• TLD Architecture

last modified May 27, 2016 by tomlowenhaupt

The architectural design of the .nyc TLD will have a significant impact on its capacity to serve city residents, organizations, and visitors. Here we look at the impact of the architecture decision.

City TLDs - Vertical or Horizontal?


Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

 Proposed .nyc Vertical Structure

Building upon the .uk example, one might imagine the following generic second level names being used in New York City. 

  • .ac.nyc - higher education academic institutions (or .ed.nyc)
  • .adult.nyc - for adult materials
  • .arts.nyc - for creative endeavors
  • .brooklyn.nyc - for the borough
  • .bronx.nyc - for the borough
  • .co.nyc- general use (usually commercial)
  • .council.nyc - the city council
  • .gov.nyc - city government 
  • .health.nyc - for general well being
  • .libraries.nyc - for use by public libraries
  • .manhattan.nyc - for the borough
  • .me.nyc- general use (usually personal)
  • .net.nyc - ISPs, hosts, and network companies
  • .org.nyc- for nonprofit organizations
  • .police.nyc - for the NYPD
  • .restaurants.nyc - for eating in or out
  • .queens.nyc - for the borough
  • .schools.nyc - or perhaps .ed.nyc 
  • .statenisland.nyc (or .si.nyc) - for the borough 
  • .stores.nyc - to locate retail establishments

Additional name sets, such as the neighborhood names, would ease access to local resources.

Intuitive Search    

With an intuitive vertical city-TLD, New Yorkers will be provided with an option to search engine clutter, for example:

  • search.french.restaurants.nyc
  • reviews.schools.nyc
  • map.hardware.stores.nyc
    Exclude & Include

    To create a secure and trustable city TLD, it is necessary to restrict access to .nyc domain names to city residents and entities doing business here - see nexus policy.

    A vertical structure, with second level certifying organizations, provides an opportunity to enable access to the otherwise excluded. For example:

      •  your-name.immigrant.nyc
      • your-name.visitor.nyc

    These third level names provide both identity and community, with access and oversight based on usufruct principles.

    Public Spaces

    A key determinant of a livable city is the quality of its public spaces: its parks, plazas, sidewalks, and streets. The digital parallels (CentralPark.nyc) and public digital spaces must be provided. This involves designating generic terms such as cloggedsewers.nyc as quasi-public space. In this instance providing a problem indicator (e.g. 15 accesses that term from a small geographic area in a short time period), and the potential for a solution.

     Horizontal Bias

    One of the key limitations to the vertical architecture is the existence of a contract between the city of New York and NeuStar Inc. to market .nyc that presumes a horizontal architecture and a windfall for the firm. So sans some incentive, the contractor might be expected to resist any architecture change. It's been suggested that an extension of five year contract to 10 years might be soothing. As well, its advocacy for community oriented TLDs will facilitate its efforts to recruit clients during ICANN's next round of new TLDs.

    Taxi!  vs. Taxi!

    New York City has 13,000 yellow taxicabs. Each has a unique license or medallion, numbered as follows: 1A01, 1A02, 1A03...1A99, 1B01, etc. Here's how those names look as 2nd and 3rd level domains:

       Medallion #        2nd Level                   3rd Level         

      1A01  1A01.nyc  1A01.taxi.nyc
      1A02  1A02.nyc  1A02.taxi.nyc
      1A03  1A03.nyc  1A03.taxi.nyc
      1A99  1A99.nyc  1A99.taxi.nyc
      1B01  1B01.nyc  1B01.taxi.nyc

    The goal of an intuitive city is fostered by using “TAXI” as part of every taxi domain name: 1A01.taxi.nyc announces that this is the name of a TAXI, while the cryptic 1A01.nyc doesn’t.

    As well, the economic development advantage of creating local jobs (a taxi registrar) and keeping domain name registration revenue in the city is fostered by the 3rd level decision. See the Taxi! Taxi! page for more.












