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New Paper Discusses Global City TLD's in the Public Interest

Tom Lowenhaupt

"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.

By Tom Lowenhaupt, Director, Connecting.nyc Inc.. More blog posts from Tom Lowenhaupt can also be read here.

Related topics: DNS, Domain Names, Registry Services, Top-Level Domains

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Comments

Re: New Paper Discusses Global City TLD's in the Public Interest Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Aug 23, 2007 10:39 AM PDT

There is of course the minor matter of which of several cities with the same name get the city tld.

Madras in India? Madras in Oregon?

Re: New Paper Discusses Global City TLD's in the Public Interest Tom Lowenhaupt  –  Aug 23, 2007 8:44 PM PDT

Thanks Suresh for pointing out that this is a minor matter. Sometimes people react so harshly when they learn that city-TLDs will not solve all the planet's problems that they disregard all the benefits in a baby & bathwater reaction.

But while minor, it does warrant consideration.

The developers of the .berlin proposal have addressed this extensively. And I agree with their approach, but I might also consider adding a 5% link to "other Berlins" or "other Londons" on some meta pages.

In many instances there is an original city that retains common sense rights - Berlin, Paris… Sometimes there are cities of equal size and historic roots, San Juan might fit here. Perhaps a variation on the 5% link might work in these instances, or perhaps a sister city program - summer here, winter there. Or perhaps the people of Paris, Texas are satisfied with their paristexas.com.

But to say that cities - now with more than 1/2 the earth's population - should not be issued TLDs, with all the community, public interest, business, civic and personal identity, and other benefits and opportunities they bring - simply because there are details to be worked out in some instances; to reject them because they don't deliver an immediate nirvana, verges on subterfuge.

Re: New Paper Discusses Global City TLD's in the Public Interest Dirk Krischenowski  –  Aug 24, 2007 1:28 AM PDT

The point you made, Suresh, is important to us as well. In March we sent a letter to the GAC to inform them how the .berliners are going to respect and incorporate the name rights of other Berlins:

http://www.citytld.com/other-cities.htm

I think the fact that there are for most cityTLD applications cities, towns, villages, boroughs or populated places with the same string should not be withheld to the applicant. In the foreseeable future I expect anyway only applications of big cities, since ICANN will also have an eye on the business model and the market need.

Re: New Paper Discusses Global City TLD's in the Public Interest Tom Lowenhaupt  –  Aug 24, 2007 8:57 AM PDT

.pH said:

"Tom,

I appreciate the foresightedness of this article. However, I do not see this as a logical solution..."
------------------------------------------

.pH,

Thanks for your detailed thoughts. (I remain a bit unclear as to any specific points of disagreement you might have with city-TLDs. Please be so kind as to reiterate and I will address any specific concerns to the best of my ability.)

But I do agree that city-TLDs will not solve every problem with the domain space. Lots of work remains.

Tom Lowenhaupt

Re: New Paper Discusses Global City TLD's in the Public Interest Steve Gibbard  –  Aug 24, 2007 5:52 PM PDT

The paper goes on at length about the need for those in the top 50 "global cities" to be able to find Internet resources local to them, but seems to include an implicit assumption that those who don't live in those 50 cities don't have the same need.  Why?  I assume it's because this proposal wouldn't scale well beyond that, but why not come up with a system that would?

Are the authors really arguing that nobody in New York would be able to remember "new-york.ny.us" as a top level domain, if it were in common use in New York?  Granted, even the authors seem to be having trouble with it now (thinking it's the more cumbersome "new-york-city.ny.us"), but could that be a result of its lack of use rather than the other way around?  .Com and other gTLDs have been heavily marketed, while the city.state.us hierarchy never was.  Worse, the city.state.us hierarchy never had a consistent registration interface, and in many cases the registrars weren't particularly responsive even to those who figured out who to contact.  Could the lack of use of city.state.us domains have had to do with lack of marketing and difficulty of registration, instead?

The authors make much of the use of country code top level domains for the cities of Singapore and Hong Kong, which are also countries or country-like entities.  Does that use differ considerably from the use of country code top level domains in larger countries?

Re: New Paper Discusses Global City TLD's in the Public Interest Tom Lowenhaupt  –  Aug 25, 2007 6:54 AM PDT

.pH,

You said,

.pH> "I simply do not see gcTLD as addressing or resolving any issue with the growning internet and is another formulary devised as something that is not really wanted. Has that been addressed? The "wanted" part of the equation? Or are these megatropolis being told they want it."

