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The Big Top-Level Domain Closeout

2015-12-12 in Uncategorized

Throughout ICANN’s plan to launch hundreds and thousands of new „top level domains“ (TLDs), I have been rather skeptical of the way the Internet was privatized (I refer to these new top-level domains not as „generic“ but rather as „proprietary“ – as they are, by and large, being granted to private corporations who have little or no responsilities to the wider public). Indeed, taking a rather cynical perspective, one might be able to argue that the whole operation was intended as a sort of „last ditch“ effort to keep the administration of the Internet in the United States of America.

While that may all be good and fine, there is another factor that has so far gone overlooked (even by me! 😯 ).

Whenever a registry which was previously administered in centrally managed subdivisions (such as the .UK registry was previously subdivide in .CO.UK, .ORG.UK and .ME.UK) opens registrations in a „free for all“ manner, that closes off such managed subdivisions to further development. For example, if it were not possible to register any .UK subdomain (besides „CO“, „ORG“ and „ME“), then the .UK registry could still launch a new subdomain (e.g. „.NEW.UK“). Once this is no longer possible, the value of all previous subdivisions should logically go up significantly – as these centrally managed subdivisions thereby immediately become limited resources.

Likewise, each and every previously launched generic TLD immediately became much more valuable as soon as ICANN introduced the new „free for all“ proprietary top-level domains.

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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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An Optimistic Point of View on the New Generic Top Level Domains: Possibilities Pointing to a Positive Outlook for the Viability of Regional and Topical Names

2015-08-27 in Uncategorized

A while back I wrote off the new generic top level domains as little more than proprietary fiefdoms for the largest and most exploitative capitalist media conglomerates to reap inordinate profits from (and also to exploit in other ways). I did not actually detail any examples of such exploitation, and since I have very little interest in the vast majority of these new so-called “generic” top level domains, I have also not looked into them closely enough to be able to provide any hard facts in this regard. Let me instead provide a “what if” fictional story… a sort of case study of what might happen if things went terribly wrong.

Suppose, then, just for the sake of argument, that Google’s acquisition of the rights to the “APP” top level domain led the company to become evil, perhaps even sinister. Imagine they would use this top level domain to install spyware and perhaps even stuff like viruses in order to take over the phones belonging people who visited “dot APP” sites. This would probably be so egregious, that even though the NSA might be aided with such privacy violations, the government would surely clamp down and put this sort of industrial espionage out of business, right?

Well, what if the “control” Google forced upon visitors was just a little less blatant? What if, for example, people using Apple iPhones were subjected to a “security check” (but a rather simple one, so no one would have to take off their shoes)? Or what if people trying to use Microsoft Office apps were told these had “security issues” and were forced to use Google Docs apps instead? I do not doubt that at least *some* people might nod off on such strategies of attack… indeed: some might even go so far as to call people who objected to such measures “conspiracy theorists”. I can quite easily imagine a vast plethora of scenarios under which the dot APP top level domain might be something short of a perfectly level playing field.

Granted: I do not doubt that there are some people who would label such cynical realism something else — perhaps a pessimistic point of view. Why not try to be a little more optimistic? Well, this past week one of my friends posted a very interesting status update that got me thinking along these lines — it read: “Create a vision that makes you wanna jump out of the bed in the morning”.

Let me tell you: After the sort of crap that I have been through, this is not an easy task. But I was nonetheless inspired. And so I have now set out to put on some fairy-tale rose-colored glasses and see the world with a view towards a more fair (and perhaps even a pleasant) outcome.

It basically goes like this: Pretend there are people in the world who defy the typical images (of culprits and victims) of capitalistic exploitation… who do *not* seek to profit from the starry-eyed naiveté of noobs, and who do *not* follow the line so often quoted (and attributed to P. T. Barnum) — that “there is a sucker born every minute” (who is ready, willing and able to fall for almost any even just somewhat cleverly designed sales pitch). As a more balanced reflection upon experience will show, this fantasy is rather unrealistic and far-fetched — but what if believing in something like this would make our lives happier, make us more light-hearted, more open, more agreeable to pleasant surprises, more willing to jump at the chance of an opportunity to profit from the riches at the end of a rainbow when it somehow happens to present itself for just a fleeting moment?

Come and take my hand, then, and join me down the path towards the answer to this unreasonable question: “What if the proprietors of these new proprietary top level domains were actually something more than merely hungry for profitable exploitation smoke and mirror gamers, what if they were actually in it for something more than selling opium to the masses, what if the masses were not such gullible suckers?” This seems like quite a formidable wall to scale — and before you give up, let me point out that I think there is actually an easier approach. If just *some* of the masses were less gullible, if there were just a few people who knew how to separate the wheat from the chaff, then perhaps that might some day lead to a situation in which people could learn to fish.

What I mean is: Let’s say there were some people who are able to identify whether a top level domain registry was being run in a fair and reliable manner. They could identify those top level domain registries as good places to register domains, and indeed: Some of the fair and reliably run top level domain registries might even be among the new proprietary top level domains (insofar as some of the proprietors might actually do good or at least sufficiently agreeable work).

