Commissioners-Plan-of-1811-map-portion.jpgJackson Hts., New York, March 22, 2011 - Two hundred years ago today the “Commissioners of Streets and Roads” adopted what’s come to be known as the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811. By establishing the basis for Manhattan’s street grid, the Plan served the city well, providing a basis for the city’s safe, organized, and prosperous development. See this great New York Times article for a recounting of the real estate values and transportation and health benefits realized by investing in going through hills and swamps rather than around them.

Today, the .nyc TLD presents us with a decision of similar scope: Do we create a user-friendly city whose resources are available via a variety of intuitive digital pathways? Or do we sell off a key digital resource willy-nilly to satisfy short term interests?

How we resolve the issues surrounding the .nyc TLD’s division and allocation, its integration with traditional systems and resources, how we assure its sustainability (perhaps for generations), and its ongoing governance will determine the city’s capacity to effectively function as a economic and social engine for its residents. As well, our response to these questions will determine our competitive position with other global cities with which we increasingly compete.

Additionally, in deciding on the .nyc TLD’s scope we will be marking our borders. In both the digital and real worlds, strong borders make good neighbors. Should our digital borders be coterminous with existing ones, or do they demand a rethinking to a regional or perhaps a hybrid geovirtual configuration? Only when we’ve established those borders can we can begin to build a governance system within.

Will New York be Ready?

At its recent meeting in San Francisco, ICANN, the entity with primary responsibility for issuing new TLDs, took steps that bode well for the development of its long awaited New TLD Application Guidebook that will enable .nyc’s acquisition. It approved the .xxx TLD thereby unnerving some nation-states, and it confronted ICANN’s Government Advisory Committee, the body representing nation-state interests before ICANN, demanding clarity as to its concerns about the new TLD process. In doing so ICANN expressed its intent not to be subservient to the existing nation-state system. (Indeed, its CEO has expressed a desire to see ICANN recognized as a new nation-state with U.N. membership.) As a result, it now seems that 2012 might see ICANN finalizing its Guidebook and receiving applications for city TLDs. Is New York prepared?

Since the city council tacitly passed oversight to the mayor’s office in February 2009, the administration has taken two steps. In March 2009 it issued a Request for Information, or RFI, seeking ideas on the utility and operation of a city-TLD. It sent the RFI to the Old Boys Network of businesses that made their fortunes by operating organic TLDs such as .com and .org. It didn’t invite the public to imagine the TLDs role in creating a digital city. Not did it invite civic organizations, planning entities, libraries, or our computer science, engineering, and business schools to chime in. Our origin, arising from Queens Community Board 3’s April 2001 Internet Empowerment Resolution, did result in a copy of an RFI coming our way, with our RFI response available here.

Based on the RFI responses, in October 2009 the city issued a Request for Proposals for an entity to assist it with the TLD’s acquisition. In it, the city described the Old Boys Network as the qualified proposers, with their ability to run computers that efficiently sell domain names apparently qualifying them as the city’s architects for a digital era.

Today it is believed that a handful of RFP responses sit at the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunication (DoITT). Last month we asked DoITT’s Commissioner Carol Post if the city had made a fundamental decision as to the TLD’s operation: Does the city see .nyc operating as a Standard TLD such as .com and .org, or as a planned, community TLD as we’ve proposed? Or putting the question in 1811 terms: does the city propose going around the hills, gullies, and swamps or through them?  As per Commissioner Post, no decision has been made, but there’s been “much discussion” at DoITT. (See the video of that Q&A here.)

Toward A New Commissioners’ Plan

But DoITT’s decision is being made without any public participation, with city hall apparently ready to forgo the messiness of a democratic discussion. This is understandable as a city TLD is a new issue with little home grown expertise and much misunderstanding ahead. But it we’re to have a world class city-TLD, we’ll need the engagement of all to plan and support its development. 

