Magazine article Online

The Top-Level Domain Game

Magazine article Online

The Top-Level Domain Game

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On the net

Had some omniscient librarians been involved, they certainly would have come up with sensible group of top-level domains which could be divided fairly among the throngs of today's and tomorrow's Internet users.

The history of the Internet is in many ways a story of developments in directions that no one ever foresaw. Certainly in the early days, when Internet pioneers came up with the .edu, .gov, mil, .com, .org, and .net top-level domain names, they had no idea about the explosive growth in Internet use among the public and the commercial sectors. And who could have predicted the millions of dollars spent on domain names like business.com?

Had some omniscient librarians been involved, they certainly would have come up with sensible group of top-level domains which could be divided fairly among the throngs of today's and tomorrow's Internet users. And those top-level domains (TLDs) would have made sense in all languages and been able to classify all Internet sites.

Such an event never happened, so instead there have been only a limited number of generic top-level domains. While there is a wide range of top-level domains available, the majority are the two-letter country codes, such as .ca for Canada, .mx for Mexico, .de for Germany, etc. In addition, there are the other top-level domains that are reserved for specific uses-.edu for U.S. higher education and .gov for U.S. federal government, except the military sites that are mil. That leaves only the .com, org, and .net top-level domain names for general usage by any organization or individual that did not fit into the other categories. And as this group has expanded so exponentially in the past five years or so, no longer restricted as they initially were to certain groups, the .com became the most popular by far.

EXPANDING TLOS

Many sites have hoped to see the TLD name space expanded. If other companies had already snapped up travel.com, travel.net, and travel.org, new TLDs could provide other options using travel. In addition, the vast commercial space could perhaps be subdivided into more categories to make the allocation of names more related to the function of the organization as well.

For the past several years, there have been intense political, legal, and practical battles about what new TLDs should be approved and implemented, and who should be responsible for registering and managing (and thus, profiting from) these new TLDs. The story of those battles, their current status, and future concerns is a long and fascinating tale, which I will not go into here. (A search on ICANN, IANA, or TLD should pull up plenty of articles covering that aspect.)

While these battles have raged, nothing changed on the real Web. Now that they have approached some resolution, we are finally at the beginning stages of seeing new TLDs on the Web as functioning addresses. So there are now definite impacts for the information professional and other searchers.

New TLDs already live late in 2001 include the info, .biz, and name, while several others are due to come online over the next several months. In November 2000, seven new TLDs were approved in principle. These are the first new TLDs other than some country code changes since 1988, well before the Internet became the common online resource it is today.

IMPLICATIONS FOR THE

PROFESSION

So why should these new TLDs even matter to the information professional? Much of the time, especially in the early days of the new TLDs, there will be little impact on the vast majority of our work. However, being aware that the new domains are legitimate TLDs and part of new domain names is useful. That way when someone suggests checking out show.biz, you will at least realize that such an address can now exist.

In addition, the TLDs may change the way in which to handle URLs. How often can you efficiently find an appropriate Web site simply by guessing a URL based on your knowledge of the current domain name structure? …

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