Do we really need Top-Level Domains?

I was recently invited to sign a petition that calls for the .ca top-level domain (TLD) to be further categorized into specific second-level domains (SLDs): for businesses, for government, and so on. The British and Australians do it that way, after all. The petition was started by a Yukon College colleague with the eminently sensible desire to make it easier for web surfers, particularly the less-savvy netizens, to distinguish between commercial and non-commercial entities (Laurie's blog has since moved to snazzier digs).

I say the opposite: get rid of TLDs and SLDs altogether. Oh, we may want to keep the country code TLDs -- and their regional SLD children (e.g., for Yukon, for Alaska) -- for patriotism's sake, but the rest can go.

The reason is that the allocation of generic TLDs has always been arbitrary. You don't have to be a company to reserve a .com address, a non-profit organization to reserve .org, nor an Internet service provider to reserve .net. For example, takes you to the home site of a web application scripting platform; leads to a company that provides tools for the platform; and reveals the home page of the non-profit Parents Helping Parents organization. None of them possess the "correct" TLD.

So, if they don't mean anything, why use 'em? There's already a move afoot to jettison the redundant www. hostname (as this blog has done), why not trim the tail end as well? If I want to visit Apple Computer's site, I type apple into the browser address bar. To see the Whitehorse Star's news, I enter whitehorsestar and be done with it. Many browsers will let you do just that: the software slaps on a .com, maybe dresses it up with a www., and then shoots the request out the door. (Firefox actually searches for the term and redirects you to the top-listed site, which typically yields the same result.)

There's no benefit to the neophyte surfer under my suggested regime: domain names are just as opaque as before, if not more so. But we can't regulate our way out of education. Someone will still have to teach Johnny Hunt-n-Peck and Susie Download-em-All that is not necessarily a more secure site than respectableshoes.

Of course, ejecting TLDs at this late date would merely launch a gajillion WWF-style trademark lawsuits. Reshuffling the .ca TLD would do the same, if on a more polite scale.

Should the petition succeed, look forward to visiting If instead my idea gets traction, watch for my legal tussle with Joshua T. Andrzejewski.

Archived Comments

  1. andrew on 20070406.Friday:
    Why do we need "dot something" at all? Or "www." for that matter. Why can't we do it so that I can just type "hoshq" into the address bar and get my website? It would seem to be a lot easier, make a lot more sense.
  2. Dave on 20070406.Friday:
    I agree. I explain the inner workings of URLs and TLDs in one of my courses, but I can't help but think as I do that TLDs are just one more complication we don't need in our lives.
  3. Geof Harries on 20070406.Friday:
    But how would you determine which domain is the correct one? For instance, the content of is much different than
  4. Dave on 20070407.Saturday:
    I don't think there's any perfect answer to that. looks to be a domain name squatter, and there's no reason to believe the same couldn't happen for a dotless northwestel domain. The yukon domain is another good example. The .net is owned by Polarcom (inherited by Internet Yukon via SSI), while the .com and .org names are held by squatters in Florida and Nevada, respectively. At least there'd be a reduction of one or two squatters in a dotless world.
  5. Geof Harries on 20070407.Saturday:
    I hadn't looked before I commented, but used to be home to an anti-George Bush, anti-American website run by some guy out of Dawson City.
  6. Dave on 20070407.Saturday:
    Looks like the owner at least renewed the registration through next March. I betcha NorthwesTel is watching that one like a hawk, waiting for it to expire. Entering just "northwestel" in the address bar of Firefox redirects to since that's the top listing in Google. Not sure about IE at the moment (I'm on Linux). Opera redirects to though. I think browsers will eventually render TLDs moot, even if ICANN keeps adding things like .museum and .cat to the list.