Councilmember Gale Brewer has advocated modifying the city charter to move oversight of digital resources in line with that of land use, modeled perhaps on the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure or ULURP. We applaud that agenda and note that a TLD, access to a fast and inexpensive Net, and appropriate training are all critical to creating a prosperous and livable city in a digital era. In exploring those Charter enhancements we urge that note be taken of the democratic potentials offered by the Net, including our

Today’s 200th anniversary of the Commissioners’ Plan offers a propitious moment to begin a multistakeholder exploration by city government, academia, civic organizations, industry, and the public to plan the architecture of our digital city. In early 2009 we had the basis for such an exploration with CUNY and other institutions set to join. But DoITT’s issuance of an RFI convinced those interested that things were moving too fast for reasoned thought. That was two years ago. Each day it becomes clearer that our future will be determined by the availability of critical resources such as domain names, fast and ubiquitous access to the Net, and an aware and trained populace. It’s not too late to begin a thoughtful examination of our digital future. Let’s begin today.

Comment below, email your thoughts to, or help write the study’s charter on our DARPA to CARPA wiki page where we’ve begun to lay out the scope of a reasoned study.

Learn more about our overall effort from our Wiki Pages

dotNYC-at-Paley-Center-Carol-Rachel-Seth-with.0.jpgThe Paley Center, New York, February 11, 2011 - Asked by Inc.’s Tom Lowenhaupt about progress on selecting the fundamental model for the development of the .nyc TLD - i.e., will the city follow a Standard TLD model like .com or .org, or one that facilitates a sustainable TLD and engages the public in local decision making processes, the Community Model - New York City’s IT Commissioner Carole Post stated that no decision has been made.

Ms. Post’s response was made at an Open Government and The Transformation of New York City’s Digital Environment panel, part of Social Media Week. The panel discussed “the City’s use of social media and technology to better serve its customers and promote economic development.” On the dais with Ms. Post were Seth W. Pinsky, New York City Economic Development Corporation President and Rachel Sterne, New York City Chief Digital Officer.

The panel provided an introduction to Rachel Sterne, the City’s first Chief Digital Officer who assumed the role just three weeks ago. She described her challenge as improving the interface between the public and city government using social media.

With the “no decision” report from Commissioner Post, Mr. Lowenhaupt suggested that Ms. Sterne take the .nyc TLD under her wings and facilitate crowdsourcing and other participative technologies in the analysis and decision making process regarding the design of the city’s new digital infrastructure. The CDO responded “absolutely hope to engage the public as much as we can.” See the Post / Sterne  Q&A video.

Background: On December 23, 2009 the city received responses to its Request for Proposals seeking a firm to assist its acquisition of the .nyc TLD. There was no public participation in scoping the RFP, and there has been no city council hearing or other public engagement in the evaluation and decision making process. (Image from the Collection.)

Learn more about our overall effort from our Wiki Pages

Scylla-and-Charybdis.JPG New York, June 24, 2010 - Within the next few years the Internet is going to change in a fundamental way - it is going to become more intuitive.

This will happen as the ICANN, the entity that issues new Top Level Domains such as .com, .org, and .gov finalizes the application process for new TLDs. There will initially be hundreds and then thousands of New  TLDs, with names such as .bank, .sport, and .news.

So the future holds Chase and Citibank moving from and to and ESPN will move to ESPN.sports and the Wall Street Journal will find advantage in moving to

With this transition people will come to see the Internet as far more intuitive than today and will begin entering their domain name requests directly. So for example, if you’re looking for a bank you might enter or Or if you’re looking for news you might try And information about baseball might be best found from baseball.sports. It’s going to be a different Internet, one where our dependence of search engines will be diminished.

In addition to the forementioned .sport, .news, and .bank, there will be city TLDs such as .paris, .berlin, .tokyo and our favorite .nyc.

Let’s imagine the .nyc Top Level Domain name is fully functional in 5 years. And people have begun to recognize the benefit of directly entering domain names rather than always relying on Google. And people learn that it’s faster and more direct to enter,,, and

The .nyc TLD’s name server (a specialized computer) will connect each of these queries to the appropriate website and create an entry in a Query Log. This Query Log will contain valuable information from a marketing, governance, and civic life perspective.

Let me give an example. Imagine in 1985 we had the intuitive Internet as I’ve described above, i.e., baseball.sports,… And imagine the residents of Greenpoint, Brooklyn started entering inquiries into their search boxes such as:


What happens to these queries? If they’re for an existing website, people will be directly connected to the site. (Let’s skip for the moment the privacy issues associated with that database of successful connections - the basis for the Sylla & Charybdis graphic.)

