Companies like Google, Amazon, and Apple are currently competing for a new round of top-level domains—think new versions of
.app. They think this will make the internet easier to use, but we think it’s a bit sketchier than they’d like to admit. Here’s why.
What Is a Top-Level Domain?
A top-level domain is the last part of a URL, often something like
.org. It’s at the top of the domain hierarchy (hence the term “top-level”), and is the first thing your computer looks for when you type in a web address. When you type in
lifehacker.com, for example, your browser asks your DNS server where it can find the
.com nameserver. Your browser then contacts the
.com nameserver for the
lifehacker subdomain, where it finds this web site. You can see an example of this below, courtesy of Wikipedia.
These domain names are all managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), formerly a government organization but now a private, non-profit entity. ICANN not only manages which top-level domains exist, but also make sure everything is stable and runs smoothly.
ICANN Is Handing Out New Top-Level Domains, Lottery-Style
A few years ago, ICANN began expanding the number of top-level domains, so porn sites, for example, could use the
.xxx domain. Recently, though, they opened this up so companies can create and apply for custom top-level domains. For example, Google wants to claim
.blog, so all blogs created by their Blogger service would have an easy-to-remember
.blog domain name. They also want
.search for obvious reasons, while Amazon wants to claim
.cloud. Allowed domains can range from brands (like
.gmail) to generic words (
.fun) and geographic locations (
.paris). Not all top-level domains will be exclusive, but when a company applies for one, they can choose to make them exclusive to their own pages, like Google wants to do with
.blog. Many of these companies have applied for hundreds of top-level domains (ready to pay millions of dollars for them), even ending up in battles over who gets what—both Google and Amazon are currently fighting over
.cloud, for example, and you can bet everyone’s looking to get their hands on
Why the Domain Lottery Is Sketchy
As you can imagine, some people think this lottery is a little ridiculous, and we tend to agree. It might seem innocent enough to give Amazon ownership of the
.kindle domain, since the Kindle is their product, but you can easily see how things get more complex when they’re asking for an exclusive claim to the
.book domain, or Google the
.search domain. Not only that, but it opens the door for a lot of unfair treatment. It wouldn’t be out of character for Google to float
.blog sites to the top of search results, or the company who owns the
.news domain could give preferential treatment to sites that share its political biases. It ends up being a huge, confusing, and sometimes misleading mess—and the only ones who benefit are the companies and ICANN, who despite being a nonprofit, stands to make a ton of money from this endeavor. Photo by MoneyBlogNewz.
These controversial domain applications are still in review, but ICANN has yet to say or do anything that would lead us to believe they won’t accept them. All we can do now is wait and see. What do you think about the new generic top-level domains? Will they make the internet easier to use, or are they only going to benefit companies and confuse users? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below. And, if you’re interested in reading more, here are some other articles on the subject: