Cities need a place on the Internet from which they can highlight their
cultural, educational, financial, technical and other resources. They need a
place where their residents, institutions, and businesses can communicate and
transact with one another, and the world.
For a decade now the globalizing force of the Internet and its domain name
structure have diminished cities. For example,
- As the Internet altered the role of distance and time and challenged
boundaries between local, region, and national governments, the domain name
system only provided countries with top level domain names (TLDs).
- Local deliberations on the issues of the day were diminished as the net
globalized intellectual intercourse.
- Like the euro and the dollar, social capital now floats globally,
diminishing the local.
- Why seek guidance from the church in town when you can go straight to the
- Why buy from the corner grocer when you can have Wal-Mart deliver?
- Why forage the Girl Scouts’ flea market when all the good stuff is on
This is not intended as a blanket criticism of the Internet, merely of the
manner of its introduction and impact on cities. When considering the current
state of affairs, we must recall that our .com world was not created through a
careful RFC process, but emerged through bureaucratic confusion, indecision, and
inertia. And that the .com TLD’s prescribed use was for the research and
educational arms of certain commercial firms, not as an open TLD.
It’s time we experiment on how best to restore a balance between the local
and the global in commerce, in culture, and in government. It's time cities have
access to Top Level Domain names.
By gaining access to TLDs (like .NYC, .Berlin, .London, .Paris, .Beijing, and
.Tokyo), cities can benefit in many ways. Here's how cities, might
use TLDs (I use examples of my home city, New York):
- Marketing Power - A TLD will ease the selling of a city to prospective
residents, tourists, and businesses. Websites like: jobs.nyc, shows.nyc,
hotels.nyc, and officespace.nyc will make a city's resources readily available
to the world.
- Quality of Life Improvements - Imagine navigating the Internet using an
organized .NYC domain. Want a library? Go to library.nyc and find links to the
QBPL, NYPL, Carnegie Library. Visit schools.nyc and link to our public
schools, our private schools, universities, etc. Local issues can be
identified and vetted. And you'll find local people, activities, and business
far easier searching in .nyc than the global .com web.
- Revenue - Public access facilities and community content can be funded
with revenue raised selling domain names.
For a people to be independent, self-governing, and competitive in our
globalizing time, they must have access to state-of-the-art communication tools.
In a world where most person-to-person, person-to-group, business, and
government communication takes place over the Internet, a Top Level Domain
is necessary for organizing and marketing.
The ICANN should begin to redress the damage done to cities by examining ways
cities might use TLDs. While there are many ways the ICANN could approach the
city TLD issue, the most effective and streamlined method would be to issue the
.NYC top level domain in the current round to the city of New York, as a joint
applicant with NameSpace Inc.
New York City brings outstanding financial, management, technical, and
organizational resources to the operation of .NYC as a sponsored TLD.
Additionally, through the City University and other local educational and
research organizations, it can conduct an experiment on the efficacy of city
TLDs in a scientific environment, one that will provide the ICANN with all
necessary information upon which to judge the validity of issuing additional
city TLDs. The city will learn from the experience several ‘cities’ have had
with their TLDs - Los Angeles (.LA), the Vatican (.VA), Singapore (.SG), and
Hong Kong (.HK), and countries. In examining the extant ‘city’ TLDs, the ICANN
will be taking a step toward identifying any unfair advantage those TLDs offer
in the global competition of cities.
In the 2001 round NameSpace Inc. was an applicant for the .NYC TLD. Recently
it committed to donate its rights to .NYC to the city and to assist it with the
operation of .NYC as a sponsored TLD. NameSpace brings standing with the ICANN
and experience with the domain name business.
New York’s interest in a TLD arose from the city’s grassroots: first there
was a resolution from one local community board, then another, then a
Congressmember, and most recently the Public Advocate (our second highest
elected official). The mayor’s office and city council are both addressing the
opportunity. As you are aware, the city has suffered from a variety of maladies
resulting from the 9/11 incident, and as this comment is submitted, the city has
not completed the organization of its resources for the TLD application.
However, far in advance of the October filing deadline it will have the scope
and details of its application formalized. .NYC will play an important role in
its rebuilding effort.
Thomas Lowenhaupt is a member of a New York City Community Board. He can be
reached at TomL@communisphere.com.