But imagine it’s a time like 1985 when the Asian Longhorn Beetle had just arrived on our shores. And residents of Greenpoint are entering intuitive inquiries like the above seeking information about the strange developments going on with their trees. And let’s assume that none of these intuitive inquiries had existing websites. What happens to these erroneous queries?

We advocate that this information go to an Error Query Log Database, and be made available to all for inspection. This will enable some clever researcher to begin exploring these entries and initiate a proper response. In 1985 that would have been to inform the Parks Department that something odd was going on with the trees in Greenpoint, and to dispatch an inspector to investigate. In reality, it took 10 years before that happened and America now faces the prospect of 1,200,000,000 trees being lost to the Asian Longhorn Beetle. ­

So what will the Error Query Log show in the future?

We don’t have that crystal ball, but it could be the central location for sensing change in our city, a twitteresque database controlled by the city. As such, we recommended in testimony before the city council Technology Committee on June 19, 2010 considering Intro. 29, OpenData, that the Error Query Log Database be made available to researchers and programmers on a minute by minute or minimally, hourly basis.

Read our testimony and help imagine the development of this twitteresque feature. (Commons image courtesy of Wikimedia.)

Learn more about our overall effort from our Wiki Home Page.


New York, May 26, 2010 - On October 3, 2009 the NYC Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications (DoITT) issued a Request for Proposals for “services to obtain, manage, administer, maintain and market the geographic Top Domain name .nyc”.

The New York Chapter of the Internet Society has followed the .nyc TLD acquisition process for several years and on May 8, 2010 hosted a seminar “dot nyc – How are we doing?” The symposium was held at NYU and moderated by Joly MacFie, Secretary of the New York Chapter.

NYC Council Member Gale Brewer delivered the keynote and then took questions. In her opening remarks CM Brewer made several points including the following:

  • There’s a public process at ICANN and there’s a public process, we would like to say, before it goes to ICANN.
  • What we are interested in at the city council is what does the city of New York get out of it. We are desperate for revenue. And we are interested in what public input goes into an ICANN proposal. And certainly we would like to have at the very least a public-private partnership, not just a private.­
  • And the other advantage to doing a public process with a sign off and resolution from the city council is that it makes it a stronger application at ICANN. That makes a huge difference.

After her comments CM Brewer took several questions.

Q. Joly MacFie - ICANN has said that you are going to have to show that you have to show support from the community and this means that you have to have a resolution from the council. Obviously the mayor is the administrator, he’s got to present that to the council.

A. CM Brewer - Absolutely. I think that would be the time to figure out what the city gets out of it. What the public gets out of it.

Q. Joly MacFie - I think before then there should be process. DoITT should say we have a bunch of proposals, they are all very interesting, there are these issues, have a public hearing on those issues, it might be Council Member Garodnick’s Telecommunications committee, and from that make a secondary call for proposals, a second sound of things, before we go ahead.

A. CM Brewer - I would agree, and then you have a second round of criteria. Based on the public input.

Q. Tom Lowenhaupt (Director, Inc.) - The ICANN requires a letter of support from the local governing authority. I’ve always thought the city council served that role…

A. CM Brewer - I don’t know the answer to that question. We’ll have to have that researched. This is something that will be extremely controversial if it’s not done with some public input. I think politically, I don’t know about legally, that would count as the city council and the administration. Politically from DoITT’s perspective, this is not something that will affect just the administration. This will have huge impact on business, on nonprofits and everybody in New York. Everyone. So I would assume they would want to have public hearings on it, politically.  It would be crazy to have something go to ICANN without public input. I think they’ll see it that way.

Q. Tom Lowenhaupt - Do you think at this point the Technology Committee is the more appropriate one?

A. CM Brewer - Technology, Small Business, there are a lot of joint hearings at this point, trying to get more participation. At least two committees will have hearings. I will attend all of them. I will write a letter to DoITT after today’s hearing asking for updates and send you all copies, asking for public hearings on whatever committees that need to be part of this. The new commissioner Carol Post comes from the mayor’s office of operations. She’s very open. She understands that it’s very important to get public input. She’s very close to the administration, so she’s not afraid of bucking them.

Q. Joly MacFie - It seems like there is some type of process that if we got a proposal together and brought it to the Community Boards to say we like this idea.

