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To go where people are, to be where people think, to present what people desire and to give people what they want to have

2016-03-22 in Uncategorized

Yesterday’s blog post was in large part prodded by one of my friends who keeps saying I should publish my writing in print – as if that were more a sign of success than if I publish my own ideas on my own properties (and this friend is also not exactly fond of the „self-publishing“ idea in general, even though in my opinion that is perhaps one of the few ways one can be truly authentic).

Today’s blog post is inspired by another one of my very inspirational friends – and there is a similarity between the two threads insofar as they both touch upon the notion of property. Today, I want to address one of this friend’s issues with my thinking about „social media“ (though in fact I normally focus on retard media – which is not exactly the same thing, though the two predicates indeed often fit the same somewhat less than noble prize-winners 😉 ).

The sans-culottes 2.0 have an affinity to aggregate on the most popular websites … like Google or Facebook (or similar brand names that happen to be in fashion at the moment). They appear to feel that there is some sort of significance to large clusters of such congregations. Few consider such herd mentality questionable, many are more prone to pronounce „YAHOO!“ at the top of their lungs’ capacity. They are #1 because the numbers say so. In my humble opinion the numbers are meaningless, because each of them is no more valuable than a single grain of sand upon thousands of miles of beaches. Their numbers and statistical prowess are far less impressive than something as simple as the salt of the Earth.

Heavyweight monstrosities such as Google or Facebook (or the more or less similar dozens of unicorns behind them) are no more significant than the dead and gone monstrosities that have come before them, only to vanish from the face of the Earth. Their existence is ephemeral, they come and go with the whims of the loud and screaming mobs who trample this way today, that way tomorrow, and then back again the next day with yet more new signs and banners they daily swear by with ever-present enormous valour.

Less than a decade ago, Digg was a force to be reckoned with on both Wall Street and Main Street, not the biggest laughing stock of yesteryear. Random strings blowing in the wind do not bring about change, they merely dissipate and whither away. Even vaporware would be an overestimation of their non-lasting worth.

The crucial question is: What distinguishes properties with lasting value from such ephemeral brand names? Years ago, the masses would scream: „A dot com“ (meaning the domain name’s „ending“ or more precisely „top-level domain“, also often referred to by the abbreviation „TLD“). Well, how much did the dot com help Digg or Myspace? Right: Not one iota.

Having a property is not good enough. To be of lasting value, you need the right property. A valuable property is etched deep in the mind of its users – it is as irreplacable as their own mother, there is a kinship as deeply rooted as the sunrise which awakens their spirit every morning, day after day, throughout their lives.

Valuable names are usually not names per se. They are the words spoken time and again at breakfast, lunch and dinner alike.

Valuable words are few and far between. They are short and simple. A „home“ will be just as valuable decades from now as it is today. A „car“ was not always a gasoline-powered vehicle, nor will it remain so until the end of time – but it will probbably remain a valuable concept in many contexts.

Written language is a technology that has developed over more than just a few years, more than just a few decades, longer even than entire centuries. It has been at the very least many millennia since writing was first developed. There are quite a few four-letter words, but not an infinite number. In contrast: Google is probably just a passing phase.

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Trust in Individual People vs. Trust in Natural Language

2016-03-10 in Uncategorized

As I walked out of a store the other day (a discount supermarket, also commonly referred to as a „discounter“ – namely Aldi), I met a friend who was also walking out at the same time. After greeting each other, he noted how the recording they often play when opening or closing cashier aisles was very manipulative: When they open an aisle, the recording says „We are opening cashier number 3 for you“; But when they close an aisle, the recording says „Cashier number 4 is closing“.

When we meet someone we trust, we feel good because we quite rationally expect that they will be completely straightforward with us. I say rationally with a tinge of irony, because many of my friends working in the field of psychology often remind me that pretty much everyone lies to some degree – and they also add that „some degree“ probably works out to be several hundred times per day. So our expectation that our friends are being honest with us may indeed be more of a rationalization than anything else.

The example above (which is also from one of my „psychologist“ friends) clearly shows how the recording being used by the store was manipulative. When we ask a friend „how are you?“ – do we really want to know the truth? When they flash a fake smile and say they’re doing „great“, are we secretly happy that they didn’t rattle off a long list of things that might actually be going wrong in their lives right now?

I think such manipulation is actually quite common in interpersonal communication. People want to guard their freedom to do and think as they please, and many social conventions even provide a foundation for such little lies to be told day in and day out with virtually no repercussions at all. Compare this with clear-cut statements written out in plain English. A text written down must stand up over time; it is not as fleeting as the wind which dissipates the things we say out loud into thin air within a split second. The written word is unforgiving.

I have often written before (see e.g. http://remediary.com/2016/02/in-our-brains) that language is not owned by any individual entity, but rather that is a system distributed among a large number of members belonging to the linguistic community. In this way, it is similar to many technologies referred to as “open source technology” (such as “bitcoin”, “blockchain”, etc. — as also many other open source systems used across the web [e.g. “RSS”]). There is usually no single point of failure — i.e., no single / individual shill or con artist can manipulate such a distributed technology. Therefore, placing trust in natural language is a far more reliable information retrieval tactic than placing trust in individual people.

