Icann, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, has now voted to open up to all domain suffixes. Gone are the halcyon days of 22 domain endings, when you had to choose among .com and .net — or .biz, if you wanted to convey to potential customers that you didn’t actually know how the Internet worked. Now it’s all on the table — everything from .what to .youheardthatcorrectly. It’s the age of the dot.anything, as Dow Jones put it.
“Icann has opened the Internet’s addressing system to the limitless possibilities of the human imagination,” said Rod Beckstrom, ICann’s president and CEO. “No one can predict where this historic decision will take us.”
I can predict — not all that far.
It costs $185,000 to apply for one of these and $25,000 annually to maintain it.
So in all likelihood the only ones eligible for the limitless possibilities of the human imagination will be — large corporations and frivolous billionaires who would just as soon spend the money on Segways. Much as I would love .youpaidwhatforthisdomain, I don’t have $210,000 just lying around. And that assumes the township of You Paid What For This Domain won’t claim it in the opening rounds.
Leaving aside the advantage that this gives to towns named by more adventurous settlers, and the lack of sporting spirit evinced by Icann’s decision to limit the new suffixes to those who seem technically capable of maintaining a domain, anyone who thinks that the root of innovation on the Internet is large corporations with $210,000 to spare has another think coming. Generally the best they can come up with are things like the Sealy In Bed Tagger, allowing you to tag photos with “In Bed — Sealy!” and Sponsored Tweets, which are good for — nothing.
Besides, who gets to Web sites by typing in the addresses anymore? What decade is this? That’s the sort of behavior generally reserved for your grandmother directing you to a Web page over the telephone. “Let me tell you the URL,” she says, reading each backslash aloud, while her AOL dial-up makes noises of protest in the background.
Besides, fond as we may be of large corporations, it is not for their tendency to manifest the limitless possibilities of the human imagination.
Consider their track record. Every time a major corporation redesigns its logo, it tends to get worse. Gap? It looks like you told someone with severe OCD to make a cubist painting. Starbucks? I worry that if I turn my back on the cup the siren will keep sneaking toward me and invade my personal space.
These are the people who come up with catchphrases like “It’s waaay better than fast food! It’s Wendy’s,” which sounds as though they forgot to tell the person responsible for coming up with the slogan what product was being advertised. You would think that this amount of money could buy creativity, but this seems to be a less readily obtainable commodity than was previously hoped.
So I am not optimistic. If they’re smart, they’ll nab misspelled versions of a lot of famous domains, because if there is one thing that anyone can tell you about People on the Internet it is that we cannot spell. At worst, we’ll be stuck with .domain and .pizza and .yes and .good and .bland and .somehowpredictable. And that’s operating under the charitable assumption that the opening of the floodgates on Jan. 12 doesn’t simply herald a general stampede towards .sex.