Here’s a (cough) brilliant (cough) idea: culturally-based top-level domain names (TLDs) for the Internet.

If approved, .LAT will become one of the first TLDs based on an ethnic group instead of being limited by country. The first, according to Keenan, was .CAT for Catalonians (for those not familiar, Catalonia is an autonomous community within Spain). With a new TLD approval process coming in 2008, .LAT and .CAT could be just the beginning of a bigger wave of domains focused around culture and lifestyle. We may one day see TLDs like .GLBT or .BIKE for the gay/lesbian/bisexual/trans and cycling communities, for example. The question is: who plans to beat me to applying for .NERD?

Here’s my concern. A top-level domain is technically a container, an element of the domain name system (DNS) that segregates one thing from another. When the proposal for the .xxx domain name appeared from the conservative politicians it was clearly aimed at making censorship easier by putting all “adult content” inside a giant kennel, one that is easily filtered and blocked. The pornography industry ultimately (and rightly, in my opinion) fought back against this idea and prevented themselves from being so easily cornered—because they had the money.

Accepting a culturally-based domain name feels like putting a giant red bull’s eye symbol on your back. Not that there can’t be benefits to organizing as a visible community, because you know I think there are. I just don’t think questions of content should be encoded into the world’s telecommunications infrastructure as what amounts to big electric fences.

From an (ignorant) user’s perspective, I don’t think more top-level domain names are a good thing either. They add confusion to a situation that already has too much of it. A good example is the absurd idea of having top-level domain names for ultra-local geographic areas, such as the proposed .nyc TLD for New York City.

Compare the notion of a web site at the address versus an identical web site at the address I mean, come on, the latter even sounds logical when you say it, and it leaves the playing field open for other cities perhaps not as high-profile as New York City to provide their own information web sites. That way, it also becomes trivial to intuit the locations of all sorts of information web sites about cities:,, and the like.

Furthermore, stuffing more and more crap into top-level domain names creates a situation where important context is lost. Consider, for instance, our government-sponsored municipal information web site example. Compare versus another possibility, say They both can lead to the same information, but with the latter (and longer) address, you know exactly where you are: the information web site of the city of New York in the state of New York run by the (American) federal government. could just redirect, or the sites could be mirrors of each other. The point is, with the latter scheme, you can drill further still, envisioning:, and so on and so forth.

But what do you think? Will a .glbt domain become a rallying point or a ghetto? What about .malesub, or maybe .femdom?

By the way, for those interested, there are actually alternative root DNS servers (effectively creating other Internets) that you can configure your computer to interact with, if you are becoming as fed up with the folks at ICANN as I am.