• Sustainable City-TLDs

last modified March 3, 2014 by tomlowenhaupt

­­­When the .nyc TLD comes online it will provide a seemingly endless set of names to draw upon. But while names are virtually unlimited in number, people and organizations are primarily interested in good domain names, that is, those that are short, descriptive, and memorable. So prudence requires New York to take the long view of the .nyc TLD and assure good names will will be available to serve us 10, 20, and 100 years from now, as necessary. This leads us to the search for a development model that will enable a sustainable city-TLD.


Definitions of Sustainability

There are many views of the meaning of sustainable.

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Brundtland Commission, 1983

“The American Public Health Association (APHA) defines a "sustainable food system" as "one that provides healthy food to meet current food needs while maintaining healthy ecosystems that can also provide food for generations to come with minimal negative impact to the environment. A sustainable food system also encourages local production and distribution infrastructures and makes nutritious food available, accessible, and affordable to all. Further, it is humane and just, protecting farmers and other workers, consumers, and communities."

Wikipedia­ ­

­The Life of A TLD

How long a period are we planning for? What's the life of a TLD? Here are a few mentions of longevity of the DNS.

From an ICANN Special Trademark report...

Both Sunrise Periods and IP Claims services should be mandated for new TLDs. IP Claims should continue throughout the life of a TLD, since registrant confusion about possible trademark conflicts can exist not just during land rush, but whenever they attempt to register a domain name.

Thomas Barrett, Encirca

From Alternate Futures by Karl Auerbach.

(without ICANN...) TLD operators begin to start looking for more ways to differentiate their offerings:

  • Some start offering name registrations for short periods for use with one time events.
  • Some sell names for very long periods for those who want to latch onto an internet name for as long as the TLD remains.
  • Some will sell via resellers (registrars), some will sell direct.
  • Some will give names away in order to increase the traffic they get and thus increase the value of the marketing data that they can derive.  (Most of these go the way of the Cue Cat and disappear.)
  • Some start selling names using digital certificates to represent ownership, thus providing a means for both permanent and anonymous registrations.  Revenue will be obtained by charging for specific services (such as updating name server records) rather than yearly domain name rent. This will induce the creation of independent exchanges in which domain names can be bought and sold, often anonymously.




The desirability and necessity of creating sustainable cities and a sustainable planet are acknowledged by virtually everyone these days. While we’ve suggested a role for a TLD to help sustain a city from an environmental perspective, recently we’ve looked in our own backyard and begun thinking about sustainable city-TLDs.

There are some lessons to be learned from the .com TLD, the best example of a TLD that has been stretched to the breaking point. It generated "recycling" lessons and mechanisms that foster name reuse: non-renewals (pricing), wait lists, auctions, and of course, the market (sex.com sold for $14 million!). 

Live Long And Prosper

Creating a sustainable TLD requires pioneering effort. For the traditional registry business, name sales volume has been the business metric, not city building. We've created this page to explore, to imagine, and suggest solutions to a vexing problem, how to assure that good domain names are available for future generations? Here are some early thoughts. (Note: Let's identify names here and worry about allocation elsewhere.)

Reserved for the Future

Shared, Temporary Names

It is expected that we will develop a pool of civic names for use on a temporary basis, for example, SaveTheTree.nyc might facilitate civic goals of many different projects.

Pricing  and Community Levels

If original name acquisition or renewal fees are high, access can be limited and recycling encouraged.

But with our goal being to provide all New Yorkers with good names, there needs to be a simple way to provide ready and inexpensive access to the .nyc TLD. One solution is offering readily accessible and inexpensive names via a community level, traditionally called "third" level. For example:

  • your-organization.civic.nyc
  • your-art-project.art.nyc

Proprietary Lease

The process of separating ownership and usage, as in a co-op apartment's proprietary lease might also provide a means of facilitating reuse.


Limiting the purchase a .nyc domain to those with a strong New York City nexus or connection. The criteria for establishing nexus can include property ownership, business license, and voter registration. For examples of nexus requirements see:

See more on our Nexus Policy page.

Process Hurdles

Related to Nexus is the complexity of the application process. If one needs to complete paperwork or hand deliver applications for second level domain names, it presents some limited hurdles that will reduce abuse.


Cities have zones where single family homes are allowed, and those where sky scrapers are encouraged. What policies might encourage multi-story use of a city-TLD?See TLD Architecture.


Several entities lease domain names for a short period of time - "with an option to buy." 


Viewing city-TLDs as digital land also provides important lessons.

  • Should undeveloped land be taxed at a higher rate?
  • Might renewal fees raise annually?

Key .nyc Pages