­A. CM Brewer - Yes. I think Community Boards would be very interested in a community .nyc because they want to highlight the businesses in the neighborhood. Absolutely.

After Council Member Brewer concluded the Q&A, Eric Brunner-Williams of CORE Internet Council of Registrars, the only vendor to participate in the day’s events, presented details of CORE’s proposal. 

Finally, there was a discussion “What’s it for?” about possible applications – civic, community, commercial, and “outside the box” for a city-TLD. Speakers included Tom Lowenhaupt of Inc. (CNI) and Richard Knipel of Wikimedia NYC.

Lowenhaupt spoke of his long involvement with .nyc leading to the creation of in 2006. He presented his vision of governance for the TLD based on the model of the city’s cable TV public access channels, and described two recent efforts: The Flushing Community and dotNeighborhoods that point the way toward .nyc operating as a community TLD. After describing the dotNeighborhoods project, he introduced Richard Knipel who described a research project Wikimedia NYC will be undertaking in support of dotNeighborhoods this summer.

For more on the Symposium, including a video and stills, see this Internet Society page.

Learn more about our overall effort from our Wiki Home Page.


air-pollution.JPGNew York, December 1, 2009 - How we allocate and manage our digital infrastructure is perhaps the central question surrounding the development of the .nyc TLD. What is an effective, efficient, and equitable domain name distribution policy and how do we govern its implementation and oversight?

Our Governance Ecology page provides a number of thoughts on this and today we add two others - common pool resource and common pool regimes.   

Elinor Ostrom, an American political scientist and winner of the 2009 Noble Prize for economics, identifies eight “design principles” of stable local ­common pool resource (CPR) management. Typical common-pool resources include irrigation systems, fishing grounds, pastures, forests, water, and the atmosphere. A first reading of her work indicates many similarities between these resources and a TLD. What can we learn from these, her 8 principles?

  • Clea­rly defined boundaries (effective exclusion of external unentitled parties);
  • ­Rules regarding the appropriation and provision of common resources are adapted to local conditions;
  • Collective-choice arrangements allow most resource appropriators to participate in the decision-making process;
  • Effective monitoring by monitors who are part of or accountable to the appropriators;
  • There is a scale of graduated sanctions for resource appropriators who violate community rules;
  • Mechanisms of conflict resolution are cheap and of easy access;
  • The self-determination of the community is recognized by higher-level authorities;
  • In the case of larger common-pool resources: organization in the form of multiple layers of nested enterprises, with small local CPRs at the base level.­

­See our ­common pool resources wiki page for more on this “experience of the ages” addition to our governance considerations. (­Commons photo courtesy Sheila.)

Learn about .nyc on our wiki pages.


ICANN-Seoul.1.JPG­Seoul, October 27­, 2009 - I awoke with the birdies today and took a run along the Cheonggyecheon, a stream that flows between the Eastgate and the Lotte. It was a delight. Yesterday I was reading in the Korean Times that the mayor of Seoul indicated he was going to run for another term and had promised to stay in office for the full 5 years. He said he wanted to do for the Han, the city’s main river,  what the previous mayor did for the Cheonggyecheon. The writer noted that the previous mayor had ridden that accomplishment to the nation’s presidency.

Seoul is just an amazing physical city. And the people are about 2/3 the width of Americans, i.e., I haven’t seen an obese person yet. My only negative observation is about the quality of the air, nothing you can smell, perhaps it’s smog, but it’s difficult to see the nearby mountains.­

As to ICANN meeting…  It was more doom and gloom for the timely issuance of TLDs. The first post AoC meeting of the GAC and the ALAC brought to mind one of the early ICANN meeting I’d attended remotely in the late 1990’s, in that every possible problem that might arise with the issuance of of additional TLDs was raised, largely by the ALAC. Some constructive thoughts were added by GAC participants but overall those looking for rapid issuance of a gTLD would have come away saddened. But there was much talk of specific categories of TLDs that might warrant rapid processing, city and cultural. However, even there some of the old, seemingly resolved issues, such as user confusion and TLD failure, were raised anew.

Perhaps an aside, but then again maybe the central point, yesterday the Committee for Open Fashion NYC issued a statement that the domain name “should present a complete and unbiased directory of the city’s fashion industry.” More on this soon.  

