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Friday, May 27, 2022

Cybersense—Expect More Confusion As New Domains Are Named

Like most kids this time of year, Internet geeks and online entrepreneurs have been itching for some new toys. They might end up with one of those trendy Razor scooters or, if they’re lucky, a Playstation 2. But they won’t be getting what they really wanted: a bunch of cool new Web addresses. You see, their old favorite, dot-com is almost used up. All the best addresses in that top-level domain were claimed years ago, forcing newcomers to name their Web sites and even their companies with nonsensical phrases or non-words. Parental types are quick to point out that plenty of perfectly nice dot-net or dot-org addresses are still available. But Web publishers have shied away from those unfashionable domains, shunning them like a pair of store-brand sneakers. Instead, they were hoping that Santa Claus or, in this case, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers would deliver a few domains that could compete with that dot-com cache. Well, it turns out that Christmas came early this year. On Nov. 16, ICANN announced seven new top-level domains that will be put into use sometime next year. The companies that proposed the winning domains and, as a result, get to sell Web addresses with those suffixes are of course ecstatic with the choices. But online reaction to the names was as bitter as the face of a child unwrapping a new pair of corduroys. Judging by comments in online forums from the people who will actually be using them, the new domain names seriously dot-suck. Naming names So what’s wrong with them? Here’s a rundown of the names and the problems they raise: – Dot-biz: This name is meant for companies that weren’t quick enough to grab the dot-com of their dreams. But since the concept behind both domains is so similar, owners of dot-com addresses will surely try to claim the equivalent in dot-biz. And if they don’t get those names fair and square, they’ll certainly make a play for them in court. At least lawyers will love it. – Dot-aero: A domain designed for airlines. But there really aren’t that many of them, and they already have their own dot-com sites. So why bother? – Dot-name: This is meant for personal Web sites, like www.bill.gates.name. But what happens when the guy from Microsoft finds that some other Bill Gates beat him to his own name? You guessed it: more lawsuits. – Dot-museum: Use of this top-level domain will be restricted to accredited museums. Nothing wrong with that, really, except the name seems a bit long just like most museum tours. – Dot-coop: The weirdest choice of all, this name is meant for business cooperatives. But do they really need their own domain outside of dot-com and dot-biz? I think not. – Dot-info: Boy, this really narrows things down, doesn’t it? While more-specific domain names would help people find what they need, pretty much everything online qualifies as information. – Dot-pro: Though this name is meant for doctors, lawyers and other business professionals, it will attract many of the same people who claim dot-name, dot-com and dot-biz. Again, more duplication means fewer new names but of course, more profit for name registrars. More dot-confusion In fairness to ICANN, the group was evaluating more than just names. Several proposals were rejected because the companies that offered them seemed less than stable. Others, such as a dot-kids domain for youth-oriented material and a dot-xxx realm for pornography, failed because board members feared registrars couldn’t effectively monitor content. But by limiting their choices to the proposals offered by would-be registrars, ICANN passed up a chance to create a more rational naming scheme that might actually help Net users find what they’re looking for. I like dot-museum, for example, but it would make more sense in a system that included other common-sense identifiers like dot-store, dot-restaurant, dot-doctor and the like. Instead, we’re left with a nonsensical assortment of top-level domains that are either too specific, too general, or too much like some other name to do much good. Rather than easing the crush on dot-com addresses, this tangle of second-tier brands will end up making the old standard seem more valuable than ever. These aren’t necessarily the last names that ICANN will create, so would-be Web site owners can start putting together a wish list for next year’s stockings. Until then, however, they’ll have to settle for playing with their coal. To contact syndicated columnist Joe Salkowski, you can e-mail him at joes@azstarnet.com or write to him c/o Tribune Media Services Inc., 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL, 60611.

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