#StopTheAuctions

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stoptheauctionsJackson Hts., New York, October 5, 2016 –  There were highs and lows in city hall’s rollout of the .nyc TLD last month. Early on we were cheered when we received notification that our application for the JacksonHeights.nyc domain name had been approved. And with the de Blasio Administration committed to putting the city’s 350+ neighborhood domain names under the control of local residents, we began to imagine that our decade-old vision of an “intuitive” city Internet might materialize; where one would find informative presentations of our city’s art galleries at artgalleries.nyc, find banks at banks.nyc, and locate a church at churches.nyc. And with each such directory a bonus would arrive: the opportunity for a New Yorker to form a new small business.

But our confidence plummeted when the city’s contractor announced that a high-bid auction was to be held on October 24 for 20 domain names:

  • Apartments.nyc
  • Construction.nyc
  • Kitchen.nyc
  • Renovation.nyc
  • Brokers.nyc
  • Furniture.nyc
  • Lease.nyc
  • Roommates.nyc
  • Brownstones.nyc
  • Garden.nyc
  • Living.nyc
  • Rentals.nyc
  • Condos.nyc
  • Homes.nyc
  • Lofts.nyc
  • Studios.nyc
  • CoOps.nyc
  • Interiors.nyc
  • RealEstate.nyc
  • Sublet.nyc

These are the first of what might ultimately be 3,000 auctioned names, many of which are vital to the realization of that intuitive city and the utility of the TLD.

The basis of our disappointment is epitomized by the hotels.nyc domain name. It’s reasonable to assume that, in a high-bid auction, an entity such as the Hilton Corporation, with deep pockets and 30 hotels in or near the city, will win. When this occurs two associated outcomes can be predicted with reasonable certainty: a traveler looking to hotels.nyc for a city hotel would assuredly be provided with a highly skewed view of the city’s 250+ hotels (a Hilton perhaps?). And a comprehensive listing of hotels, perhaps creatively mixed to include an AirBnB-like listing, fashioned by a local entrepreneur will never materialize.

With our being awarded the license for JacksonHeights.nyc, we have a big stake in this development: If people come to believe that hotels.nyc and other such civic infrastructure names are in essence offering “biased directories,” what hope is there that they will come to trust that JacksonHeights.nyc presents the considered and collaborative intelligence of its neighborhood namesake?

To summarize, the city has established a workable model to guide the allocation of the neighborhood names, requiring detailed public interest commitments (PICs) from those interested in the rights to their development. Further, those awarded neighborhood name must return every three years to demonstrate they’ve met their PICs. In contrast, the plan for auctioning hundreds, perhaps thousands of these civicly important names does not require any PICs from the auction winners. And there’s no review process whatsoever, with the names issued virtually forever.

#StopTheAuctions

If the city sticks with the high-bid auction (a holdover from the Bloomberg Administration), several negatives will result.

  • Our opportunity to establish .nyc as a managed and trusted TLD, a safe port if you will, will be severely diminished.
  • We’ll loose the opportunity to provide access to these new resources to capital starved entities. The local flavor and creativity will suffer.
  • We’ll loose an opportunity to bolster our digital self reliance. We’ll remain dependent on distant search engines to filter and present our digital resources.

The city should stop the auctions and follow these steps to improve the name allocation process.

  • City Hall should establish a public policy that facilitates the identification and development of civicly valuable domain names.
  • Considering the economic and aggregation benefits that arise with a well managed and trusted digital resource, it should categorize the 3,000 names: those that can be auctioned immediately, names for negotiated allocation (like the neighborhood names), and names that have PICs and are destined for high-bid auction. (Here’s a start.)
  • The city’s Department of Small Business Services should do outreach to small and minority businesses and empower them to participate in these auctions by sponsoring hackathons, networking events, loans, credits…

The city should begin governing the .nyc TLD as a common that belongs to all New Yorkers. While Mayor de Blasio has taken some commendable steps, e.g., the neighborhood names and a nexus policy that restricts ownership to New Yorkers, success requires an investment. The city should immediately re-establish its .NYC Community Advisory Board and enable meaningful public engagement in the auctions, and deal with issues such as abandoned names, idle names, WHOIS, rates, and consumer protections.

Longer term, the city charter needs to be revised to reflect the Internet’s existence.

