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Do we need more domains?

Written by on March 9, 2009

Every single year, ICANN have a meeting, and on the agenda is 'what new top level domains should we introduce'. And every single year a number of groups propose their own top-level domains. For instance, Al Gore, along with some Hollywood celebrities, are proposing .eco. But do we really need new domains?

Here is the thing. I manage about 140 domains. Out of all these domains, only 11 is active. The rest are different top-level variations that I have bought in order to protect my online identity. E.g. I own baekdal.com, baekdal.info, baekdal.org, baekdal.net, baekdal.biz, baekdal.mobi, baekdal.dk, thomasbaekdal.com, thomasbaekdal.me etc.

I purchased all these domains, because I didn't want anyone else to create another 'baekdal' site. Baekdal is my brand (and my name), and I want to protect that.

Even if you aren't at risk from competitors, you still need to purchase extra domains to protect yourself from criminals, phishers, and people who are intent on hurting your business.

E.g. someone bought baekdal.cn (China), after they tried to blackmail me into buying it for a ridicules price. I chose to ignore them, and they then registered the domain and is now 'keeping it hostage'.

Note: I don't need baekdal.cn, so I don't really care.

It is the same with all the big companies. Coca Cola owns every single top-level domain there is. Not because they use them, but because they have to protect their brand.

This is the big problem with top-level domains. There is no protection against fraud, or attack on your online identity. So if ICANN decides to approve .eco, almost everyone is being forced to buy it. Not because they really need it and not because they are going to focus on the environment. They are being forced to buy it because they have to protect their brand.

We do not need more top level domains, at least, not until the problem with fraud and digital identity have been solved. We do not need to be forced to pay even more money for domains we really do not want.

Note: This problem is getting even bigger after ICANN recently proposed that anyone could create a new top-level domain (for a ridicules price). We are now facing a ton of new top-level domain, each controlled by small groups of people, or even individuals. Something that in my opinion is the most ridicules idea yet.

Let's do the opposite

Instead of introducing more top-level domains, let's annihilate them. Flip the domain/DNS structure, and link it to the trademark system. Like this:

This means that Coca Cola, can buy 'cocacola' as their domain. And everything after that is simply their sub-domain.

E.g.

  • Cocacola - is the primary domain
  • Cocacola.france - is a sub-domain (and not a top-level domain controlled by the french government)
  • Cocacola.zero - is just another sub domain
  • Cocacola.rewards - is yet another sub domain

What you buy then is two things.

  • You buy a digital identity (e.g. 'cocacola')
  • You pay a yearly fee for all the DNS settings you might need.

Which means that you pay a one-time fee to secure your digital identity, for... say $500. And then you pay a yearly fee for all the domains + subdomains settings you might need. For... say $0.99/year.

Example - my personal domains:

  • Digital identity: baekdal - $500 (one-time)
  • DNS: baekdal - $0.99/year
  • DNS: baekdal.mobile - $0.99/year
  • DNS: baekdal.blog - $0.99/year
  • Digital identity: thomasbaekdal - $500 (one-time)
  • DNS: thomasbaekdal - $0.99/year
  • Total price: $1,000 one-time + 3.96/year

This works on many levels:

  • You own and control the top-level (which is also your digital identity).
  • It prevents domain fraud, because nobody can buy top-level variations. You already own them all, even if you aren't using them. Nobody can buy 'baekdal.eco', because I own 'baekdal'.
  • There is a high entry fee (the price for securing a name), so that we can get rid of all those domain pirates.
    Note: Even with the $500, this would still be a lot cheaper to people with large online portfolios. I got 140 domains, at the cost of roughly $9,000/year. With 11 active domains (each with 7 sub-domains), I could do the same for $5,500 the first year, and only $76.23 the following years.

  • The price of having a domain is based on the cost to the internet (the number of DNS settings there has to be made). Meaning that the people who gets the money is not top-level domain 'managers', but instead the companies that provide DNS services. The people who do the work are also the ones who gets paid.
  • The entire domain 'landscape' is suddenly much simpler and user-friendly. Only the domains that are in use will show up.
  • The top-domain + sub domain structure is people-friendly. Instead of talking like Yoda e.g. Blog.baekdal.com, it is constructed like 'normal people' talk; baekdal.blog, cocacola.france.
  • The cost of administrating top-level domains, and the gigantic bureaucracy surrounding them is almost eliminated. Gone is all the country specific rules, gone are the special requirements, gone is the vastly different prices from one domain to another.
  • The complexity of setting up your domain is hugely simplified.
  • Every domain registrar in the world will, by default, be able to support all your needs. Today it is almost impossible to find a registrar where you can register the many different domains. E.g. GoDaddy only supports about 8% of all the available top-level domains.
  • Everyone can do everything. E.g. Today only 'genuine museums' can register .museum. Which sounds good on paper, but who decides what a genuine museum is? Since .museum is, with my proposal, simply a sub-domain - there are no restrictions. Another example. .journalist might only be for journalists, but I am a journalist too, and yet I cannot get accredited as a journalist, because I am not a part of the traditional media world. 

    Note: Read the future role of ICANN below
  • All registrations has to be validated against international trademarks. Meaning that people cannot register 'mycokerewards', because that trademark is owned by Coca Cola. So even if the domain is free, it is still blocked from registrations. This is, however, limited to international trademarks, not national trademarks.
  • Organizations can sub-license sub-domains. So that Al Gore can buy the digital identity 'ECO' and sub-license the sub domains to people who wants to be a part of it. E.g. GreenPeace could buy a sub-license for 'eco.greenpeace' from Al Gore, to show their affiliation with "The Alliance for Climate Protection." The beauty of this is that only interested parties would be 'forced' to buy into new top-level identities.
  • This will not break the existing domain structure, because baekdal.com is simply 'baekdal' with the sub-domain 'com'.

In short, this completely eliminates all the problems with being forced to buy domains, simply because you have to protect your brand. It reduces the administration to a minimum. It is vastly more flexible, and the cost is based on real world usage, not 'fake' administration.

The future role of ICANN

This, of course, radically changes the role of ICANN. Today they are concerned with the structure and variations of domains i.e. The top-level-domains. But since this eliminates the top-level domain, and replaces it with only a single level (your digital identity), ICANN needs to change too.

They will still be an organization dedicated to 'keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable', but instead of putting all their work into policies, and coordination of the internet naming system, they will have to take on the role of defining domain standards.

They will be the ones who will define the standards for sub-domain usage. Creating the guidelines for what each sub-domain should contain.

For example, That the sub-domain .museum, is for museums, with an outline of what constitutes a museum. That .mobile is for mobile sites. That .france is for sites localized to the public in France. They would either set the standards themselves, or outsource these things to other responsible parties.

The big difference is, however, that they are guidelines, not policies.

What do you think?

What do you think? Could this work. Would this solve the growing problem with ever increasing number of top-domains?

Is there a better way?

Also read: Your Unique Identity

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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