Outside It's America

Author's Note: I wrote this article some time ago at a colleague's request and feel okay in putting an amended and updated version here on E2. I can only hope the Editors agree.

This is the Internet. It is a worldwide collection of computers which is not based in any country, is truly global in scope, is not centrally controlled from any single place and could easily survive the total removal of any country to which it is connected. It's a whole new world.

So why is it America?

*.com is the international top level domain for business. Here in Ireland, we don't have the second level domains common elsewhere and we simple use the *.ie suffix.. Over the waters in the UK, they have second level domains especially for seperate enterprises.

*.co.uk can be owned by anyone, on a commercial basis. *.ltd.uk is for Limited Companies. *.plc.uk is for Public Limited Companies and *.org.uk is for non-profit organisations. There's even *.gov.uk for government institutions and *.ac.uk for educational facilities.

In France there's a similar system, in fact, most of Europe has a similar system. Most of the world has a similar system - look at all the *.co.jp addresses out there. Everybody does it, everybody fits neatly into the country-based domain hierarchy.

Everybody except....

Well, there's a *.us domain out there. I know there is. I've checked it's NIC. But there don't seem to be many domains in it, do there? I wonder why that could possibly be? I mean, blocking up all the top-level domains with entries that are not multinational in scope would be a terrible thing for those companies which are and would result in those multinationals being effectively denied their legitimate 'net-presence.

Surely, people in the US do know that they are not the whole world? Right? They must do, they block College Green in Dublin like a thrombosis around Molly Malone's statue in the summer so that you expect to see the whole city have a stroke. They must know we exist, mustn't they? They didn't think we were just another bit of America with funny accents, surely? And i've seen Americans (and believe me, heard 'em too) in France, England, Scotland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, even Israel and South Africa. Bloody hell, they even go to Wales if you can believe that.

So what's going on?

Let's take a different example and one closer to my heart. NNTP. That's right - USENET news, remember that? It's become distinctly unfashionable because it's not groovy enough for many ISPs. MSN don't carry it, for example. I hope and pray that AOL will follow their lead on this one. What's bugging me about this is also local hierarchies.

There's ie.* There's uk.* There's fr.* de.* be.* jp.* kr.* you name it, it's out there. There's also us.* It's nearly empty by comparison with the others.

Why? There are local state-level news hierarchies - they don't get used. Somehow, Americans - i apologise to any Canadians who may cast an eye over this text, Citizens of the United States of America if you prefer - have picked up the idea that rest of the world either isn't there or that it's simply massively less important than America is.

I hope that i am reading this wrong. It would be nice to think that maybe i'm being too ungenerous to our cousins across the pond. You never know, there might be a perfectly good reason. If so, i'd rather like to know what it is.

Isolationsim is stupid in a global medium, and Americans don't want the rest of the world to think they're stupid, do they? Or don't they know we outnumber them? I've heard it suggested that it may well be time to do exactly what the Internet was designed for and cut the pipes to the US servers.

I just wonder if they'd notice?

Perhaps we (USAmericans) find the idea of carving up the internet along arbitrary political boundaries to be pointless and stupid. Physical location of internet servers is a non-issue. Internet sites should be categorized by content, not by which pointy hair government ministers oversee the block of earth that the box sits on.

So in short, yes we realize that you are there, we realize you have a lot of good internet content, but we have piss poor memory about where to find it. The differences between .com .org and .net are confusing enough, never mind whether that server was foo.or.uk or foo.or.jp. Everyone (even the French) should use the same TLDs, with the exception of .gov servers, which really ARE location-specific.

If the big corporations would stop sitting on hundreds of domain names that happen to be similar to their own name, there would be plenty of domains to go around, and nobody would have to rack their brains for the ISO country code for Uzbeckistan just to view a web page.
Surely, people in the US do know that they are not the whole world?

Judging from the WU immediately following yours, possibly not...

Cid: The big corporations, as they really are multinationals, are not the problem. And arbitrary political boundaries are no better or worse than any other arbitrary boudaries.

Like phone area codes and postcodes, the country domain suffixes are there for a reason - there simply aren't enough words in the OED to sustain the current rate of DNS abuse out there. The whole *.com, *.net etc. phenomenon isn't helping, and is completely unjustifiable unless one assumes (like you do) that Americans are lazy and have bad memories, or (like K9) that they have an inflated idea of their own importance.

To Cid Highwind:

Choice of domains has nothing to do with where the server is physically located; on the server I host my .net domain on, and will soon host my .ca domain on when I stop being so cheap and lazy, there are .com, .net, .org, .com.au, etc. domains.

Choice of top-level domain is made by the company who purchases it, to provide an easily rememberable name (say 'companyname') within a certain namespace (like .ca) which is associated with a certain country (like Canada). It has absolutely nothing to do with the location of the server, and you could easily register a .cx (Christmas Island) domain through a British registrar and host it on a box in Japan whose administrator is a Russian working for a German company, even though you are an Italian-American who is living in Israel and working for the CBC's news office.

Ok, that was overboard, but it was fun.

Anyway, country-code domains should (ideally) be used when the web page is only (usually) of interest to, or involved with, the people of one country. .com/net/org/edu/int domains should be used by corporations with international scope, .gov should not exist, and Air Canada should really lower its ticket prices. None of this will ever happen, but ideally, that's how it should be.

As for myself, I own a .net because when I registered it, 'sentry21@cdslash.lethbridge.ab.ca' just wasn't the epitome of cool that I was hoping to exhude. Now that I can just buy a .ca, I will do so, and phase out my .net, which I hope to do this year.

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