the place for a long discussion about the nature of nationalism.

Any proposed domains will also have to withstand any objections. The United Arab Emirates and India have already registered their opposition to a .islam domain on the grounds that a private company should not have control over a religious domain name, whilst Australia have objected to overly negative domains such as .sucks.

The big question is how much effect the introduction of a number of new top level domains will have. I'd suspect that it probably won't be all that great - after all, the introduction of .biz, .mobi and .eu has hardly put a dent in the popularity of .com and domains. However, they may well have a larger impact in specialised websites, in a similar manner to how Micronesian (.fm) domain names have become common for internet radio stations.

ICANN's task over the coming months will be to strike a balance between allowing domain names to be less ambiguous (for example, most people could guess the nature of any content of a ".xxx" domain without needing to click on a link, which is clearly beneficial to the user) and maintaining the integrity of the web - one of the domains Australia has objected to is ".wtf", which would almost certainly cause some offence.

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