We argue for the creation of a city-TLD following the pattern set for many country level TLDs, i.e. with the management and overall goal of these TLD’s being to operate in and support the broader public good. In this we distinguish a city-TLD from those that are managed to support revenue generation – the .com model with the more names sold the better. Following this “community” model New York’s TLD would adhere to the follow general principles of good governance*:
- Transparency: bringing visibility to the management and operation of the service
- Effectiveness and Efficiency: enabling optimal use of resources for the delivery of services
- Participation: empowering citizens to legally control the service delivery to their advantage
- Equity: providing to citizens the service on an equal basis
- Rule of Law: ensuring that the laws and regulations governing the service are applied in an impartial way
- Accountability: creating standards against which the individuals providing the service and the service delivery can be held accountable
- Responsiveness: serving all citizens in a consistent and predictable way
- Consensus Orientation: proceeding with the management and operation of the service within overall principles of consensus decision making among stakeholders, and, in the instance of city-TLDs, collaborating with residents, local government, and other organizations.
Benefits of Public Interest City-TLD
While public interest TLDs can be developed to address a variety of issue areas or regional geographic entities, our focus here is on creating a livable city for New Yorkers. Properly planned and executed, many benefits will arise with the development of a public interest city-TLD, for example:
- Good Domain Names – If issued equitably and at affordable rates, a public interest city-TLD will facilitate the fundamental benefit that derives from a new TLD, that is, good names, those that are short, descriptive, and memorable.
- Equitable Distribution of Domain Names – A public interest city-TLD can establish allocation policies that avoid pitfalls such as hoarding and typo-squatting. Policy decisions can be made on price and nexus requirements (a legal term indicating a required city connection such as a residency or operating a business), and can reserve domain names for unbiased public interest directories, government, civic, and issue usage.
- Affordable Domain Names – By eliminating the profit requirement, public interest city-TLDs can keep prices low and set rates that maximize community benefit. It can provide affordable names for the young entering the business world, for the community and civic worlds, for recent immigrants, small businesses, and for use in the public realm. Where appropriate and feasible, a city-TLD operated in the public interest can provide free names to individuals, organizations, start-ups, etc.
- Name Set-Asides – With an improved community a key part of its mission, a public interest city-TLD can set aside second level names for neighborhoods or civic benefit activities and issues, e.g., “www.elections.nyc” or “www.sante.paris” Also, it can experiment with allocation plans that facilitate shared name usage for civic, community, and issues. e.g., developing a reusable public access name bank that facilitates a time-based allocation of names like “www.save-the-tree.nyc.”
- The New Proximity – While the Internet excels by connecting on a global scale, a public interest city-TLD can establish discussion, issue, geographic, and opportunity name spaces where residents can locate one another. Combining the Internet’s global reach and local face-to-face contacts will optimize the exchange of ideas and revivify the traditional role of cities.
- Civic Tools for Collaboration – The New Proximity will be facilitated by making available public access civic tools such as calendars, maps, listserves, polling, and organizers. These may be adapted from those currently providing web widgets such as Google or custom developed if needed.
- More Secure Experience – With a focus on a limited and fixed geographic area, a nexus requirement for acquiring a city domain name (i.e., a demonstrated residency or business interest in the city), and working in close cooperation with the extant institutions, public interest city-TLD operators can approximate the expectation and experience found with TLDs such as .gov and .edu.
- Unbiased Portals– A public interest TLD can create directories of selected second level domain names like www.hotels.nyc and www.schools.nyc, making city resources far more accessible. For example, a carefully designed and managed www.hotels.nyc directory would provide global access to a small directory page presenting the city’s hotels using alpha and geographic links to sites of the hotel’s choice. Or a directory might make a city’s schools accessible by organizing them by public vs. private, and primary, secondary, and university.
- Intuitive Design – A well planned and organized TLD will be intuitive and provide confidence that “guesses” will be effective. For example, today one might imagine success by directly entering www.ibm.com or www.coke.com into a browsers address space. With a fresh city-TLD name space residents might presume that the entry www.jacquescafe.paris would reach its target. Intuitive design will also play a role in encouraging directory searches of the likes of www.bookstores.london or www.restaurants.nyc.
- Search Engine Transparency – Whether one is searching for a hotel or issues surrounding a local election, the trustworthiness of the responses is vital. Developers of city-TLDs will find advantage by presenting search engines with transparent heuristics. (See this research by Robert Epstein on how search results can influence an election.)
- Identity – While any city-TLD will say for example, Made in Berlin or From Mumbai, a city-TLD operated in the public interest will assure the long term preservation of the TLD as a symbol of a city’s character. And with public participation in its design and development, it will provide that point of civic pride around which a population will rally to protect its brand.
- Shrink Digital Divide – A public interest city-TLD could (and should be expected to) commit a portion of funds received from name sales and other sources to facilitate the provision of civic collaboration tools, education, training and eradicating digital divides.
Additionally, the growing awareness and acceptance of global warming and the sustainability of cities vs. the suburban or rural lifestyles provides a further justification for arming cities with the most modern of technologies.
Finally, with the foundation of an effective public interest city-TLD based in transparency, accountability, and public participation one might hope, and indeed expect, that an engaged public will transform the Internet’s capabilities into city resources of types yet unimagined.
*As defined by the United Nations Development Program for example. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). (1997). Governance for sustainable human development: A UNDP policy document. Retrieved March 25, 2005, from The UNDP Web site: http://magnet.undp.org/policy/.