The city of Paris was kind enough to sponsor a reception in the over-the-top beautiful reception halls at the Hotel de Ville as part of the LeWeb Internet startup conference last night. It was offered as part of the effort to support adding a .paris top level Internet domain for web sites related to all things Parisian. When coming in, they ushered me over to a kiosk to sign a petition. I respectfully had to decline.
The .paris proposal is part of a larger project to add regional and city domains led by Paris, Berlin, New York (.nyc) and the Catalan region of Spain. I am all in favour of encouraging international entrepreneurship and promoting Internet activities that aren’t necessarily in Silicon Valley, but I can’t see how this will help. At best, it would be pointless and at worst confusing and even damaging.
These domains could be pointless because ever fewer people go to web sites by typing in the URL in the address field of the browser. They use search engines, RSS feeds, bookmarks, and recommendations from others. Even when people know the URL they often plug it into a browser. Terms like “facebook” “myspace”, “nytimes” and even “google” are among the most popular search spots on Google.com.
It will be confusing for many reasons. How will users know when to go to a more generic domain or to a city-related one? Since many companies will feel obliged to maintain both, these domains will be damaging since it adds complexity and work. How far will it go? If we have .paris will we also soon need .septiemearrondissement or .marais? Will Brooklyn want their own domain to differentiate from .nyc?
City domains could aggravate the sometimes tense relationships between cities and nearby cities and suburbs. A .amsterdam domain might seem natural, but will that force adding .amstelveen, .haarlem and .diemen as well? How will that help people looking for info or providers?
What about the cities that have different spellings? Will it be .geneva .geneve .ginevra .ginebra or .genf as the city is called in English, French, Italian, Spanish and German?
Specific top level domains can focus efforts and make it clear what the site intend to provide. Domains like .mobi .travel and .name make new services possible and help people find what they are looking for. City domains will do neither.
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