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Calling out the .com in familygreenberg.com

By Brian | February 18, 2011 | Share on Facebook

My buddy Jeff Porten name checked me (domain-checked me?) in his TidBITS article yesterday, so I figured the least I can do is respond with some thoughts of my own.

First of all, if you’re here visiting from TidBITS, welcome! Have a look around. Stay awhile. I’ve got this really cool Photoshop celebrity contest going on called Brain Celebri-teasers which could always use some fresh faces. And while it hasn’t appeared that way lately, I do occasionally write, you know, WORDS.

Now that we’ve taken care of the formalities, on to Jeff’s topic about top-level domains (TLD’s). He speaks of the .nxt conference, at which various marketing people are trying to convince the world that hershey.candy would sell more chocolate bars than hershey.com. He then asserts that most people surf the web with Google these days anyway (even finding www.google.com using their Google search bar), making the TLD an anachronism of that ancient animal known as the “90′s Web.”

I don’t disagree with him. Owning familygreenberg.com instead of the more grammatically correct greenbergfamily.com or the more narcissistic briangreenberg.com has not hurt my web traffic in the least. There are roughly 10-20 people who check this site regularly because they know me, either personally or through online interactions over the years. The rest of my ~1,000 visits per month come from Google, Bing or Facebook, and are almost always focused on the <10 posts I’ve done over the years that have proven to be very Google friendly (sometimes for completely inexplicable reasons). None of this would be any different if I owned either of those other two domains, and people that aren’t coming through a search engine or social network have probably bookmarked me so long ago that they don’t even remember the actual URL anyway.

All of that said, I think the true value in new TLD’s is missing from Jeff’s article, as well as from the .nxt conference itself (and, by the way, how funny is it that the conference isn’t called .next? Clearly, these guys are still living in the three-character limited past, no? Maybe someone else should be owning this problem? Just sayin…).

Anyway, given, as Jeff rightly suggests, that most of the web runs on search engine traffic, I believe the real power in TLD’s is the extent to which they can improve search results. We don’t think about that much anymore, principally because Google thinks about it for us. If you’re looking for Britney Spears’ music (Jeff’s example, not mine!), as opposed to, say, pictures of Britney Spears, you just search for Britney Spears music, instead of Britney Spears pictures, and the Google search engine limits your result set. Granted, it does a pretty good job, but even so, the former query still includes “News about Britney Spears Music,” which isn’t what I (Jeff?) wanted. If Britney’s music was located at britneyspears.music, and her pictures/twitter feed/blog/rap sheet was at britneyspears.com, then search engines could be much more specific about the results you received.

Granted, this involves not only creating the TLD’s, but enforcing the proper categorization of content into them. To my thinking, that is not an ICANN responsibility, but rather the collective responsibility of the world’s Google users, who will not click on or link to sites that don’t follow the rules (much like a page with a misleading URL gets a lower PageRank and hence, less traffic today).

There are other technical advantages to more specific TLD’s as well. Take parental controls, for example. The same incentives that would drive the porn industry to put all of their content in the .sex TLD, would make it easier for parents, libraries and schools to filter out the .sex sites from their children’s web browsers. Of course, as Jeff correctly points out, this coin has two sides as well – if parents can filter out .sex sites to maintain their kids’ innocence, then governments can filter out .news sites to quell the latest protests.

On balance, though, I think more specific data-typing is better for everybody. Unfortunately for the .nxt crowd, they appear to be talking to the marketing department, not engineering, and so they’re hearing the weaker of the two arguments.

Topics: Tech Talk | 5 Comments »

5 Responses to “Calling out the .com in familygreenberg.com”

  1. Dashworlds says at February 18th, 2011 at 6:32 pm :

    Visiting via TidBITs….Just to let you know, your link on comments section isn’t clickable (or copyable)……suggest adding note that a clickable link is in the body TidBITs article…it saved me a lot of time and typos :)

  2. Brian says at February 19th, 2011 at 2:24 am :

    Thanks for the tip, Dashworlds…

  3. Thomas says at February 20th, 2011 at 2:55 pm :
    Brian, you mentioned “the world’s Google users, who will not click on or link to sites that don’t follow the rules…”

    Huh? The same people who search Google from its home page by typing “google” into the Google search bar?

    Perhaps you meant “should” not click. Even so, I can make no sense of the paragraph.

  4. Brian says at February 21st, 2011 at 12:52 am :
    @Thomas: apologies if I wasn’t clear. I was referring to the need to put content in the expected places.

    With new TLD’s, an expectation will be set – all adult material should be in the .sex domain; all music should be in the .music domain, etc. If someone puts pornography on a .music page, there’s nothing really stopping them, except that when people find that page (be it through Google or any other method), they will likely click away quickly, avoid linking to it from their own pages, or otherwise indicate their disappointment. This lowers the pages PageRank, causing it to drop lower in Google search results.

    Assuming the purveyor of that material doesn’t want that to happen, then he is encouraged (through the activity of the masses) to move his content to the expected place. Just like nasa.com used to display adult content (for people who accidentally went there instead of nasa.gov), and no longer does.

    I hope that clears it up…

  5. Jeff Porten says at March 1st, 2011 at 4:41 am :
    I don’t expect you’ll see any enforcement of hierarchy in the new TLDs — that kind of Internet went away in the early 1990s. The problem with having different sites at britneyspears.music and britneyspears.com is that Britney has to hand over control to the people who run the .music TLD to do this — and in terms of brand management, that’s the last thing you want to do.

    Or, just airballing, let’s say I decide to use new TLDs to embark on a project I’ve been meaning to do for years, splitting up jeffporten.com content into various channels. Even if Apple lets me have jeffporten.apple as a nice gesture to its developers, what have I gained? Better question, what are the odds that jeffporten.apple will be allowed to point to a section of my WordPress site, instead of Apple’s own webhosting features?

    Finally, the content blocking is exactly why .sex and .xxx isn’t going to work. Sure, many companies will set up shop there, but they’re *also* going to put their content in .com, .org, .tv, and .anywhere-else where they can get eyeballs. Whitehouse.com was a great place to put pornography back in the days when they were still trying to get the point across that you *could* find porn on the web — and yes, Virginia, there was a time when they had to train their audience. Now they have different ways of essentially being a shrink-wrapped Hustlers behind the 7-11 counter — which is teenager-friendly (well, not to the actual teenagers), as well as a point-of-sale impulse purchase.

    I didn’t think of this analogy in time for the article, but domains are nearly as irrelevant as IP addresses — and like IP addresses, publishers can assign as many domains as they like to reach their content. Call me shocked if any of it makes a difference; the sole exception I can see is that Unicode domains in foreign languages will be impossible to reach by users who don’t even know how to type those characters on their keyboards. But that’s also just an extension of the language barrier; I never land on a Chinese site with Roman character names, either.


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