And then there was the Gala Event - the food, the museum, and the entertainment were fantastic. One of my favorite remembrances was a calligraphic rendering of “New York” and “NYC” in Korean. You’ll be amused. It will be the subject of a separate post. And making the Gala more gala, we learned that DoITT had extended the deadline for filing the .nyc RFP to December 7.

My view of Seoul as a perfect society was tainted somewhat when I entered the Metro last night to return from the Lotte to the Eastgate: dozens of homeless were setting up their boxes for a good night’s sleep. It was quite open and obviously “overlooked” by the Metro operators. Then again, this might be a more humane way of handling the homeless problem than the way we do it back in New York City. [Post 7:14 AM on the 28th - Seoul.]


ICANN-Seoul.1.JPG­Seoul, October 26, 2009 - While I’m a bit tired now, at 7:11 PM, I suspect it’s due to the busy day I had rather than to the 13 hour time shift. I awoke at 8 this morning after a decent night’s sleep, so I guess I’m “adjusted.” First thing I needed to do was change hotels. The new one, Eastgate Tower, is closer to the conference hotel - about 1.5 miles - and spanking new. It’s a bit odd though, and I suspect that it’s a hybrid hotel /condo of some sort. 

The walk to the Lotte from Eastgate was quite interesting as it passed through a light industrial / shopping area. Small shops lined the street with different classes of products - several lighting shops, then hardware stores, a slew of tape stores (the sticky kind), then it was the wall paper district… Many of the stores were also making the products they sold, or at least modifying them. Saws and hammers were seek regularly. This contrasted with New York City where little is manufactured and what is is rarely within view of the public.But I didn’t notice any foul odors or obvious signs of pollution.

I arrived at the ICANN conference at 11:30 and started talking to the trickle that was exiting the New TLD Program Overview session: sad faces all around - more delays - not even proposed submission dates - disbelief - too many loose ends… It seems the Draft Application Guide 3 is hardly worth reading.

But there was hope for .nyc being processed by ICANN within a reasonable time period. This was embodied in the “Airport Scenario,” proposed by Bertrand de La Chapelle, the French GAC representative, ans “Step by Step,” as the folks from CORE are calling the concept of facilitating a path for less controversial TLDs to proceed sooner. The cultural entities and cities are within this “easier to process” group. 

I also sat in on the debate on Registrar-Registry separation. Seemed like a no-brainer: keep the roles separate.

This evening I’m having dinner with representatives from Bangkok who are interested in the BKK TLD (an airport code). More later..

Filed October 26th, 2009 under City-TLDs, City Council, Domain Names, DoITT, ICANN, City Agency


ICANN-Seoul.1.JPG­Seoul, October 25, 2009 - I woke at 2:11 AM with my body thinking it was morning. First thing I did was to go out to round up some tea bags. A simple Tetley or the like was not available from several stores in the neighborhood. I’ve had a Sulloc Brown Rice Green Tea and am now brewing a Korean One Ginsing Granule Tea. Both had their charm. But change of habit is tough.

Today I’m focusing on the city’s RFP requirement that two proposals, one Open one Closed be submitted.

“The City is considering the options of having .nyc as either an Open TLD or a community-based (“Closed”) TLD. Therefore, we are asking proposers to submit two separate proposals: one (1) proposal for an Open TLD and one (1) proposal for a Closed TLD. An Open TLD permits individuals and entities to obtain a second-level domain (“SLD”) without showing a nexus to the City. A Closed TLD will require individuals and entities to prove a nexus to the City to be eligible to obtain an SLD.”

This poses a conundrum for us as Inc.’s basic reason to exist is to advance to concept of a community TLD, and when the RFP states “NOTE: Proposers must submit separate Proposed Approach sections for their Open TLD and Closed TLD proposals” I’m left perplexed. Making it especially difficult for us is the Basis for Contract Award which states “If a contract is awarded, it will be awarded to the responsible technically viable proposer in the competitive range offering the highest amount of revenue to the City.” (We’ve asked the city for clarification on this.)