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Thomas Lowenhaupt is the founding director of Connecting.nyc Inc., a NYS nonprofit education organization advancing the operation of the .nyc TLD as a public interest resource. His 2001 Internet Empowerment Resolution sparked the city’s acquisition of the .nyc TLD. Two years ago the Internet Society of New York and Connecting.nyc sponsored a panel on the allocation of these “premium” domain names. See a report on that meeting here.

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Workshop: Empowering New York City’s Neighborhoods

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Neighborhood Preservation Center

This event’s report is now available.

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March 8, 2016, Jackson Hts., New York – The de Blasio administration has initiated a program to license operators of the 385 neighborhood domain names: Astoria.nyc, Bensonhurst.nyc, Corona.nyc, Ditmars.nyc, Egbertville.nyc, Flatbush.nyc, GreenwichVillage.nyc, Harlem.nyc…

On Tuesday, March 22 at 7 PM we’re sponsoring a workshop to review that licensing program and explore ways to connect the independent operators of these civic media centers. Here’s the agenda:

  • Update on the city’s neighborhood domain name licensing program.
  • Share experiences and expectations of license applicants.
  • Structure and Voice: What organizational structure will best enable operators of these “dotNeighborhoods” to share best practices and be represented before city and other regulatory entities? How can these operations collaborate to create open-source modules such as ad collaboratives, bulletin boards, calendars, DNS allocators, etc?

One outcome might include the formation of an Alliance of of Neighborhood Media Centers to develop principles, policy positions, and best practices.

Where: The Neighborhood Preservation Center, 232 East 11th Street
When: Tuesday, March 22, 7:00 – 8:30 PM

Light refreshments will be provided. Reserve a seat by emailing [email protected] or using our Meetup reservation page.

Can’t make it? The meeting will be recorded by our co-sponsor, the New York Internet Society.

Note: Interested in operating a neighborhood name? Begin your exploration on our beginners guide Adding Internet Mojo To Neighborhoods.

This event’s report is now available.

 

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Neighborhood Name License, part 3 – Secondary Level Names

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Third Level Domains

Jackson Hts., NYC, February 20, 2016 – This is our third post about concerns we have with the city’s draft Licensing Agreement for neighborhood domain names. In our first we bemoaned a “Without Cause” clause that allows the city to revoke a dotNeighborhood license without notice and without cause. We opined that this policy would preclude any serious investment in developing neighborhood domain names. In our second we spoke of the chilling effects of various content prohibitions and vague language in the License agreement.

Today’s post focuses on a requirement in the draft Licensing Agreement (see Exhibit B, Section 8) that dotNeighborhood operators receive prior written approval before issuing “secondary-level” domain names. Our goal here is to explain how this prior-approval policy reduces the potential of the dotNeighborhoods. But first a bit of background secondary-level domain names.

Background

Like many words and phrases in the draft License Agreement “secondary-level domain” is not defined. And since it can easily be confused with second level domain names, we need to take a close look at the terms.

Second level vs. Secondary-levels – By reserving the 385 neighborhood domain names and requiring detailed applications and license agreements from applicants, city hall established tight control over these 385 second level domain names. Our Pizza.Harlem.nyc graphic above shows the 2nd level (Harlem) and 3rd level (Pizza) domains. But there can be far more levels than that. While seldom used there can be a 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, all the way up to 127th level of domain names. In total these comprise what the city is calling “secondary-level” domain names. (An explanation on the domain name system (DNS) and the rules governing the use of these 127 levels can be found in Wikipedia.)

What the city apparently intends to do by requiring that the operator of a dotNeighborhood domain name receive written consent prior to issuing a “secondary-level domain” is to extend its control over the entire breadth of the neighborhood domains, not just the 385 2nd level neighborhood domain names, but all potential names within the 127 secondary-levels.

The Chrysalis

One of the promising opportunities neighborhood domain names offer arises through the development of these secondary-level domain names. Seldom used on the commercial Internet, we see the secondary-levels as a Chrysalis within the domain name system, with a Monarch awaiting emergence.

The secondary-level names add an intuitive layer to the naming system. They build upon what’s already in our heads. The graphic above shows the word “Pizza” being used in a 3rd level in the “Pizza.Harlem.nyc.” It doesn’t take an Einstein to imagine where “Optometrists.GreenwichVillage.nyc” or “Supermarkets.Astoria.nyc” will lead.

Thoughtfully allocated and introduced, these names offer advantages to dotNeighborhood operators, name purchasers, users, and the neighborhood as a whole.