You should have been with me at a recent Rotary Club meeting. The chapter I addressed was composed of recent immigrants operating a wide variety of small businesses. Once they understood that I was talking about the possibility of their acquiring good domain names with identity, they were on board. One told of the woes of acquiring a decent .com name. And as a former government official, I can attest that civic identity is very important. So there's no doubt they are wanted and needed.

.pH> "Are we already oversaturated with more than 250 ccTLD's that hardly anyone uses, knows about, or can list?"

I recently reviewed the listing of ccTLDs and while many are barely used, others, like .de, have been issued to near-saturation. And to me oversaturation is .com.

.pH> "It is kind of like if I want chocolate ice cream and but I am told, "No, you want vanilla." Or something like that."

Yes, I'm lucky that I grew up speaking English. And yes, cities are very much like those nations suffering from the lack of native characters who have been told to deal with it.

Re: New Paper Discusses Global City TLD's in the Public Interest Tom Lowenhaupt  –  Aug 25, 2007 7:20 AM PDT

Steve,

You said,

>Steve "The paper goes on at length about the need for those in the top 50 "global cities" to be able to find Internet resources local to them, but seems to include an implicit assumption that those who don't live in those 50 cities don't have the same need.  Why?  I assume it's because this proposal wouldn't scale well beyond that, but why not come up with a system that would?"

I'm all for having the Internet meet the needs of people rather than having us all contort to meet its needs. The suggestion is that we start with a group of global cities dealing with the problems of globalization (to which the Internet is a major contributor). And see if there's a need or demand beyond that. But I'm not for a limit of 50. As we move forward I would not be surprised if China and/or India alone needed 50 names. And as I said, I'm for having the Internet meet the needs of people, and the institutions that serve them.

>Steve "Are the authors really arguing that nobody in New York would be able to remember "new-york.ny.us" as a top level domain, if it were in common use in New York?  Granted, even the authors seem to be having trouble with it now (thinking it's the more cumbersome "new-york-city.ny.us"), but could that be a result of its lack of use rather than the other way around?  .Com and other gTLDs have been heavily marketed, while the city.state.us hierarchy never was.  Worse, the city.state.us hierarchy never had a consistent registration interface, and in many cases the registrars weren't particularly responsive even to those who figured out who to contact.  Could the lack of use of city.state.us domains have had to do with lack of marketing and difficulty of registration, instead?"

Yes, "new-york.ny.us" is impossible as a top level domain. But if we taught it beginning in the 3rd grade, and put it on tax bills, street signs, etc. people in the city might eventually comprehend. I don't think they'd use it - too complex. But it's clearly broken beyond repair, and a far simpler solution .nyc is at hand. And even if the city used "new-york.ny.us", how would the city market itself globally. It's certainly not very intuitive.

>Steve "The authors make much of the use of country code top level domains for the cities of Singapore and Hong Kong, which are also countries or country-like entities.  Does that use differ considerably from the use of country code top level domains in larger countries?"

Both have been shaping their global presence with their TLDs. More so since they started using second level names a couple of years ago. Those seeking GC-TLDs are watching them closely.

Re: New Paper Discusses Global City TLD's in the Public Interest Tom Lowenhaupt  –  Aug 31, 2007 3:16 PM PDT

pH,

As far as domain names are concerned, you're correct; there are oodles of good names out there. But my support for city-TLDs didn’t start as a quest for domain names. It began in the late 1990’s with the realization that, while our world was becoming more visible and connected, the community around me was becoming increasingly opaque.

In my capacity as a community board member (New York City’s grassroots governance level), and having been involved with interactive technologies since the late-1970s, I began to wonder how our community was adjusting to the Internet and vice versa. Where were local civic organizations to be found on the Internet? Were they aware of the opportunity? Were many already on the web? Were residents able to locate civic associations dealing with problems similar to their own, both locally and throughout the city? Where were my elected representatives positions and activities to be found on the web? Where on the web could I find my local retail stores? Were they there at all?

