Saturday, March 24, 2012

NYC to Register .NYC gTLD

New York City has formally stepped forward and announced their intention to register a .nyc gTLD with ICANN. (Read articles here and here.) Although the official confirmation is welcome, this cannot be called a complete surprise.

New York has wisely decided to use an existing registry operator to administer the domain. This is also a predictable step. The costs, both financial and technical, with administering a gTLD are considerable. In fact, I would fathom that there is no way New York could muster the technical strength during the application period without sub contracting to an existing registry operator.

New York City has also given some guidance on what they plan to do with their gTLD, stating that businesses and users will have to show “a substantial and lawful connection” with the city or (according to an unquoted article) a “nexus” to the city.

Obviously, the difficulty then becomes how to define such a connection. Lawful seems clearly designed as an excuse to root out cybersquatters (and I suppose operators of unlawful, but New York City based businesses. We will have to wait for, but what is “substantial?” Does it mean a physical address? Within the five boroughs?  What if I am just outside the city limits? Also, isn’t requiring a physical address counter-intuitive to an internet based initiative? If I want to have, am I forced to surrender it when I have children and move to the suburbs?

The second issue is even more interesting (at least to me): under what scheme will these rights be handled? A web address is almost a property right, a location over which the owner has the right to exclude others from. Will New York City use existing real property law? Will registry operator Neustar get to decide? Will New York City set up an administrative code to decide?

The obvious answer is to simply let current law, including WIPO and UDRP procedures, control. The danger with this path is that it does not clearly provide authorization for domain name seizures.

This announcement is not all doom and gloom, however. Imagine if the city undertook an initiative to give resident’s virtual addresses corresponding to their physical address. I could have an email address that was the same as my mailing address, reducing reliance on the slower and more costly physical mail systems. There are some interesting possibilities. Will advertising be equally expensive on as it is at the real location?

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