March 28, 2000 08:30am
More domain names now!
by: John C. Dvorak
The need for more top-level domains (such as .com, .org, and .edu) has never been more urgent, but nothing is being done about it. I'd like to propose more than the simple addition of a few new domain levels.
My first suggestion: Go beyond three characters. Why use just three when Unix allows four and Windows and the Mac allow even more? How about six? Could we have www.gap.store and www.gap.outlet? Why not? Let's face it: Every domain name has been taken by either a company or squatter, leaving nothing but names like www.xpqwllsdt.org available (grab it just in case!). But more importantly, Web search mechanisms need more to look for than simple text strings, and the macros that they use are often abused. Note that passing protective laws against porn sites would also be easier if they were required to use .xxx rather than, say, .store.
As an aside, I should mention that most observers have pretty much given up on the idea that the Web can be rid of porn. Many take for granted that X-rated junk mail and tricks that fool people into running into porn online are now part of life. I think the opposite is true. Many of the meta-search machines effectively block porn from being automatically listed. That's a start. And generally speaking, I think that the majority of people think porn is disgusting. Right now it has an unusual free reign and availability that is unlike anything in the history of the world, and I think this is an odd moment in time that will come to an abrupt end. The .xxx top-level domain may not be that end, but it will at least be a step in the right direction.
One of the reasons we haven't seen more new top-level domains is that the idea was tried once by a group called Alter-NIC, which promoted an alternative DNS system. That effort annoyed domain provider Network Solutions, especially since Alter-NIC was proving that we needed new names. The stubbornness of the entrenched mindset reminds me of NFL taking forever to add the two-point conversion, because the other league--the AFL--did it first.
So .xxx is a start, and how about .web, .sto, .bar, and .res? One reader suggests letter combinations that would reflect a new SIC code. For example, www.xyz.mu2--where mu2 represented a certain industry. And how about localities? The names .cal and .ny and other state codes are part of the .us domain naming system, but why not make them top-level domains, too? www.volkswagen.cal. Large cities could have their own top-level domains. Imagine www.volkswagen.nyc.
Some will argue that once you create hundreds of top-level domains, you ruin the simplicity of the current system, where you have www.dvorak.org and www.dvorak.com. And it's true that there would be lots more e-mail blunders: "Was that guy email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org? I can't remember!" Maybe writing things down would keep that from happening.
This is a good opportunity for you to let me know what you think. What kind of naming system should we demand? What new domains should be created? I'll collect all the input you have and put up a Web page listing the best domain names. Please suggest the best three-letter names and what they would be used for. For those of you who think that the three-letter system is old-fashioned, crank it up to six letters (or whatever!). I would really like to hear from librarians in particular, since they have a unique way of categorizing things. Could the Library of Congress system or the Dewey Decimal System apply here? If so, how? And please leave your e-mail address on this discussion for follow-up. Maybe the readers of PC Magazine and ZDNet can come up with an improvement to the system that will help us all.