• A Tale of Two Cities

last modified May 18, 2012 by tomlowenhaupt

How can premier domain names such as news, weather, sports, hotels, and restaurants.nyc best serve the interest of our city? Here we try to make some headway on that question by looking at two different development approaches to the NEWS.NYC domain name. 


news-nyc-color.jpg

     (Commons image courtesy of Patti.)


Order of Distribution

Reserved Domain Names - Before detailing the expected step-by-step process for name distribution, we'll note that there's a group of several hundred reserved domain names (see a partial list here) that have been set aside by city government, with their release controlled by an as yet unformulated policy and process. Some names are "permanently reserved for use by city government," while others are "reserved for marketing and business development." [Expect a hearing by the City Council.]

Now on to the order of distribution...

Under the city's (expected) domain name allocation plan, non-reserved names will initially be distributed during three time slots, called "sunrise periods" in industry jargon, and end with a "landrush" for those names not chosen during the various sunrise periods.

Step 1. The initial sunrise will provide the following with the ability to select .nyc domain names:

  • Government Agencies: Federal, State, City

  • City Based Non-Profits (7,000)

  • City Concessions

  • City Franchise Holders

  • Retail Service Licensees

  • Food Service Licensees (24,000)

  • NYC&Co Members (2,000)

  • Business Improvement Districts (67 BIDS)

  • City-Digital Start-ups (registered with NYC Digital)

  • City Vendors

All of the entities within the above categories will compete on a first-come, first-served basis during a 45 day period that follows the activation of the .nyc TLD by IANA - expected in mid 2013. All will have an opportunity to register their desired domain names with the first to register a name the "winner" for the domain name.

We have some concerns about the process flow here as formal communication channels between the city and the bulleted entities are varied and sometimes nonexistent, and adequate notification is needed. Also, contention between entities in the different categories for the same name also raises a question about equability. 

Step 2. The second sunrise lasts for 60 days and provides access to entities that are "business organizations or legal entities that have a physical address in the city and have paid taxes within the most recent fiscal year." This sunrise is to begin within 6 months of .nyc's activation. Small businesses and mom and pop businesses will need to choose their names during this period with the first-come, first-served rule in effect.

Step 3. After the local businesses have had their whack at the names, a third sunrise period for trademark names entered into a Trademark Clearinghouse (see file) begins. This one will last for "at least" 30 days. If there are conflicting claims an auction will be used to resolve disputes.

Step 4. Finally, after this (hopefully) orderly distribution, there's a "landrush" for the remaining names. This will be reminiscent of the 1890s land claims (see picture) with all remaining domain names becoming available on a first-come, first-served basis. If you've not reserved your business or organization name by this time, you can be pretty sure someone else will claim it and squat on it until you're prepared to ransom it back.

Step 5. General Registration - Following landrush there a brief interlude and the TLD enters a state-of-affairs like that which exists today with .com, .net, and .org. That is, during  "general registration" one goes to a domain name registrar such as GoDaddy.com, checks to see if a name is available, and if it is, makes a purchase.

The contract with NeuStar calls for completing Steps 1-4 and moving to General Registration, Step 5, within one year of activation of the TLD. Note: While this is a long TLD roll out by historic standards, for a complex city it might prove short and we have great concern about the practicability of this time table, especially Steps 1 and 2.

Crowd Sourcing Media Resources
  • Serf and Turf: Crowdturfing for Fun and Profit - A paper about crowdturfing - systems where customers initiate “campaigns,” and a significant number of users obtain financial compensation in exchange for performing simple “tasks” that go against accepted user policies. In our case perhaps "commercial" news. 
  • The Future of News and Civic Media - MIT's Center for Civic Media, 1.5 hour video from 2009.
  • WikiNews - A valiant effort for a global news channel.
  • What's Up - Tools for local media.
Outreach...Quora / Twitter / G+...Feedback

Here we summarize the responses received from 

  • G+ - preview post April 28

Feedback:

  • Facebook -There are several .nyc accounts on FB, the one we focus on is http://www.facebook.com/NYCTLD. 

Feedback:

  • Quora Post - NEWS.NYC is a great domain name. How can it be best serve the future of our city?

Feedback:

Feedback:

  • Retweet - Center for Civic Media MIT 
  • Barkles - Vote A or B in this simple ballot.

