Friday, June 21, 2013

Dot-Blog won't save the world

By Frank Moraes

The newest Wonk Blog member, Lydia DePillis wrote an interesting article on the future of domain names, but I think she is fundamentally wrong.

The first half of the article is rather amusing. At the end of every day Wonk Blog publishes a feature that provides links to four or five almost random articles. These round-ups are called, "The Best Sentences We Read Today." And then, instead of listing the titles of the articles, they list interesting sentences from the articles. For example, two days ago we got this one, "Hoffa went missing in Detroit, a city that, then as now, was filled with great places to hide a body."

As a result of this feature, some guy went to the Wonk Blog staff and tried to sell them for $30,000. He was going to throw in too. Plus he offered a business plan of sorts where the website could have a community and people who could rate the sentences. Blah blah blah. DePillis is very nice about it, noting that it might even be a good idea. (It's not.) What I think is most funny is that this mystery man has owned the less appropriate since 2008, but he only purchased two weeks ago. I bet he'd be pleased if 500 bucks. Regardless, he shouldn't be talking to the Wonk Blog staff; they're just a bunch of nerds who work for Washington Post, that most likely owns the name Wonk Blog itself. (At least, I hope so; I like my wonks pure!)
Where DePillis goes wrong is in the second half of the article. There are a lot of people who continue to sit on domain names and try to make money off them. And I guess there is some money to be made, but it isn't that lucrative a business anymore. At the top of the dot-com bubble, people really were getting big money for domain names. What's more, just about any domain name you could think of was taken. It is much better now because there simply isn't that much demand.

Now ICANN has announced a number of new extensions: generic top-level domains (gTLD). The most notable of these is the .blog extension. According to DePillis, all these new gTLDs are going to put an end to people like the mystery man selling his cool dot-com names. But it really won't. We have seen gTLDs added before and the reaction is always the same collective yawn. Anything other than dot-com and dot-org (when appropriate) just look kind of shabby and disreputable. Would a professional endeavor really use And if it did, wouldn't there be leakage to Best And wouldn't that not be a problem the other way around?

In the end, it doesn't really matter. If a website has useful or entertaining content, people will come. I really don't like blogs that are part of the system. But does that stop me from reading Digby or The Reaction every day? Of course not! But it does muddle the message and doesn't make things easier. It makes you look a bit like a computer tech who is working out of the back of a grocery store. And dot-net makes you look like you have a shop in one of those crumbling shopping centers where a liquor store is the only business that thrives. Dot-blog and dot-web will not change that.
(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)


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