"The Internet's impact on cities grows daily as it electronically enables the meeting, movement, and exchange of people, ideas, products, and cultures at a range and frequency never before possible, creating what Marshall McLuhan called the 'global village'."
So begins a paper in which Dr. Michael Gurstein and I present a short review of the history of TLDs and the negative effects their omission from the Internet's naming schema is having on cities. We then identify 12 areas where city-TLDs will benefit Global Cities if planned and developed in the public interest.
The identified areas are copied below with the full paper available here.
Properly planned and executed, many benefits will arise with the development of a public interest Global City-TLD as for example:
• Good Domain Names - If issued equitably and at affordable rates, a public interest GC-TLD will facilitate the fundamental benefit that derives from a new TLD, that is, good names, those that are short, descriptive, and memorable.
• Equitable Distribution of Domain Names - A public interest Global City-TLD can establish allocation policies that avoid pitfalls such as hoarding and typo-squatting. Policy decisions can be made on price and nexus requirements (a legal term indicating a required city connection such as a residency or operating a business), and can reserve domain names for unbiased public interest directories, government, civic, and issue usage.
• Affordable Domain Names - By eliminating the profit requirement, public interest GC-TLDs can keep prices low and set rates that maximize community benefit. It can provide affordable names for the young entering the business world, for the community and civic worlds, for recent immigrants, small businesses, and for use in the public realm. Where appropriate and feasible, a GC-TLD operated in the public interest can provide free names to individuals, organizations, start-ups, etc.
• Name Set-Asides - With an improved community a key part of its mission, a public interest GC-TLD can set aside second level names for neighborhoods or civic benefit activities and issues, e.g., "www.elections.nyc" or "www.sante.paris" Also, it can experiment with allocation plans that facilitate shared name usage for civic, community, and issues. e.g., developing a reusable public access name bank that facilitates a time-based allocation of names like "www.save-the-tree.nyc."
• The New Proximity - While the Internet excels by connecting on a global scale, a public interest GC-TLD can establish discussion, issue, geographic, and opportunity name spaces where residents can locate one another. Combining the Internet's global reach and local face-to-face contacts will optimize the exchange of ideas and revivify the traditional role of cities.
• Civic Tools for Collaboration - The New Proximity will be facilitated by making available public access civic tools such as calendars, maps, listserves, polling, and organizers. These may be adapted from those currently providing web widgets such as Google or custom developed if needed.
• More Secure Experience - With a focus on a limited and fixed geographic area, a nexus requirement for acquiring a city domain name (i.e., a demonstrated residency or business interest in the city), and working in close cooperation with the extant institutions, public interest GC-TLD operators can approximate the expectation and experience found with TLDs such as .gov and .edu.
• Unbiased Directories - A public interest TLD can create directories of selected second level domain names like www.hotels.nyc and www.schools.nyc, making city resources far more accessible. For example, a carefully designed and managed www.hotels.nyc directory would provide global access to a small directory page presenting the city's hotels using alpha and geographic links to sites of the hotel's choice. Or a directory might make a city's schools accessible by organizing them by public vs. private, and primary, secondary, and university.
• Intuitive Design - A well planned and organized TLD will be intuitive and provide confidence that "guesses" will be effective. For example, today one might imagine success by directly entering www.ibm.com or www.coke.com into a browsers address space. With a fresh GC-TLD name space residents might presume that the entry www.jacquescafe.paris would reach its target. Intuitive design will also play a role in encouraging directory searches of the likes of www.bookstores.london or www.restaurants.nyc.
• Search Engine Transparency - Whether one is searching for a hotel or issues surrounding a local election, the trustworthiness of the responses is vital. Developers of GC-TLDs will find advantage by presenting search engines with transparent heuristics.
• Identity - While any city-TLD will say for example, Made in Berlin or From Mumbai, a GC-TLD operated in the public interest will assure the long term preservation of the TLD as a symbol of a city's character. And with public participation in its design and development, it will provide that point of civic pride around which a population will rally to protect its brand.
• Shrink Digital Divide - A public interest GC-TLD could (and should be expected to) commit a portion of funds received from name sales and other sources to facilitate the provision of civic collaboration tools, education, training and eradicating digital divides.
Additionally, the growing awareness and acceptance of global warming and the sustainability of cities vs. the suburban or rural lifestyles provides a further justification for arming cities with the most modern of technologies.
Finally, with the foundation of an effective public interest GC-TLD based in transparency, accountability, and public participation one might hope, and indeed expect, that an engaged public will transform the Internet's capabilities into city resources of types yet unimagined.
The complete version of this paper is available here.
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