So early this morning I’m thinking through the options available to us and trying to figure out how I can address them over the next few days here in Seoul. As I see it we have four options:

  • Submit only a Community (Closed) proposal?
  • Submit two identical community proposals labeling one Open and the other Community (Closed)?
  • Submit a Community (Closed) plan that presents those features that will serve the needs of city residents and a modified Open version that incorporates some subset of the community features?
  • Or do we look for a different position from which to accomplish our mission, for example, commenting on the quality of Community plans submitted by the various bidders?

If this is like a typical ICANN meeting, there will be 800 or so clever Internet bureaucrats, engineers, entrepreneurs, government officials, lawyers, and public interest advocates of different shades with which I can discuss these options. [Post 5:57 AM - Seoul.]

That RealTime heading should probably be removed on this post as It’s 27 hours later, but I thought I’d report on the big news from Sunday’s ICANN meetings. I attended two: ALAC and joint GAC/GNSO. (See ICANN Glossary.) ALAC was refreshing as they seem to have been far better organized than in previous years. At the GAC / GNSO meeting there was much talk of problems with the New TLD program by the GAC members. With the GAC’s role having risen with the recent AoC with the U.S. Government, observers came away thinking more of the usual - delay. But several GAC members spoke positively of the Airport Scenario presented by the French: As planes become ready let them take off, no need to wait for everyone (every detail) before the first starts down the runway. With several GAC members chiming in that this seemed an appropriate measure for the less controversial applicants - cities and cultural groups - there was a tad of positive news for .nyc.  

The-nyc-TLD-Oversight-Structure-2-jpg.JPGNew York, July 22, 2009 - ­When Queens Community Board 3 first considered recommending the development of the .nyc TLD as a public interest resource in 1999, the ICANN was engaged in a fierce debate as to its internal governance structure, with a key issue being the role of Internet users in selecting members to its board of directors.

Over the ensuing decade the ICANN tested the direct election by Internet users to 5 regional seats on its board (in 2000) and, since 2005, it has been responding to global pressure for a more independent and effective operation centered around the United Nations initiated Internet Governance Forum.

One of the more difficult tasks before Inc. (or more broadly, the people of New York) is establishing a governance structure for the .nyc TLD. Perusing our wiki pages one will find a dozen or so pages dealing with different aspects of the governance issue - a work in progress.

Today, with ICANN supportive of city TLDs and the city administration supportive of .nyc, its time to start a conversation toward a governance structure that’s acceptable to ICANN and to the people of New York City. As an initial step, we’ve begun organizing and consolidating the wiki pages under the concept of a Governance Ecology.

The Governance Ecology - NYC Element page describes the above graphic and presents 1/3 of the story, with links to the other 2/3’s of the puzzle available via our Governce Ecology - Home Page. It’s a work in progress, but with your help we hope to complete a governance ecology for a .nyc operated in the public interest by summer’s end.

Learn more about .nyc on our wiki pages. ­­­

­making-things-talk.JPGNew York, June 30, 2009 - ­Th­e New York City Council is considering a legislative proposal, Intro. 991, that would improve public access to “raw data” held in city databases. Yesterday, in testimony before its Technology in Government Committee, headed by Council Member Gale Brewer, Inc. urged the use of the .nyc TLD in facilitating access and management of city databases.

In essence, we urged that the city think of a database as a thing, similar to a bench, a tree, a light post, or fire hydrant. And that a .nyc domain name be assigned to each database. The great thing about giving a domain name to each database (or other “thing”) is that you can then have a conversation about that database.

For example, think about the police department’s crimes database, and let’s take Mayor Bloomberg’s lead and call it “­” By giving it an intuitive name - http:/ / - ­you facilitate the work of ­programmers, but you also create a market place for that database. So at the­­ URL you would find: ­

  • a detailed description of the data,
  • a link to download the raw data,
  • an ongoing conversation of how it “might” be used if only this or that was changed or added,
  • comments and possibly a discussion by people who object to it containing too much information,
  • a suggestion that a particular field should require privacy access­,
  • notations and links to the different apps where the data has been used, and

  • ­a civic advocate / entrepreneur match program for locating people with similar interests and a desire to jointly develop apps based on the ­data set.

Learn more about this and see our council testimony.  (Commons Photo courtesy of equinoxefr.)­

Learn more about the Campaign for .nyc on our wiki pages. ­­­

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