Note, however, that there are various levels or uses of language. A “full text” search engine (such as Google) is expected to match any text — regardless of which significance the text has in a written document. Although many people still expect that Google works this way, more informed specialists have long understood that this is simply not the case. In the early years, Google favored results in which the matching text was part of the title field of a document or in the “link texts” pointing to documents. Most reliable of all, of course, is the domain name itself — as only domain names are actually certified via the domain name registration process (Google also understands this now, which is why the company is becoming ever more heavily invested in domain names).

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Free Spech, Freedom of the Press and Paid Content

2016-02-10 in Uncategorized

If you think your so-called right to free speech grants you the permission to post a full-page ad on the cover of the New York Times (or on the homepage of nytimes.com), I think you are mistaken.

By the way: I also think there is some confusion about the role of advertising in the global economy. Most people think an online advertisement costs little or nothing. The truth is: It costs a lot, but companies like Google will pay very little (almost nothing) to companies like the New York Times for the right to place Google ads on the pages of the New York Times (never mind that Google also probably uses the ads to track which New York Times articles people are actually reading – in order to sell them something Google makes more money on when those people use Google to search for something else).

Yet I digress….

Back to your so-called right to free speech. It ain’t free. There’s a traditional German song called „Die Gedanken sind frei“ (i.e. „thoughts are free“) – and while that may be true, you can’t always say what you want (something people like Edward Snowdon and/or Julian Assange maybe should have thought about a little more).

Yet I digress again….

I think quite a few people think that my view of literacy involves needing to pay for valuable domain names – and I think there may indeed be some credence to that point of view. If / When people then conclude that my arguments are against their so-called right to free speech, then they are (in my humble opinion) wrong.

In case you don’t know: There’s no such thing as a free lunch. There’s no such thing as free anything. I paid to write this post – not with money, but with time… and with blood, sweat and tears. You are also paying to read it – there is an „opportunity cost“ you are paying for not doing something else instead.

Ergo: Free speech is not free.

Everything costs something. One of the basic tenets of free markets is that people can freely choose to value different things according to how much they are willing to pay for them. I bet there is even a price for placing a full-page ad on the cover / homepage of the NYT (BTW: Google has been placing ads on their homepage for many years already – but most people don’t even realize that).

If your content is worthless to you, then it seems reasonable to post it somewhere that seems to cost nothing. However: If you expect me to pay attention to it, then that seems rather unreasonable to me.

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Publishing Relaunched

2015-09-23 in Uncategorized

Recently — over the past several days to a couple of weeks — I have been chatting with some of my friends about publishing concepts like titles and the corresponding equivalents in an online setting. My hunch has been for many years that domain names are the closest equivalent to what a title was in the traditional publishing model. I still believe that by and large, but there are some nuances in an online setting that make it an entirely different “ecosystem” (I’ve always hated that word, but somehow it seems to fit quite well there).

Today I came across an article (which I have already quoted in the Activity stream). Here’s an excerpt from what I already quoted:

here are my Minds + Machines “premium” domain names at Hexonet that I will not be renewing

This article precipitated a “click” in my brain. To put this in old-fashioned terms, I feel this is a situation that is more or less equivalent to an author giving a publisher the finger. When I saw it this way, I also reflected a little more on the variable pricing schemes that have become “standard operating procedure” in this new online publishing world. I can imagine, for example, a celebrity game designer being “offered” the opportunity to publish their game on such a premium domain name (without needing to pay a premium price, but perhaps instead by signing some sort of contract with the publisher).

In my opinion, this is a momentous change in the history of the web. I feel we are now at the precipice of a whole new web — maybe a web 3.0? — in which the plethora of traditional print publishers may no longer matter much at all. In the future, the publishing landscape will be shaped by competition of web publishers… and by that I do not mean “desktop publishing” or even “blog software”. I mean, for example: “News” publishing (which I also wrote about just yesterday — a story in which “News” is the publishing house which belongs to the new online media conglomerate “Rightside”). In this case, “Apple” is the celebrity (company) that apparently signed a contract — but so far nothing has been actually delivered (as the name doesn’t resolve yet).

This new online publishing landscape is still very new. Some readers may be reminded of the term “ecunabula” (which was first used maybe about a decade or two [or three? or more?] ago, but which also seems to fit here). The legal ramifications from all of this turmoil in the publishing landscape (remember earlier this summer, when many traders on Wall Street were tricked into thinking they were reading news published by Bloomberg, but actually they were reading something else — leading to some swings in stock market valuations) are by and large unknown.

I have a hunch that quite a few of these new online media publishers will go out of business within the next few years. Some may remain, but only in a rather rickety form — and be among the less reputable cadre of the online publishing industry. Only a few will survive “thrivingly” to join the big leagues of reputable, large scale, well-known publishing houses — and it is a very safe bet that COM will be among them. It is a quite safe bet that indeed most generic top level domains will be among the most reputable of online publishing houses. Perhaps some country code top level domains will also be among this group. Whether any proprietary top level domains will be among this group, however… that remains an open question, yet to be resolved — and I personally have significant reservations on this point.

