By Brian | February 18, 2011 | Share on Facebook
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.