And I began to look at the web with a proactive eye. How could we use it to help connect the multiple new immigrant communities to one another and to the world? How could we use it to connect our immigrants to the traditional community, civic, and formal governance structures? What web resources needed to be developed to empower community groups to effectively address local concerns? Where were the tools that would enable New Yorkers to begin locating one another on the web? How could we use the net to create a more inclusive, open, and transparent city governance structure? What planning and software tools would help neighbor to locate neighbor, make decisions and address the issues of the day? How could we improve awareness about, and access to, our city’s resources - to potential visitors and for business opportunities? Etc.

You can’t just Google these questions.

pH, when people think of New York City these days, they think big, powerful, rich. But our city’s 8,000,000 residents represent 1/10th of 1 percent or the world’s population. And while stats like 2,500 schools, 225 hospitals, 18,000 restaurants, and 300,000 city employees make it sound gigantic, globally it’s a speck. And with our resources spread over the DNS, on the net, New York City just doesn’t exist.

But even before I became aware of the “overhead” the DNS was placing on my city’s communications system, my efforts had been to use the net to improve local communication, for while New York might be the "world's communications capital," with more TV, radio, newspaper, magazine, cable, advertising, and book publishing firms than elsewhere, the “capital's” focus is typically regional, national, or global. As a result, local communication is less than stellar with most residents unaware of such basics as the community board's role or which of the 59 boards serves them.

What's the problem?

Consider the difference in media coverage between two communities of roughly similar size - Terra Haute, Indiana (where I attended college) and Queens' Community District 3 (where I live and served as a community board member).

Dedicated Media Resources

Terra Haute Community District 3
Population 105,000 170,000
Television Stations 2 0
Daily Newspapers 1 0
Radio Stations 8 0

Yes, NYC is the "world's communications capital," and if something extraordinary happens locally we’ll be flooded with media of almost unimaginable scope. But the mundane needs of residents and the community are of little interest to our "global" media. And even our "local" media is not quite local. For example, New York City's "local" TV stations serve a regional audience of 17,000,000, with the average community district representing but 1% of the audience. Consequently, local TV coverage of community issues is abysmal.

For our community boards – democracy’s first step – as of 2007 the U.S. Postal Service remains the mass media channel most commonly used. And in this regard, Queens Community Board 3 is typical with its $1,200 annual postage budget. For the typical resident, the civic conversation that makes democracy a reality is lacking.

Let me insert a personal comment here. I’ve lived most of my 60 years here in the city. But even if you’re wealthy, (and that’s certainly not me), life is quite challenging. One example - I’ve a friend that moved to Charlotte a few years ago and shortly after arriving noticed a problem with a street sign in front of his house. He called city hall and within an hour someone was there to address the problem. He spent 16 years trying, unsuccessfully, to get New York City’s transportation department to make a similar correction in front of his home. Things have to totally fail before they are addressed here. This results from an inadequate local communication system in my view.

To summarize and complete this rant…

By 2001 our community leaders (not city hall, just local) recognized that we had little idea what impact the net was having on our community. But we knew the Internet was an amazing tool around which the city could organize itself, and we knew that the .nyc TLD could provide a clean slate on which we could begin to reconfigure our city. It’s been 6 years since our Community Board passed our resolution calling for the acquisition of .nyc and for most of that time we’ve heard silence. But recently a number of us have begun pushing the concept and it seems the ICANN is almost ready to issue new TLDs.

So .nyc arose because a DNS induced diaspora scattered our digital resources over the net, and as a way to improve traditionally poor local communication system. Not to get additional domain names.

Re: New Paper Discusses Global City TLD's in the Public Interest jeroen  –  Sep 06, 2007 6:46 PM PDT

And the main question which is not answered is: why is berlin.de. worse than berlin.

Or did the people who are cooking this up forget about this thing called hierarchy because of the flashing dollar/euro signs in their eyes?

Re: New Paper Discusses Global City TLD's in the Public Interest Dirk Krischenowski  –  Sep 07, 2007 12:16 AM PDT

Dear Jeroen,

there's a clear and reasonable answer on the question why a City.xy is not as sexy as a .city. We had a lot of talks with city representatives, not only in Berlin.

Today nearly each important city has its own official website, even small towns and villages often have their own website. In all the cases the city website is a single URL, a single address and a single identifier of the regional authority, its institutions and administration. Only officially approved and politically correct content is available on the city websites. It's the same with the country websites.