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Top Level Domains + Domain Name Meanings

2015-03-02 in Uncategorized

Recently, a colleague of mine wanted to look up the meaning of a neologism, and decided to check urbandictionary.com. You could wonder why he didn’t choose to check oed.com — after all, the OED is internationally recognized as the standard English dictionary print publication. However, you may also know that there are indeed very many dictionaries available (especially online)… and any online dictionary is more or less just as easy to reach as any other online dictionary (the main difference being how easy it is to remember the domain name, how many letters are in the name, how easy or difficult it is to type, etc. — but nothing like that anyone would have to get up, walk over to a bookshelf, select the correct volume, pull it down, open it up, page through it or anything that people who still remember doing so time and time again back in the era of paper might still be able to recall from memory). Personally, I usually use dictionary.com — but more on that in a moment.

The short and simple answer is that different dictionaries document different vocabularies, different jargons, different linguistic communities, different languages. Although most people would not see a significant difference between oed.com and dictionary.com, only a very few people would miss the difference between either of these and urbandictionary.com… and in particular: each of these three websites have different procedures put in place for how the different user communities who use each website can interact with the site. The different methods applied lead to different lexicons, different descriptions, different designs, different functions and in general different user experiences. For example: it is not at all uncommon for an urbandictionary.com user to contribute a description (rather than merely “consuming” a description provided by the professional editors of the site).

Now I wish to make a huge quantum leap… — switching from English to German, and also switching from a standard language lexicon to a general, more encyclopedic format.

Kleines Hand-Lexikon: Wissenswertes von A - Z

Kleines Hand-Lexikon: Wissenswertes von A – Z

The image above is the cover of a paperback book — a pocket lexicon — that purports to contain information about anything worthy of note from A to Z. I have a copy of this quirky book on one of many shelves of paper books (I actually collect such crap 😉 ). The reason why I include it here is to point out that this is yet another “information resource” that is also quite similar (in certain ways) to the dictionaries described above.

ergo: There is no such thing as the English language. There is perhaps one English language described by oed.com, another English language described by urbandictionary.com, yet another English language described by dictionary.com, there are probably hundreds if not even thousands or millions of English languages. Let me take a step back and select one particular instance: commercial English.

The global language of commerce is, indeed, commercial English. The lexicon of commercial English is documented in the commercial top level domain (TLD): COM (also known as “dot com”). One might even go so far as to say that COM is its own language — one which transcends English — and one that also includes elements from other “natural” languages (e.g. Spanish, French, German, etc.). The string “dictionary” is registered under COM as an “English” element — this site describes the English vocabulary (that is the meaning of the word “dictionary”). For more about the “COM language” and other generic top level domain languages, see Generic Community Languages.

From the above discussion, you might glean that top level domains designate languages. Moving forward, we can also distinguish two different types of languages: Languages that are closely held (proprietary top level domains) vs. languages that are widely held (generic top level domains). One must not think that proprietary top level domains are inherently worse than generic top level domains (nor are they inherently better) — they are simply inherently different. While a quirky encyclopedia (such as the example above) may be rather idiosyncratic in nature, there are many examples of closely held languages that are very useful — think of (e.g.): The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association; The Medical Subject Headings (MESH — the National Library of Medicine’s controlled vocabulary used for indexing articles); Stock ticker symbols at various stock exchanges worldwide; industrial codes and classification systems; public / government data and statistics, etc. In each case, there is some “closely held” organization that provides what is referred to in the jargon of information science as “authority control”.

Ever since the Enlightenment, the Reformation and the rise of the so-called “Scientific Method” in early modern times, more and more authorities have been established. Whereas in the Middle Ages, the Pope of the Catholic Church was the sole ultimate authority regarding each and every issue, today — especially in matters of science, industry, commerce and many other spheres — a wide variety of institutions have developed to establish the meaning and significance of concepts that have become regular “tools of the trade” in each of these numerous segments of social interaction. We are now so far removed from a “one-size fits-all” world, that the notion that anyone could find one answer to each and every question at one information resource seems absurdly naive.

One example of a proprietary top level domain is “NYC”. Just today, I have included an update about considerations regarding authority control in that controlled language: http://nooblogs.com/activity/p/5175

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Proprietary Domain Names as Brands: Branding / Promotional Strategy (Case Study)

2015-02-20 in Uncategorized

Proprietary domain names (also know as “new gtld” [ngtld — from the common abbreviation for “top level domain = “tld”]) apparently need a sophisticated branding strategy in order to establish what Howard Lefkowitz refers to as “brands” in the online marketplace:

Simply having the name vegas.com, upon which Lefkowitz has built the bulk of his legacy, is not enough to launch a brand. The relationship that brands build with their audience is what will launch the business into success.

http://tech.co/whats-domain-name-howard-lefkowitz-stresses-brand-strength-2015-02

Color me “not impressed” — but the video is at least a little entertaining. 😉

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