Tuesday, June 10, 2008



In the New York Times City Room blog, Jennifer 8. Lee[1] tells us about a group that’s trying to get the city to sign up for the “.nyc” top-level domain. That’d let us have domains like mta.nyc for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (its existing domain is mta.info, which blocks other cities with MTAs from using that; it also answers to mta.nyc.ny.us, using a subdomain of the state’s second-level domain). It would also, its proponents suggest, open up things like mayor.nyc for the mayor’s office, and traffic.nyc for the traffic department.

Tom Lowenhaupt, who heads the campaign, says, “The role of .nyc is to reconnect the city.” City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, who’s planning to introduce legislation in favour of snagging the TLD, has this to say:

A .nyc address gives New York City a recognizable brand name on the World Wide Web. It lets New Yorkers and anyone else search for and find New York City businesses and nonprofit organizations, and helps us further enhance our economic development. It also shows that New York City is truly a digital community on par with the other tech centers across the globe.
And from Antony Van Couvering, chief executive of names@work, we hear this:
I think it’s a great identity for New York on the Internet; I think it’s going to bring a lot of yet unknown economic benefits to New York. I think New York wants to be in the first round. I think it would be a disaster if Berlin got one and Paris got one, and New York was scratching its head and saying that we’d better get one, too.

As it happens, I opined about expanding TLDs some while ago (nearly a year ago, now, as it turns out), and my comments were not generally favourable. Setting aside Mr Van Couvering’s hyperbole — “a disaster”, indeed — there seems little harm in using .nyc for official sites such as the mayor’s office and the MTA. But...

For general use, giving the city that “recognizable brand name” will turn out to be much more of a problem and much less of a benefit than one might think. I recently wrote about a restaurant called Pera, with the domain peranyc.com, which could certainly enjoy being able to get pera.nyc — but won’t it still have to keep its old domain? And won’t that mean extra costs to register both? What about major businesses that have branches in New York? Will we see hilton.nyc, starbucks.nyc, and macys.nyc, to go along with their .com addresses? And will those companies soon have to get .miami and .chicago and .dallas domains too? Where will it end?

I see the whole idea of city-based TLDs as a lot of trouble waiting to happen. Ms Lee’s article talks of Berlin and Paris, but suppose Berlin, CT and Paris, NY get them first. Troublemakers in Vienna, VA and Cairo, NY and Moscow, ID and Rome, GA can one-up the major cities, perhaps starting international incidents and whole new waves of holding Internet domain names for ransom.

And even locally, in this town of strongly defined neighborhoods will .nyc be enough? Won’t folks want .brooklyn and .queens too? And then .parkslope, .howardbeach, .dumbo, .harlem, .morningsideheights, and .uppereastside? Chaos is just around the bend, surely. The only way to find anything in such a mess will be through Google or some other search engine, so what benefit will we have gotten from any attempt at a “recognizable brand name”?

No, far, far from “reconnect[ing] the city”, an open .nyc TLD would just result in confusion, bickering, and silliness, disconnecting more than it reconnects.

It’s a bad, bad, bad idea.

[1] Yes, her middle name is “8.”


Michelle said...

nyc is quite fiddly to type. Just that makes it a bad enough idea :)

TomLowenhaupt said...


I appreciate your concern about ruining the domain name space. But consider the following

perenyc.com vs. pera.nyc - Neither is a bad name (good domain names are generally considered to be short, descriptive, and memorable) with pera.nyc a tad better by these traditional standards based on the clear .nyc providing geographic and community identity. Going forward, perhaps they'd choose to phase out the old name over a few years. But if they have global ambitions, maybe they want to keep .com for their global ambitions.

But while pera has a decent name, new small businesses are generally unable to get a good .com name. With 75,000,000 .com names issued, this leaves those starting new businesses settling for far less than optimum names.

As to the hilton.nyc and the like. Imagine you're responsible for running coke's operation in the city. And you want to connect with residents about the local concerts and sporting events coke sponsors, about your distribution points, local jobs, etc. Why not provide the option to use coke.nyc? And I'd imagine that coke officials in Dallas and Miami would like to have the option of using .miami and .dallas too. I think these names provide more bottom line advantage than the $20 per city they will cost. But they're not required, it's an option. Coke.com is a good name and they might just choose to have the people search out all their offerings there.

The Berliners have been working diligently for a TLD over the past few years and have worked out many of the problems that a Berlin, Connecticut poses. See their site at http://www.dotberlin.de/en/first.

And it's important to keep in mind that city-TLDs are coming (and thousands of other TLDs, such as .shoes, .google, .tuesday, .sport, and on and on. (I heard Vint Cerf acknowledge at the June 2007 ICANN meeting in San Juan that the existing DNS could sustain between 10,000 and 2,000,000 domain names.)

We think it advisable that New Yorkers endeavor to see that .nyc is used in the public's interest. What a shame it would be to see godaddy selling mayor.nyc for $1.99. Our supporters are interested in seeing that the city's domain is developed in the public interest. For adecent read about city-TLDs and their operation in the public interest, I recommend http://www.openplans.org/projects/campaign-for.nyc/towards-city-tlds-in-the-public-interest

This is not to mention the difficulties of governing with a local communication system based on the industrial revolution (which I'd ramble on about, but need to get some sleep).


Tom Lowenhaupt