    To help explain TLD architecture, our exploration here uses the "TLD is land" analogy. This holds that a TLD (Top Level Domain) is best understood if imagined as digital real estate. For example:

    • one of our city's central land parcels has the Empire State Building built upon it. The domain name "EmpireStateBuilding.nyc" is that building's digital parallel; but
    • the relationship between the domain name and use need not be so close. BettysBigBuilding.nyc might not have a real estate parallel, but thinking of it as digital real estate helps one understand its ownership and use possibilities; and
    • domain names such as MyPoems.nyc may not seem like real estate at all, but by thinking of them as real estate (or "intellectual property" in legal jargon) one gathers how it might be owned, developed, and sold.

    We focus here on two elements of a city-TLD's architecture: name structure and useability tools. Name structure should be imagined as the TLD's supporting steel and concrete. Useability refers to features that facilitate access and use of this structure: finding tools - contents.nyc, index.nyc, search.nyc, etc., trust buttons, and the consistency and quality of the TLD's look and feel.

    Name Architecture

    One of the fundamental decisions to be made when planning a city-TLD's name architecture is whether to foster a horizontal, vertical, or a hybrid naming structure.


    The horizontal design is epitomized by the .com TLD, with more than 109,000,000 active second level domain names - 60% of all domain names. Each domain name stands alone in a TLD architecture using a horizontal (perhaps suburban) development plan. And if our city-TLD's success was determined by the quantity of domain names sold, the horizontal architecture would seem the winning choice.

    Vertical - The UK Model

    But for a city, quantity is an inappropriate measure. Far more important is how the TLD enhances the operational effectiveness of the city's administration, the business environment, and residents' quality of life. And metrics of these characteristics are the appropriate gauge of a city-TLD's success.

    This architecture is perhaps best exemplified by the United Kingdom which "zones" its .uk TLD into categories. Every .uk domain name branches off one of 16 second level zones, providing the user with some context as to what might be found within. 

    The complex relationships of a city, the variety of needs, and the growing overlap of the digital and real, are best provided by a vertical name structure. Here's why:

    • Context - Zones provide context. Look at the proposed Second Level structure for .nyc in the sidebar. One can anticipate what will be found within a third level health.nyc or schools.nyc domain name. This can provide value when using finding features such as search.nyc, index.nyc, and content.nyc.
    • Flexibility - Different zones can have different prices, enabling for example, arts.nyc and gov.nyc to have lower prices.
    • Revenue - A well planned vertical TLD will help assure its economic viability and promote the annual renewal of domain names. And using an enhanced vertical structure (see Hybrids below) one can derive premium annual rates for second level names such as macys.nyc, perhaps 25K per name.
    • Findability - Combine the name structure with the usability features such as search.arts.nyc, and one has a more accessible and city-friendly TLD.
     A proposed vertical structure for the .nyc TLD is shown in the sidebar.


      In recent years several vertical TLDs have considered (.uk) or moved (.hk) to a hybrid model - retaining the vertical structure, but also selling for a premium some 2nd level names. Nominet, the manager of the .uk registry, recently sought permission from its .uk users to sell second level domains but halted the effort after encountering substantial opposition, primarily  from those concerned about confusion between similar 2nd and 3rd level domain names. Concern was also expressed about the lack of a clear path for those in the third level to move to the second (see here). [A renewed effort by Nominet to open the second level was underway in August 2013. See the proposal here.]

      In 2011 Hong Kong's .hk TLD adopted a hybrid model and began selling second level names for a premium price. For example, the 3rd level company.co.hk names cost registrants $US 65 while 2nd level names, company.hk, cost about $US 80.


      There are many subtleties that impact a city-TLD's usability. Most fundamentally is content availability: Are those things that interest the resident or visitor available on the TLD? For example, are the street, neighborhood, and transportation stations names active? Do weather.nyc and holidays.nyc provide the expected information? A successful TLD should only be activated when the expected is present.

