Internet, Technology, Webcomics

ICANN get behind “gpf.comics”…

July 1st, 2008 by Jeff | Dump Core

So ICANN, the organization that oversees the doling out of domain names on the Internet, has approved the relaxation of the rules for top-level domains (TLDs) to allow for arbitrary TLDs for whoever has the money and technical capability to grab it. If things go according to plan, by the middle of next year you may be able to just type into your browser something like http://search.google/ rather than http://www.google.com/, or perhaps you’d rather http://drink.coke/ or http://drive.ford/ or even http://have.crazy.monkey.sex/.

To quote virtually ever character in the Star Wars universe, I have a bad feeling about this.

I am so sitting on the fence on this one. My initial gut reaction is this can’t be a good thing. I know far too many non-techies who are confused by Internet addressing as it is, so let’s confuse them some more by adding even more things for them to figure out. JD Fraizer over at User Friendly hit the nail on the head; anyone who has ever used Usenet is probably rolling their eyes a lot more lately. The potential for cybersquatting and trademark dilution is enormous. ICANN insists that an “objection-based mechanism” will be in place to prevent such things, but how much red tape (and legal dollars) will someone have to go through to protect their brand? Every day that a squatter sits on a domain equates to valuable time, money, and reputation that can be lost, something big corporations may be able to wait out but little guys like me can’t afford. It’s been hard enough right now for me to keep up with all the variants of gpf-comics.something out there. And let’s not get into the discussion of what “offensive” TLDs creative individuals might come up with….

Of course, it’s not like I’m going to be registering .gpf anytime soon anyway. I suppose that’s one thing ICANN did right: to create your own TLD, you’ll need a truck load of money first. The CBC is reporting an estimated $100,000 per TLD—I have no idea if that’s Canadian dollars or not—but ICANN only says for now that “fee information is not yet available”. Ordinary domain names are dirt cheap nowadays, which is a blessing to small-time operators like me but a curse in that squatters with cash to burn can snap up thousands at a time and hold them for ransom. At least starting a new TLD will take capital, making it a serious investment. It will also be quite a technical undertaking; owning a TLD also means you have to build the infrastructure support it. So if Google were to grab .google with their pocket change, they’ll also need to pony up the hardware and bandwidth to maintain the root server. Google may be a bad example (they’ve got servers to spare, I’m sure), but for organizations not used to maintaining that kind of “big iron” it will be a significant learning curve.

But then it occurred to me… how awesome would it be if all your favorite comics or comic-related sites could found at “something dot comics”?

Imagine if you will that some philanthropic comics creator/reader with a hundred grand in “mad money” under his bed were to snatch up .comics and register that with ICANN. Being philanthropic, this individual would charge a minimal fee to register a domain there, just enough to cover operational costs and maybe make a modest living in the process, aggregated out to anticipated demand (of which I’m sure there’d be plenty). There would be only one additional requirement for application beyond the current standard (ethical) process: the domain must be used for a site publishing, promoting, or discussing comics in some way, shape, or form. Consideration for approval would require proof of content, such as a preview development site, previously published work, portfolios, etc.—just enough to prove the site really will be used for something comic-related. Individual titles would be encouraged to register at the root level (dilbert.comics, gpf.comics, x-men.comics) while companies would register their names (dc.comics, marvel.comics, keenspot.comics) and potentially use sub-domains for their own titles (x-men.marvel.comics). Our hypothetical philanthropic registrar would also be fair and balanced as to not let big conglomerates dominate the little guys. Disputes over domains would come down to traditional copyright and trademark resolutions, requiring proof of prior art, etc.

Wouldn’t that be just grand?

Of course, what will really happen will be that some big company will come along and buy up .comics with far more misanthropic intentions (and we know such an obvious TLD wouldn’t sit dormant for long). They’d either squirrel it away selfishly for promoting their own works and no one else’s, or they’ll charge such an exorbitant “premium” price for registrations that only big publishing houses like DC, Marvel, etc. will be able to afford it, shutting out the little independents and webcomics. Even if they price it fairly and keep it open, I’d bet it would get so swamped with squatters that the novelty of the whole TLD would become as diluted .info is today. Maybe it’s just that I’m pessimistic… or that I’ve been annoyed for so long that some jerk had been holding gpf-comics.org hostage for years… but I just don’t see this turning into as promising a possibility as I think it could be.

Oh, well. I’ve been waiting for gpf.com for nearly a decade now. I guess I can just add gpf.comics to the list. Wishful thinking….

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