  • For dotNeighborhood operators, they offer the potential of revenue. Will entrepreneurs pay $100 a year for the right to develop Pizza.Harlem.nyc, Restaurants.Harlem.nyc, or DrugStores.Harlem.nyc? Will a local retailer like Harlem’s Tonys Pizza pay $20 a year for the “dirt cheap” marketing channel “Tonys.Pizza.Harlem.nyc” represents? We think so.
  • Internet users benefit from what is in essence a digital transplant of New Yorkers mental map that the secondary-level names represent. And with community buy-in (wiki-like with moderated comments, reviews, and ratings) these secondary names will create a trusted resource for residents and visitors alike, and a way to traverse a sea of questionable Yelper services that plague today’s search results.

But innovation will be sapped if the city’s Licensing Agreement requires dotNeighborhood operators to get written permission for every secondary name sold. The licensing agreement’s main sections provide suitable structure to assure that operators run them in a responsible manner. There’s no need for this additional over-the-shoulder regulation. The Section 8 permission requirements for secondary-level names should be deleted.

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.London Premium Domain Name Auctions Start

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London Evening Standard LogoNew York, July 15, 2015 – While New York City officials consider ways to issue the city-shaping and valuable Premium Domain Names – hotels.nyc, sports.nyc, news.nyc – London has settled on a plan for allocating its Premium Names. According to a story in today’s London Evening Standard:

Fifty of the most prized “dot London” website domain names are being auctioned from today to raise tens of thousands of pounds for the Standard’s charitable Dispossessed Fund.

Generic names such as cars.london, cinema.london, coffee.london, food.london and shoes.london were open to bids at noon at the domainauctions.london online sales room.

It is the latest phase of the roll-out of the new dot London website addresses with 64,000 already registered since launch in April 2014.

Up to a quarter of the proceeds from the auction, which closes at midday on July 30, will go to charities supported by the Dispossessed Fund subject to a cap of £50,000.

How much might the auction raise overall? Take a look at the early results here. With two weeks to go before this first auction concludes, rooms.london has a bid of £5,100 (about $8,000), with west.london in second place with a £2,501. So it would seem the Standard’s Disposessed Fund will max out with a £50,000 contribution.

The article mentions nothing about public interest commitments so our guess is that there are none, and that the Disposessed Fund is a fig leaf for the public interest.

Here in New York we’ve recommended that important Premium Names have public interest commitments attached. (Note: The city has set aside 3,069 names for consideration as premium names, some of which have little baring on the civic good such as 777.nyc and zero.nyc. We support auctioning these names.)

Public Interest Commitments will vary, perhaps requiring that hotels.nyc fairly present all the city’s hotels and that news.nyc and sports.nyc be based on local content. The New York Internet Society and Connecting.nyc Inc. organized a panel last December that suggested a PIC Oversight Board to delve into the intricacies of the allocation process.

Premium Names are a cornerstone of a successful city-TLD design plan. London seems to have taken its lead from General Motors’ chief Charles Erwin Wilson, saying (excuse our paraphrase) “What’s good for domain name sales is good for our city”. We await Mayor de Blasio’s plan.

 

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Introducing dotNYC Explorer

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dotNYC Explorer #1Jackson Hts., New York, July 9, 2015 – Joel Natividad of Ontondia.com put together a dotNYC Explorer based on information on .nyc registrants provided by DoITT, the city agency with oversight of the .nyc TLD. Take a look.

It’s a great tool. Here are a couple of hints for getting the most out of Explorer:

  • When you get to Explorer’s birthplace on Beta.nyc, you’ll see the summary page, like the one above. Click on the blue “Launch Website” button on the left and interact with the live data on the tableau.com website. (While on Beta.nyc take a look around. Beta is a great civic organization, consider getting involved.)
  • After clicking Launch Website you’ll see essentially the same info on tableau.com, but now it’s live. Click a bar on one of the graphs and see the names in the List box on the left change. For example, in the “First Char” graph, click on the bar representing 5 characters and see the list of 5 character names presented in the List box. NOTE: This is kind of tricky – you must click on the bar above the horizontal line, not on the number 5 itself.
  • Drill down by clicking on 2 bars – the First Char and Length – to see specifics.
  • Finally, once you’ve drilled down, you can click on the names in the List box and be taken to a who.is site with lots of details about that domain name.

We’re hoping for a Version 2 in the near future that will include a mapping capacity enabling New Yorkers to readily discern if more names are registered in Coney Island or Canarsie.

Our thanks to Joel Natividad, Beta.nyc, and DoITT for making this possible.

 

 

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