Participation of businesses, organisations and individuals from the respective local community is not allowed or very limited on these websites. Subject of restrictions are often legal reasons but also the fear of the local governments that unfriendly and politically controversial content could harm and damage the image of the city’s URL and the current city government. Or can you imaging having a disgustingterm.gov?

Another fact is that sub-domains like mycompany.city.xy are globally, with except of a few UK friendly countries, not accepted by businesses, consumers and the advertising branch. The situation is even worse for sub-domains, big countries like .jp, .cn, .in or .ae have left the sub-domain system in the past years and changed to the top-level available for everybody. Sub-domains are definately not the future in the naming system.

Dirk Krischenowski

Re: New Paper Discusses Global City TLD's in the Public Interest jeroen  –  Sep 11, 2007 2:21 AM PDT

Dirk Krischenowski said:

Dear Jeroen,

there's a clear and reasonable answer on the question why a City.xy is not as sexy as a .city. We had a lot of talks with city representatives, not only in Berlin.

Is that your answer? That it is not SEXY ENOUGH!? Wow!
Really if you want to make your domain more "sexy" then improve the actual CONTENT of the site.

Or did you hear Google or Youtube etc complain that "google.com" is not sexy enough yet? They certainly have more visitors.

And if you are talking about sexy domains, then you definitely have to approve of .xxx of course, loads of sex there.

..Or can you imaging having a disgustingterm.gov?

And disgustinterm.berlin is suddenly going to be allowed as it is not associated with the city!? :)

Come on, really, if you want to enforce a certain type of content then you have to enforce it anyway, no matter if it is under disgustingterm.unchecked.berlin.de or distgustingterm.de, solve that with clear hierarchy, not by coming up with a level of indirection, especially on a level above in the hierarchy.

Who is going to be 'running' the .berlin TLD, apparently not the city or any officials and clearly they won't have any saying in the content that is going to produced into it either, otherwise like your example they would object of it. Is the 'organisation' that will be running the berlin. TLD going to be non-profit, will it be checking up on every site going into it that it won't contain bad content? How does this make it different from setting up a group for .berlin.de that checks the content going in there?

With you saying that "www.berlin.de" is the official Berlin site, while www.berlin won't be, it already shows that .berlin has nothing to do with Berlin at all, so what was the point again for creating it?

I also suggest you re-read http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc3675 which has a number of cases why you will not be able to 'ban' disgustingterm.berlin similar to disgustingterm.berlin.de

Another fact is that sub-domains like mycompany.city.xy are globally, with except of a few UK friendly countries, not accepted by businesses, consumers and the advertising branch.

And that is the whole point isn't it? MONEY, nothing else.
As by SELLING .berlin.de they won't be paying as much money than selling .berlin, or actually they would have to buy both.

This shows that these branches have to be re-educated, not that the hierarchy of the DNS has to change by moving it up one level.

The situation is even worse for sub-domains, big countries like .jp, .cn, .in or .ae have left the sub-domain system in the past years and changed to the top-level available for everybody. Sub-domains are definately not the future in the naming system.

And your sole argument is that they won't sell, what a great argument. And because it is money it will most likely happen as some people will get loaded from it, while the DNS hierarchy has to suffer and nothing has really be gained from it as people will not use that domain to actually find their local store in Berlin or any other city they will still simple do a google for "bakery Berlin site:de" to find it.

Sorry, but go earn your money with something else instead of polluting the DNS with nonsense.

Do you have any TECHNICAL arguments why berlin.de can't work instead of berlin.?

I have a very simple technical argument against: it breaks hierarchy.

There is already a very fine place for Berlin, berlin.de / berlin-city.de / berlin-local.de whatever you want to think up of, there are enough places where one can place their things under .de, which is where this fits under as it is a German thing and has nothing to do with the rest of the world. Or is Berlin not part of Germany any more?

Another nice side-effect of this will be that at a certain point every city on this planet will want their own TLD; otherwise Berlin is 'more special than us' and that is unfair. The Root-servers really are not made as .com servers, sorry.

There is a hierarchy in place and berlin.de has it's place there and nowhere else. Go find some other way to make money.

And now a nice technical way to get your .berlin. working today: ask every user to put 'de' in there resolve.conf, then www.berlin will nicely be requested from .de too and you solve all the city problems. More convenient for the user: give them another toolbar, you can then also earn money with the advertisements you can stick in there! Banners mean even more cash and you can track the users etc Try that!

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