Something quite similar to this actually happened this summer when Google apparently endorsed the “dot XYZ” top level domain registry by themselves registering abc.xyz (note that I myself do not necessarily consider the XYZ top level domain registry worthy of my own endorsement — but I think there are many people who are probably more influenced by Google than they might be influenced by me).

I will not discuss whether Google’s apparent endorsement of the XYZ top level domain has any merit — at least not here and now. My main point is that if there were people we could trust — or even better: if we were able to make such judgements ourselves — then we would indeed be in a situation in which we could separate the wheat from the chaff. My experience over many years in this area does not give me a lot of hope, but I want to at least remain open to the possibility of being pleasantly surprised.

Note that (I feel) it is presently far too early for anyone to be able to make any such judgements. The complexity of the issues involved presently outstrips the knowledge imparted by any college degree from any university on Earth — probably many times over. A large part of the complexity involves the simple fact that these proprietary top level domain registry organizations are venturing into completely uncharted territory. For comparison: There is still today almost no clarity with respect to how legal disputes regarding domains in the oldest registries — which are already several decades old — should be resolved.

If there are nearly no guideposts at all for gauging the usefulness of these new proprietary top level domains, the non-existent levels of literacy among the masses of gullible suckers waiting to be exploited is even more dismal … probably by several orders of magnitude. Another example (to give even just a small indication of how vast the extent of illiteracy still is even to this day, despite many years of precendent-setting happening in the traditional top level domain space): Ask anyone what the top level domain “CO” refers to and/or which organization is responsible for maintaining the registry, and not even one in a thousand people will be able to give anything close to a correct answer. Likewise: Despite many years of news coverage, only an infinitesimally small number of people will be able to say which top level domain registries are governed by EU laws (e.g. with respect to right to privacy laws and/or consumer rights). Both of these questions are extremely straightforward, yet the ability to answer them is far beyond the grasp of the mass of men (and women) who merely lead lives of quiet desperation.

No one is teaching them. No such schools exist. Most of the people on the globe hardly have running water — and the countries with the *most highly* educated people seem to be exclusively governed by interests opposed to educating the masses. The only hope I have for this situation to get any better is through the actions of some non-governmental “grass roots” organisation (or group or whatever)… or perhaps (in the most extreme scenario) through the self-education of some extremely motivated self-starters.

For years, this has been the vision that has made me jump out of bed in the morning — and I do agree: It is probably very important not to lose sight of this dream.

If a basic level of literacy were more widespread, I would probably be more optimistic for the near future. As it is, I feel the road ahead will be quite rocky. My ball-park estimate goes as follows: Many thousands if not even many millions of individuals and small-business owners will register regional and topical top level domain names (two subsets of what I refer to as “proprietary” top level domains). Most of these people registering domains will be naive and therefore will not understand most of the legal, business and related other repercussions imposed by these registries. In some cases, rather shady business practices will be permitted. In other cases, innocent consumers will be duped into believing something beyond what is actually being delivered. In each case, a very complex web of stakeholders will be by and large left in the dark about which standard operating procedures are being applied — or even whether any standard operating procedures even exist at all.

There will be many failures — and some of these might even be of so-called “epic” proportions. Companies will go bust, be acquired, merged, etc. — and there will be a great deal of churn and turnover. Large numbers of people, businesses, organizations and other institutions will be ruined, burnt or in some case perhaps just somewhat adversely affected.

Yet (to reiterate) amid all of this chaos, it may very well be that a few proprietary domains will actually succeed and also actually have a positive impact on the global community. I doubt this will happen by itself, but if over the coming decades some initial steps are taken which might increase the rate of literacy a little bit, then the prospects for the future would look much better. I for one am not letting up on my engagement in this space.

The most significant positive possibilities I see for these new proprietary top level domains is the chance for more localization — whether that be a matter of geographic localization (for which I feel the prospects are relatively good), or a matter of topical localization (about which I am much more skeptical — this is an area that requires much more sophistication, and I do not feel there is anyone [or any organisation] who is qualified as “up to the task” in this field).

To give you a glimpse of what I mean, let’s take this quote by Ray King (writing on circleid.com):

Domains using new TLDs are naturally shorter due to much higher name availability and furthermore they are shorter because the extension is not wasted.

For many individuals, small-businesses and mom-and-pop corner stores, this is a significant advantage. Consider how much easier it would be to visit rays.nyc than famousrayspizzanyc.com (and then also consider that it might be much more difficult to ascertain whether Ray’s establishment would meet the criteria required to register rays.pizza — or perhaps rays.deli or rays.restaurant and/or many other possible variants?).

Another interesting question was raised by Cory Doctorow in a very well-written article all the way back in 2001:

Any hierarchy of ideas necessarily implies the importance of some axes over others.

In other words: would it make sense to create a directory of pizza restaurants in New York City at pizza.nyc or maybe at pizza.restaurant.nyc (or maybe at nyc.pizza , nyc.restaurant or some other variant)?

In my opinion, the answers to questions such as these will depend mostly on how well different registries run their business. In my book, it seems like somewhere around 99 percent would receive the grade “FAIL”.

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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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