           Feedback:

  • Google doc - Edit the "spreadsheet" on financial and civic matters.

           Feedback:

Notes
  • Many other news channels are possible on the .nyc TLD - latestnews.nyc, latest-news.nyc, instant-news.nyc, schoolnews.nyc, etc. Here we merely propose maximizing one premier domain name
  • Short code for this page - http://bit.ly/Jr0wOn.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For 8 years following Queens Community Board 3's approval of its Internet Empowerment Resolution in April 2001, we envisioned the .nyc Top Level Domain or TLD as a new form of civic infrastructure, one that would serve our city in the increasingly digital era. As we presented the concept of a city-TLD to city residents and organizations, no one challenged the idea. The only substantive opposition we encountered came from ICANN, the TLD gatekeeper. And its concern centered on the potentially large number of cities that might seek TLDs and how they'd manage the issuing process. But eventually it came to see the wisdom of city-TLDs.

The infrastructure view took a hit though in 2009 when city hall endorsed the project and declared revenue from the sale of domain names a key basis for its acquisition. We've sought to point out the fallacy of this vision ever since, most recently in comments submitted to a March 23, 2012 public hearing on the TLD's future. Here we argue the benefits of an infrastructure approach from yet another perspective.

The Tale of Two Cities

To explore our vision for a city-TLD as a resource upon which we build our city's personal, civic, and business lives, we present here a tale about one domain name - NEWS.NYC - and how it fares under our infrastructure view vs. a revenue view. There are of course intermediate approaches, but we think seeing NEWS.NYC through A Tale of Two Cities approach will provide some structure for the decision making process.

As part of our exploration we've begun putting together a "spreadsheet" comparison of two modes of operation, with an early version below. (See the latest version on Google Docs and request edit access there if you've got ideas.)

 NEWS.NYC  vs  NEWS.NYC as of April 22, 2012 (see detail & latest)

news-nyc-spreadsheet-2.png

 

Our comparison looks at factors such as initial name price, development and operating expenses, then presents a long term value of the NEWS.NYC operated under a Traditional News Bureau approach and a 2.0'ish Collaborative News Service.

Speculating on a bottom line "Long Term Value" is challenging and requires mixing apples and oranges and subjective judgements, but we expect the exploration to provide some guidance for developing NEWS.NYC, other premier domain names, and indeed the operation of the TLD itself.

Order of Distribution

To understand the impact policy decisions will have on domain name price and cost, we've got to take a crash course on the distribution of domain names. This involves two related questions: who has the right to acquire .nyc domain names, and the order in which the names are distributed. For simplicity, we'll focus on the order of distribution question here and drill into the "who qualifies," or the nexus question, during a later post. Our brief look at nexus policy showed a thoughtful attempt to limit access to New Yorkers, but to assume its effectiveness requires a close scrutiny that has not yet been possible.

While the details of the city's domain name distribution plan remains under wraps, we pieced together an Order of Distribution scenario from historic experience, in particular the roll out of the .biz, .info, .eu, and .asia TLDs, and from our brief look at a draft version of the city's proposed contract with NeuStar Inc., the firm selected to market and operate the .nyc TLD. See the Order of Distribution in the sidebar.

NEWS.NYC vs. NEWS.NYC - General Assumptions

As we begin our exploration of difference development approaches, let's start with some general assumptions.

  • NEWS.NYC will be recognized as premier domain name and reserved.
  • A managed process will guide its assignment with either a no-strings auction or a prescriptive tender offering selected. (Remember, we're establishing a black and white case study.)
  • We'll look at NEWS.NYC operating under two TLD financial models: the Standard Model, like .com and .org, or a Community Model that feels like .gov and .edu.
  • We'll presume that, auctioned under a Standard Model, because of the high name acquisition expense, NEWS.NYC will be operated as a Traditional News Bureau.
  • And that the Community Model will use a tender process and result in a Collaborative News Service.

Before we begin speculation on the NEWS.NYC operating mode that best serves the long term interest of the city, we'll define the scope of possibilities by making assumptions about each operating mode.

