TLD - Top Level Disaster

Thu, Mar 31, 2016

Anyone with an internet connection can’t help to have noticed all the new TLDs (Top Level Domains) that have appeared over the last few years. Instead of pets.com you can now have pets.online, or pets.buy, or pet.store. Is this better? Well, yes and no.

Introducing new TLDs was a massive opportunity and could have been a big step forward for domain naming, but in practice it’s been a painful disaster. ICANN in what I can only assume was greed, decided that instead of doing some public consultation and then introducing a set of new, useful, and reasonably priced TLDS, that instead it would be better to introduce a few (mostly crappy) new TLDs, and then let third parties bid to purchase entire TLDs of their own, essentially privatising domain names.

The result? Instead of cheap and useful selection of publically available TLDs such as .wiki, .forum, .chat, and .blog. We now have a bunch of niche TLDs such as .accountant, .loan, .insurance, .london, and branded ones such as .bing, .google, .microsoft, and .apple.

Who gains? Well, very few people really. Let’s take an obvious example of what a useful domain would have been: minecraft.wiki. It’s descriptive and clean. And oh look, registration only costs £15/year. Well, not quite. See, that particular TLD is controlled by Top Level Design who bought control of the entire TLD from ICANN. And so they can do what they like with it, such as placing specific domains like minecraft.wiki on a “premium domains list”, and instead charging £1,600/year for it. Want to know which domains are on that list? You’re probably out of luck, I’ve not found the list. Update: I emailed Top Level Design. They’ve not published the list yet, but they’re looking into it.

Who gains now? Well, Curse, the company hosting the minecraft wiki don’t. The users don’t, as it’s not worth switching for that much. The only people who gain are the companies who bought out the entire TLDs. ICANN has taken the annoyance of domain squatting and given the squatters a nuclear arsenal.

One company owns the .sucks TLD. Want to stop someone making brandname.sucks and tarnishing your brand? That’s £200/year. Just a little tax by a random third party to avoid the embarassment. Who gains? Well, only the comapany controlling the TLD. Everyone else gets taxed.

Branded TLDs such as .google have some marginal perceivable benefit, but they really weren’t needed. I’ve not actually seen one used since they were sold. So why bother at all?

Why has the TLD namespace been polluted with cash grabs and brand names? Useful and affordable TLDs just like .wiki should have been the cornerstone of ICANN’s new TLD campaign. We could have had a wide selection of useful TLDs, but several years later all we really have is yet-another-trendy-site.io. A missed opportunity, and a great shame.

One last thing… How on earth did no think to create a .js TLD? We could’ve turned the fad of naming javascript libraries something-trendy.js into URLs themselves.