Domains. Most of us know what they are. And just in case anyone has missed the last 20 years or it’s there first time on a computer, they’re the address at the top of your browser.
The bit we’re going to focus on in this article is the TLD’s and ccTLD’s (for example, .com is an example of a TLD – Top Level Domain and .uk is an example of a ccTLD – country code Top Level Domain).
Not all of the TLD’s and ccTLD’s will me anything to all of us – but they all have a purpose….. or at least they did originally.
Take .com for example – the ‘com’ is supposed to represent ‘commercial’, as in businesses. The original intention was to make everything easier for all of the Internet users – if you went to a .com you know you were on a businesses website. Well, that was the idea anyway.
If we wind forward to 2012, where are we now? Well, there’s lots of .coms that aren’t businesses. The ‘.com’ TLD craze seemed to stem from one reason. The Internet, when first released to the general public, was something reserved for people with lots of cash – both accessing it and running websites on it. So, containing predominantly businesses initially, .com’s naturally took off. But then as both access to and hosting on the Internet started to come within the reach of individuals, they wanted in on the action. And as ‘.com’ was the most popular, of course everyone wanted in on that. In lots of ways this was great, however it did lead to the dilution of the original .com meaning.
The popularity of the ‘.com’ TLD led ‘.com’ to become synonymous with the Internet, as evidenced by history referring to the ‘dot com bubble‘ and the ‘dot com crash‘. More accurately these could have been referred to as the e-bubble, or the e-crash, or the Internet bubble.
The problem of course, wasn’t just down to domains being registered by people out of the original scope of the TLD’s. Originally, there wasn’t an awful lot of choice in TLD’s, nowhere near as many as are available now.
But still now, we encounter problems with TLD’s and ccTLD’s that are brought in for one purpose but ultimately become a mix and match of anything and everything.
.me.uk was introduced a few years ago – the original idea, when it was released, was to give a ccTLD for individuals within the UK. But, with more and more domains being registered and short and common domain names able to net their owners quite a lot of money, companies obviously weren’t going to miss the opportunity to get short and valuable domain names – and who can blame them.
The problem with this probably lies in the regulations and rules regarding a lot of TLD’s and ccTLD’s. For example .ltd.uk was intended for limited companies within the UK. And, there are only limited companies in the UK using this TLD. Why? Because it’s in the rules. And therefore, the original intent is preserved.
Although ccTLD’s such as .me.uk were released with the intent that they were for UK individuals, there are actually no regulations regarding registration – anyone can register a .me.uk domain for any reason. Many businesses have caught the major and valuable domain names and redirect them to their company website (usually a .co.uk or a .com).
Should regulation be brought in to simplify the Internet for everyone? At least next time you go to a .com you know you are dealing with a bona fide business. Well, the thing is now, it’s near on impossible to do. It would hardly be fair to take .com’s away from individuals and .me.uk’s away from businesses – they’ve shelled out for them and built them up.
But maybe we could learn for future TLD’s and ccTLDs. We have to decide whether new TLD’s have an intent or don’t have an intent. If ‘.tech’ was going to be made available, and it was supposed to only contain technology sites, then we need to regulate it that way. Otherwise it’s just a complete free for all. What’s the problem with that? Well the main one is that it renders TLD’s meaningless. It also causes confusion. ‘.co.uk’ means company in the UK. So when you see the website an it’s for an individual in the USA, it of course causes confusion.
For example, there has been a lot of talk about ‘.xxx’ domains for many years – supporters seeking its introduction to place adult content all under one TLD. It’ll make it easier for parents to block for their children, companies to filter and the relevant organisations to regulate adult material in their countries.
Nice theory. But in reality, what would happen if ‘.xxx’ was introduced and there was a free-for-all, a bit like with the vast majority of other TLD’s.
Well, let’s take, Microsoft for example. They’re a company that has spent decades building up a good reputation and world famous business. It’s not going to look good if a ‘questionable website’ registers microsoft.xxx to display their ‘adult content’ is it. So, what would Microsoft do? We’ll I imagine they’d register microsoft.xxx to protect their name from being used for potentially dubious websites.
And I wouldn’t blame them. I dare say I’d be tempted to register dpscomputing.xxx to keep it out of the hands of a porn company, which could, by some Internet users, be seen as being associated with it’s .co.uk or .com namesake.
And I’m sure many companies would see it this way. Even if it’s got nothing to do with the original companies, your-company-name.xxx hosting an adult site has, at best, the potential for confusion and, at worst, the potential for complete disaster for a business.
So, with this one, we’re in a bit of a pickle. There’s not a lot that can be done about TLD’s and ccTLD’s that are already in existence with one intention but not regulation. What can be done though, is more careful consideration about what happens with future TLD’s and ccTLD’s and how they are introduced. If it’s intended solely for one thing, there should be rules in place so that it is used by that one thing – as is done with domains under, for example, .gov.uk – after all, the last thing you want is a phishing scam registering ‘hm.gov.uk’.
With many proposals in the pipeline, such as .eng for England, .scot for Scotland and .cymru for Wales, there does need to be careful consideration and plenty of thought and effort put into the logistics of these applications and, if they are accepted, their implementation. It’s too late to anything and correct these mistakes after they’ve already been made – as has been realised over the past years of the Internet.
Image: The Booklight.