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The problem with linguistic domains like .cat

  • To: stld-rfp-cat@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: The problem with linguistic domains like .cat
  • From: Michael Bauser <michael@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 23 Apr 2004 03:29:28 -0400
  • Organization: Bauser.com (Trenton, MI)
  • User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Win98; en-US; rv:1.7b) Gecko/20040316

Hash: SHA1

I'm bothered by the .cat proposal *because* it's for a
linguistic/cultural category.

ICANN/IANA *barely* manages to keep the ccTLDs working properly, given
the number of disputes about who officially "represents" various
countries. (Libya's .ly TLD is the current case study for disputed
representation.) That's despite the facts that ICANN is working from a
pre-defined list (ISO 3166) and most countries have governments involved
in TLD management.

Languages and cultures, on the other hand, don't even have official
leaders ICANN can go to for advice. The primary stake-holder is really
ill-defined here: Are the sponsors of .cat representatives of Catalan
culture, or just the representatives of one view of it?

I have to assume the later, because the former assumes a unity of
cultural expression that doesn't exist in the real world. (Already, I
note that the .cat proposal seems to discourage the idea of Catalan
politics; I can't believe that the general populace really sees its
culture as so completely divorced from its political situation.) In
either case, I doubt ICANN is qualified to determine who's a good
representative of Catalan culture.

(I think the problem becomes more obvious if one applies the precedent
.cat would create to other languages: How much cohesion would .french or
.spanish have? Does ICANN have a secret army of anthropologists on hand
to determine which languages and cultures are widespread enough to have
TLDs? Should we just assume every language in ISO-639-2 is going to get
a TLD?)

Granted, it's unreasonable to assume that *any* TLD assumes a complete
unity among its member domains, or that any TLD has an eternal monopoloy
on its key concept (.com and .biz already compete, concept-wise), but
the issues are more volatile when dealing with culture and language.
Cultural TLDs are sure to get dragged into the ideological debates that
other gTLDs aren't, and just as certain to get dragged into political
debates like the ccTLDs. In fact, the political debates will probably be

The issues involved in creating .cat are nowhere near as simple as the
proponents would have us believe. Is ICANN ready for a new kind of
problem child?
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