New Domain Day: Odd domain out.

I'm fortunate enough to remember the Good Old Days, when the Internet had seven "real" top-level domains, a few dozen of the wierd "national" domains, and even a few "pseudo-domains" (as I've said before, I had an e-mail address in .bitnet). I'm also unfortunate enough to have been working for a domain name registrar during the Bad Old Days when the second set of top-level domains was unleashed on the Internet. I've had lots of pointless discussions with co-workers and total strangers about the uses and merits of the different TLDs. After a while, the top-levels formed into two groups in my mind, the good domains, and the bad domains.

The good domains (.com, .coop, .edu, .gov, .int, .mil, .name, .net, and .org) are the ones that defined themselves according to the original defining principles of TLDs -- they declare what kind of organization (or entity) the domain belongs to: commercial, non-profit, educational, etc. I like those domains. The have clarity.

The bad domains, on the other hand, are just annoying: .biz duplicates .com (and sounds a little sleazy, as well). .aero, .museum, and .pro are effectively subcategories of other types of organizations. The worst is .info -- what's that for? "Informational entities?" Everytime I try to picture an informational entitiy, I picture a pasty-faced teenager in thick glasses and a sweater vest (in other words, myself as a high-school freshman). But no, according to the .info registry, ".INFO names are your opportunity to reach a worldwide audience with information about you, your products, and your ideas." So, .info is the cornerstone of an attempted paradigm shift from "your TLD describes who you are", to "your TLD describes what your website does". Once we accept that idea, we've doomed ourselves to an endless series of silly TLDs like .shop, .dance, and .spank. Then the Internet fills up with silly domains, TLDs lose their value as mnemonic aids (just as area codes are losing theirs), and (cue dramatic voice) chaos reigns.

That's where I stood anyway, until it came time to register a new domain according to my bimonthly plan. I decided to get a domain for my old cryptography site, alt.security.keydist Resources. Although it's my lowest-trafficked site (yes, there's something that gets less traffic than this weblog), three reasons to give it a domain:

  1. As my smallest site, it will probably benefit the most from a new URL.
  2. I need it to have a stable address before adding some new material
  3. Everything I liked for my other sites was already taken.

So, alt.security.keydist is was. The first part of picking the domain was easy: It's going to be alt-security-keydist. (When all else fails, stuff some keywords!) The second half was trickier, because I had to think "What kind of organization is a newsgroup?" It's definitely not a commercial organization, because nobody makes money off newsgroups. On the other hand, I'd rather leave .org for real non-profits. I don't know if I'd consider a newsgroup a networking organization. (Do you get the sense I'm being kind of anal about this?). Finally, it hit me: newsgroups aren't really organizations or entities; they're just datastreams. Tiny invisible streams of data flowing through wires and crawling across the network, meaning nothing until someone needs the information in them.

Yep, I said information. So I surrendered to fate and registered alt-security-keydist.info today. I won't have it set up for a week or two, because I'm busy with some other things, but I'm settling for an imperfect domain because there isn't a perfect one available. There's some sort secret message from the Universe here, I'm sure, but I refuse to learn what it may be. At least that's I can be unbending about.

Posted at 11:24:39 PM EST on 01 March 2004 from Trenton, MI