Occupytheurl.com lets you turn any website into an instant Occupied meme. But digital activist and “cultural commons” advocate David Bollier has another idea. Those new top-level domains, at $26,000 a pop, that ICANN recently opened up to the domain-registering free world? They should belong to the people, he says. “The Occupy forces in hundreds of cities should petition their local governments to acquire a new ‘top-level Internet domain’ for their city, and to manage that patch of cyberspace as a local commons.”
[ICANN] recently approved a plan that will authorize cities to acquire their own TLDs, as in .nyc, .paris and .berlin. If properly constituted, the city TLDs could serve as “open greenfields for new local governance structures.” Unfortunately, the new city TLDs are not likely to serve this role if traditional city governments simply sell off the TLDs to private interests.
Right now, citizens who want to communicate online about local concerns have to open a Facebook group, which opens the door to the corporate data-mining of their personal information and all the other rules that Facebook imposes to advance its business interests.
These city TLDs need to be regarded as core infrastructure that belongs to the commons – and used to serve common needs. They should not be regarded as a windfall to be sold off by city governments for private commercial purposes. This, unfortunately, has been the customary approach to using domain names – sell as many as you can and try to make lots of money.
City domains could serve to host citizen-based projects in a way that makes them easily-identifiable as local–as in “restaurants.jacksonheights.nyc” or “garbage.brooklyn.nyc,” Mr. Bollier writes.
So instead of .nyc belonging to City Hall and renting it to local companies, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chief Digital Officer Rachel Sterne decreed, the domain would be more like a public park. Or a privately-owned public park, perhaps?