      There's also the closely related question: "What's not available?" So parents might ask about the availability of adult content: "Will my 7 year old daughter accidentally have pornography flash onto her screen?" One would expect that provision is made to assure that community concerns in these areas are addressed.

      Beyond the content questions, a key measure of the TLDs success will be the connections it facilitates and its look and feel.

      • Is there consistency of design within the public spaces (see sidebar) and connectivity features?
      • Does it integrate with the traditional city government resources engendering a feeling of safety while on the TLD, that is, are there Trust Buttons with links to Consumer Affairs, 911, and 311 on each page?
      • Does the TLD provide a reward system (badges, points, prestige) to encourage high quality participation, e.g., moderation?
      • Does it connect customers to products and services using the find features: search.nyc, index.nyc, contents.nyc etc? And does it connect people of like mind with sites such as ideas.nyc and connecting.nyc?
      • Is the name design intuitive? For example, can one type or say "french.restaurants.jacksonheights.nyc" and receive a page with a map and content presented by a public-private-community collaboration.

      The TLD Climate

      The first new-era TLDs originated from an ICANN experiment in early 2000s (.jobs, .info, .biz, .museum, .name, etc.) with the goal of finding a way to provide additional options to the "filled" .com TLD. It was the common belief that good domain names - those that are short, descriptive, and memorable - were becoming scarce. Most of those TLDs did not attracted the expected community of users, and those that hoped to compete with .com, the .info and .biz TLDs, are floundering (see Graphic 1).

      Consider that there will be 1,000+ new TLDs in the next few years. If .nyc is operated as a horizontal TLD, will it sell? Does it have a unique selling point? What makes a traditionally horizontal .nyc stand out in that multitude?

      Graphic 1 shows a snapshot domain name sales in several TLDs. The .INFO and .BIZ TLDs show negative sales for the June 4th period - .INFO lost 1,400 names, and .BIZ lost 1,000. What evidence is available to advance .nyc's success with a horizontal architecture in the coming cluttered TLD climate and against this history?


      Graphic 1. Leading Top Level Domains, June 2013

      But there's perhaps a more important question: Does the horizontal TLD serve the needs of the city's residents and organizations?

      Borough Names

      We were asked how the third level names might play out with the city's 5 boroughs and put together this 10 name treatment.

      The Intuitive City
      arts.brooklyn.nyc arts.bronx.nyc arts.queens.nyc arts.StatenIsland.nyc
      bars.manhattan.nyc bars.brooklyn.nyc bars.bronx.nyc bars.queens.nyc bars.StatenIsland.nyc
      culture.manhattan.nyc culture.brooklyn.nyc culture.bronx.nyc culture.queens.nyc culture.StatenIsland.nyc
      dining.manhattan.nyc dining.brooklyn.nyc dining.bronx.nyc dining.queens.nyc dining.StatenIsland.nyc
      education.manhattan.nyc education.brooklyn.nyc education.bronx.nyc education.queens.nyc education.StatenIsland.nyc
      free.manhattan.nyc free.brooklyn.nyc free.bronx.nyc free.queens.nyc free.StatenIsland.nyc
      GreenwichVillage.manhattan.nyc Gowanus.brooklyn.nyc Gottofakethisone.bronx.nyc Glendale.queens.nyc Granitville.StatenIsland.nyc
      hotels.manhattan.nyc hotels.brooklyn.nyc hotels.bronx.nyc hotels.queens.nyc hotels.StatenIsland.nyc
      icecream.manhattan.nyc icecream.brooklyn.nyc icecream.bronx.nyc icecream.queens.nyc icecream.StatenIsland.nyc
      jewelrystores.manhattan.nyc jewelrystores.brooklyn.nyc jewelrystores.bronx.nyc jewelrystores.queens.nyc jewelrystores.StatenIsland.nyc

      Key .nyc Pages