Assumptions - Traditional News Bureau

  • The .nyc TLD is being operated under the Standard Model, as a revenue source, with its name space virtually unplanned. (See our Domain Name Allocation Plan for more on this.)
  • Little will be invested to assure the integrity of the user experience across the TLD, and users will view .nyc as similar to the .com and .org TLDs.
  • There will be no restriction on the use of the domain name. Indeed, entering NEWS.NYC might be redirected to another domain name - like typing news.com today brings one to cnet.com.
  • We'll assume local deep-pockets such as Time Warner, InterActive Corp., or News Corp. will purchase the name in an open auction. But we foresee global interest in a superficially valuable digital resource driving up the price.
  • The high purchase price of the auctioned domain name (see historic name sales), and development costs will lead to the operation of NEWS.NYC in the mode of a traditional news bureau, with advertising the key revenue source.
  • The primary navigation tool within the TLD will be Google.
  • Intuitive typed entry of NEWS.NYC will be limited.
  • A large advertising budget will be required.

Assumptions - Collaborative News Service

  • From day one the .nyc TLD is designed and operated as carefully planned infrastructure, with well known and commonly used resources available via intuitive names. While not overtly restrictive, the goal will be to provide an "atmosphere of safety" with some feel of a walled garden like Apple's App Store or a Facebook, but functioning as a city. The user experience will be a driving force in allocating domain names and setting standards.
  • People will learn that the TLD is intuitive, with centralpark.nyc actually having information about Central Park. This will lead to domain names being typed directly into the navigation bar, rather than starting a google search.
  • Premier reserved domain names will be assigned to relevant entities through a careful allocation process.
  • The index.nyc, contents.nyc and similar meta domain names will be carefully assigned and managed to advance the idea of a navigable TLD and city. 
  • Search.nyc will be operated as a boutique internal engine focusing on city resources.
  • The operator of the NEWS.NYC domain name will be chosen from a tender process directing that it be operated as a city focused Collaborative News Service.
  • News content will be contributed by a broad array of residents. It will be wide and deep with collaboration tools available and training provided.

With these assumptions on hand, let's look at NEWS.NYC as operated under each mode - our Tale of Two Cities.

The NEWS.NYC Traditional News Bureau View  

With the auctioned name costing millions, we expect NEWS.NYC's operator to choose a traditional news bureau as providing the best opportunity for a reasonable return. Under this scenario the road to profit will be a mass audience, with a soft news, lowest common denominator, approach chosen. This will necessitate substantial investments for development, operations, advertising, administrative overhead, and profit. News will not necessarily focus on New York City.

The NEWS.NYC Collaborative Service View

The need for a collaborative medium harks back to Ben Franklin's statement after the Constitutional convention. Approached by a Philadelphian and asked “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?” Franklin answered “A Republic, if you can keep it.” A Collaborative News Service is the tool Franklyn might have prescribed for keeping our principles on track.

Let's begin by noting that the standard Collaborative News Service has not been developed. But dozens of prototypes have been tested and hundreds of people are working to perfect the medium. (See Crowd Sourced Media Resources in sidebar.) These efforts have made it clear that there are many possible routes to a networked and organic NEWS.NYC, and that a collaborative NEWS.NYC need not conform to the "he said she said" journalistic standards of print. With this substantial experience, NEWS.NYC can sprint toward developing a valued information and civic service.

  • It might be imagined as a merger of community journalism (i.e., trained journalists),
  • the tools and techniques of wikipedians,
  • filters, tags, and preference buttons,
  • resident and automated links to people and processes with background and solutions to address the stories / issues in the news, with
  • tools for engaging with posted stories (research, organizing, decision making), and
  • a feed from the Data Query Log to present the second by second life of the city.

As a start we can look at WikiNews and see its approach to collaborative news:

  • Aggregation of information from numerous individuals or organizations into a single news story. Information is gathered through research or reporting, or added when readers examine, comment and build upon existing stories.
  • Building upon stories from the mainstream media.
  • Depending on the story, individuals may also provide feedback or vote on whether an article is newsworthy.
  • A single collaborative story may encompass multiple authors, varying articles, and ranged perspectives.

If the .nyc TLD is developed as digital infrastructure, as the key organizing tool for our city's integration with an increasingly digital world, NEWS.NYC might be looked upon as a trustworthy global news source about our city: NEWS.NYC - local news for the center of the world. 

Summary

The difference between the two approaches is stark. One leads to nothing new in a era when everything is new. The other offers the potential for a city with connection, decision-making, and organizing tools vital to creating a just society that can act locally and prosper globally. And where better to foster its development than New York City?

Key .nyc Pages