I sympathize with Internet old timers (such as myself) who look back wistfully at the good ol’ days, when the only decision you had to make when registering a new domain name was choosing between .com or .net.
Today, there are more than 500 of these top-level domains from which to choose (with 400 more on the way) ranging from .nyc to .berlin, from .pink to .blue, and from .ceo to .xyz.
And, yes, there is even .sucks, a domain now available at a steep price—an issue that has gotten advertisers and legislators in a froth. At a congressional hearing recently, Representative Bob Goodlatte said that trademark owners are “being shaken down” by Vox Popula, the owner of the .sucks domain.
While I agree that many of these new domain names feel like a shady Internet tax, let’s not lose sight of the big picture—that the majority of the world’s Internet users could care less about .sucks, because they don’t even speak English.
And it is these Internet users—those who don’t rely on a Latin-based script—who stand to benefit most from this new wave of domain names.
When ICANN opened the door to domains like .sucks, it also opened the door to domains like .世界 (.world), . рус (.Russian), and . みんな (.everyone).
What’s overlooked in the furor over the new domain names is that about 10% of the domains are in non-Latin scripts.
Imagine if, every time you wanted to visit a website, you were expected to type in letters from a foreign language, or worse, an entirely foreign script, such as Arabic, Cyrillic, or Chinese. The Internet was designed to be global, but it was not designed to be multilingual.
Of the three billion Internet users today, more than 70% do not speak English as a native language, if it all. China alone accounts for 640 million Internet users.
Not surprisingly, the second most-registered new domain (after .xyz) is .网址 —the Chinese equivalent of “web address.”
With these new domains (and many more to follow), we inch closer to a linguistically global Internet, in which people no longer have to leave their native languages to get where they want to go.
If we must suffer through .sucks to have domains in Russian, Chinese, Arabic, and other languages, perhaps it’s a price we have to pay to make the Internet truly accessible to the world.
And, someday in the future, when Chinese and Russian legislators get in a froth over translated equivalents of .sucks, I will know that the Internet has truly connected the world.