A Clue...to Internet Commerce

by Dana Blankenhorn

Volume II, No. VI

For the Week of February 9, 1998

This Week's Clue: Peace in Our Time?

SSP (Shameless Self-Promotion)

Another View On NT and Y2K

They're Coming To Take Me Away (To The Web)

What's The Password?

Remember The Resellers

Clued-in, Clueless

This Week's Clue: Peace in Our Time?

There was great rejoicing recently when the White House released its report on privatizing the Internet, especially the area of domain names, and adding five top-level domains (TLDs) to the mix. The Magaziner report claims that, by creating new TLDs, it's dealing with the current monopoly held by Network Solutions (http://www.internic.org.) Their stated goal is to cut the cost of registering names.

Well, hold the phone. The problem is not the protection of www.cocacola.com . It's whether they'll be protection for cocacola.store, cocacola.firm, etc. etc., not to mention protection against cocacolasucks.store and cocacolasucks.firm.

The problem with TLDs comes before the dot, not after it. The problem is many words are trademarked in multiple industries by multiple companies, and are held as well by individuals. Why shouldn't NetGrocer head Daniel Nissan have an .arts domain, if he wants one? It's his name, isn't it? Well, it's also the name of a Japanese car company, which may not want to risk his turning www.nissan.arts into an attack on its products. (Not that he would...I'm just using him as an example here because the name's spelled the same as the car company's, and I hope he'll understand.)

I have yet to see a proposal on URLs that criticize other URLs, nor do I see a proposal on what to do with URLs trademarked by multiple firms in multiple domains. Here's how silly it gets - the city of Decatur, Georgia is found at www.decatur-ga.com, rather than in a .gov or .ga domain. They just don't know better. What we have, in other words, is a mess and no one even suggesting what's to be done about it - save to have competing folks with competing standards (and an impulse to register competing domains for a quick buck) have at it. That's a recipe for lawsuits.

So, what can we offer?

  • Use the vanity license plate rules to keep out critics. I can't get a dirty vanity plate, or a politically-critical plate either like PPKILLS or NRASUCKS. Why should I be able to do that on the Internet?
  • Raise the Prices. The key to the "ransoming" of TLDs was that it cost just $50 and it was first-come, first-served. Magaziner wants to make it cheaper. You don't have to just demand new cash, but content. If you're to get a TLD, you should be obligated to go online with it, fast.
  • Investigate. Domains should be given when it's appropriate, and the appropriate domain should be given the first time out. That's where the extra money for registrations should go. These are business licenses, and should be treated as such.
  • Use International Trademark Law - Trademarked domains should be automatically reserved in the nations where the trademarks are held, even if they're unused. That would have prevented the recent nonsense over Oreos.com.
  • The main TLDs should be enforced. The Gore and Gingrich campaigns should be on .org, not on .com domains. Government organizations of all types should use local or .gov domains. Do this before the hand-over so it's enforceable afterward.
  • You don't need a URL to criticize someone, unless you're just trying to get in the face of the unwary with it. Maybe we need a new .dump domain. You'd know what you were getting into at www.aol.dump and www.cocacola.dump.

If we want the Net to replace the real world, then the rules of the Net and the real world must coincide in some way. Here's a place where that can start.

SSP (Shameless Self-Promotion)

Just for fun, I've written a novel. E-mail me for a copy and you'll get a ZIP file that unzips to reveal 20 chapters in MS Word 6.0 of "The Time Mirror," which tells you what we can really do with the Pentium II. (Yes, I'm working on a sequel.) If you like, you might also pass some Clues about how to get some money out of this thing - it's not my day job.

Meanwhile, CoolTool is just the latest outlet to admit we work hard to give you the best coverage possible of Internet Commerce. John Audette will soon host the e-mail editions of A Clue, and we hope you'll join the discussion and help us build a digest of Clues w