Jackson Hts., New York, April 1, 2015 – Is the .nyc endeavor a success? The answer depends on one’s measuring stick. To those who draw a parallel to vanity license plates, success is at hand. But if the measure is of the scale of Manhattan’s street grid, the answer is not yet clear. Here we look at .nyc from that broader perspective.
The best decision the city’s made was the adoption of a strong nexus policy. Nexus determines who qualifies to own a .nyc domain name.
Our nexus policy says .nyc domain names are for New Yorkers, and limits ownership to those with a close tie to the city. This offers two advantages: It makes name owners stakeholders in the city’s future. And it keeps the domain names, and the websites they support, under the watchful eye of the city’s administrative system. Getting a vast bureaucracy to identify and assume its responsibilities will take time. But a solid foundation has been set. Our Nexus Policy wiki page has more on this.
One of the key advantages of having our own TLD is that it enables mapping both our city’s traditional and electronic resources into a hybrid digital city. The goal here was that New Yorkers would come to trust their intuition and type in traditional names, then add a .nyc extension. As New Yorkers came to trust their intuition they’d receive quicker access to city resources as intermediaries were removed. For example: “Humm… I wonder what the domain name is for the Jackson Heights Library? Is it JacksonHeightsLibrary.nyc?” And if the result was a “Ta-dah!” we’d have a slightly more livable city.
Success here is uncertain. With 75,000 domain names sold, and little incentive for activating them or respecting their intuitive use, some policy directives and education programs will be needed before New Yorkers begin to feel comfortable typing .nyc domain names.
There are some immediate steps that can help here.
- Reserved Names – The city has set aside 800 names to support public purposes, half of them neighborhood names. The thoughtful allocation, activation, and promotion of these names would herald the city’s long term commitment to .nyc and improve navigation.
- Premium Names – 3,000 premium domain names (airports.nyc, hotels.nyc, pizza.nyc, etc.) are scheduled to be auctioned to the highest bidder. Attaching public interest commitments to some of these will enhance .nyc’s navigability. The city should mandate that common words which encompass broad ideas be inclusive in their operation. For example, should Hilton win the auction for hotels.nyc, it should be required to present all hotels, not just Hilton Hotels. We’ve a wiki page with a series of recommendations on this. From it one can link to the 3,000 proposed premium names and comment on their use.
- Search – The search.nyc domain name should by thoughtfully developed for those non-intuitive moments. In addition to finding things, this will keep search dollars in the city and provide a small boost to the economy.
All this brings to mind a city planning effort from 200 years ago. When Manhattan’s street grid was laid out by the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811, the need for parks was not generally recognized and space for Central Park wasn’t included. It wasn’t until 3 decades later that New York State allocated funds enabling the city to carve the park out of the grid.
With nexus and the city’s power of eminent domain in place, we’d expect the reclaiming of common public space and function names to begin within a far shorter time frame – if .nyc is to rise above the vanity level.
While nexus and enhanced navigation provide a platform for .nyc’s success, our TLD will improve our quality of life only if it’s supported by a community. Success requires the average resident to recognize and accept .nyc as something that will have a positive impact on their lives, and worthy of their precious time. To date there’s little indication such support exists. Each day 75 or so new names are sold, but these appear to mostly be vanity purchases or speculative business investments. 70% remain parked (unused). Few are for existing businesses.
How do we build community support?
Over the past few decades the best work on making communities has been done by the Project for Public Spaces. They’ve identified 11 actions that can transform public spaces – parks, plazas, public squares, streets, sidewalks or a myriad of indoor spaces – into vibrant community places. How well the Project’s program would integrate both the digital and traditional requires exploration. But community building is an art worth pursuing.
Can it fly?
With the city controlling the foundation agreements that govern the use of .nyc domain names and a huge bureaucracy to enforce them, it has both the capacity and opportunity to bring the broad potential of a TLD to fruition. So the simple answer to the “Can it fly?” question is yes.
But broad success – creating a more prosperous and livable city – depends on the de Blasio Administration taking a hands on role.
- It needs to let residents be part of the oversight process – being part of setting standards for using our domain names and operating our TLD.
- It must create reporting channels that enables the public to partner with the city on enforcing city standards. 311, the Department of Consumer Affairs, and other city agencies must develop systems that facilitate public participation in enforcing city standards.
- It needs to educate the public on how to use these reporting channels.
- It must enforce the nexus policy. Weekly audits are required under the city’s agreement with the contractor. These must be published, and the public invited and enabled to assure that .nyc names are being used by and for New Yorkers.
- It needs to add equity to the premium name allocation process, through public interest commitments, subsidies, payment stretch outs, or otherwise. Excluding all but the well off is no way to build community support.
- It needs to educate the public about the price of a disorganized digital infrastructure in a global economy; that with hundreds of cities expected to develop their TLDs in the coming years, we must be competitive.
- Once the public and administration are solidly and actively behind .nyc, the administration must promote the .nyc TLD as a trusted places to do business.
- Finally, the administration must tie .nyc into a comprehensive digital policy that combines .nyc with universal access and broad education efforts.
So yes, .nyc can fly. But we need to energize our mayor and garner broad community support if it’s to be our newest excelsior.
(Commons image Can It Fly? courtesy of Asas de borboleta vetor)