Jackson Hts., New York, November 5, 2013 - The Bloomberg Administration’s .NYC Advisory Board held it’s third meeting on October 17th. Advisory Board member Thomas Lowenhaupt recently released a meeting report anticipating an uninspired future for the .nyc Top Level Domain (see report). The following comments on several key reports from the meeting.
If there was any good news it was a smidgen of progress on the nexus issue - the requirement that those using .nyc domain names be connected to the city in some meaningful way. Registrants of a .nyc domain name will now need to “authenticate” their nexus by including a city zip code in their domain name application. While this is an improvement, its deterrence effect on squatters and speculators might be minimal as applicants without a legitimate New York address (the nexus) will be able to do a simple Google search, e.g., zip nyc, copy one of the many zip codes into the application, and bingo, they own a part of New York City.
But even here there was giveback by the city. The contractor argued that the zip code requirement will reduce the number of registrants - and its revenue - and thus alternative compensation was warranted. The city agreed and will compensate the contractor with additional premium names - high value names such as hotels.nyc, tours.nyc, news.nyc - that the contractor can auction off, keeping 60% of the revenue.
As to the Advisory Board’s suggestion that a valid street address also be required, the city said it is negotiating for this, but did not express a “nothing less” attitude. And even if it achieves success here, there’s still no acknowledgement that enforcement needs to be beefed up. As it stands, the contractor will not review any applications prior to registration, only doing a post registration audit of 50 or so registrations per week. With 25,000 names expected to be registered on the first day, this seems ineffective at best.
Traditional and Intuitive Names
There was only bad news when it came to maintaining access to our existing government, business, civic, and portal names. ICANN, ignorant still of the needs of cities, issued a new Rights Protection Mechanism providing the city with the ability to reserve 100 domain names “for the purposes of promoting the TLD.” So the city’s 352 neighborhood names will be made available to those with the swiftest Internet connection, not to responsible residents from neighborhoods around the city. Small businesses will face the prospect of having their treasured names ransomed back to them by sharp eyed speculators. And intuitive names such as arts.nyc, BeautyParlors.nyc, hardware.nyc, libraries.nyc and LittleLeague.nyc will go to insiders, with no concomitant need to provide local content, foster civic responsibility, or help build a city-friendly Internet.
Stumbling To Finish Line
While the Nexus and Names policies remain defective, and with a multitude of opportunities proffered by a city-TLD in need of evaluation and perhaps development, the administration is forging ahead seeking to chalk up another “success” before January 1. There’s to be something called a “Listening Session” that sounds more like promotion than 21st century public engagement. And the administration is producing a Public Service Announcement to be shown in taxis to hype the sale of .nyc domain names.
Asked about plans to move the nyc.gov website to the new TLD, the administration’s spokesperson responded, “That’s a decision for the new administration.” But if city government is not sold on moving to the new TLD, why would anyone else? What does .nyc offer that’s different from the 1,000 other new TLDs that will come online in the next year? Sadly the answer seems to be nothing. Rolled out as is, we’ll not have a guiding framework like the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 which mapped Manhattan’s street grid. Instead of a thoughtfully organized digital grid, .nyc will bring a chaotic mean-streets, a digital reincarnation of the 1980’s Times Square.
As mayor-elect de Blasio takes the pulse of the city, we hope he looks afresh at the opportunities a thoughtfully planned and developed .nyc TLD offers both for government administration and the city’s businesses, organizations, residents and visitors. And that he engages the public in an inclusive planning process.