The Domain Name is the Medium

If you are “old school“, you might type in thenewyorktimes.com to visit “The New York Times”. It wouldn’t matter much, because that domain name also belongs to the company that publishes “The New York Times” — and so does newyorktimes.com, nyt.com, and many others, too. All of these strings are probably “protected” by trademarks the company “owns” (see also what I said about ownership in my previous post). If you have acquired a little more literacy skills than utter newbies, then you might know that the domain name the company actually uses (to publish their “newspaper articles”) is nytimes.com (note that the company uses different domain names to publish corporate / company information). Companies often register many trademarks and domain names — The New York Times Company apparently has also registered “mytimes.com” (these are often referred to as “typos”, but one might wonder whether a newspaper publisher in Myanmar might think The New York Times Company might be infringing on their trademark). There are many legal battles about such strings every day, and there is still very much and widespread confusion regarding the topic.

Generally people have a deep gut feeling that companies should not “own” the natural language people speak “naturally“, but tell that to the “owners” of soap.com — which they acquired for somewhat more than a song (and by the way, the same owners have also acquired song — “dot song“). ICANN’s “new generic top level domain” (ngtld) rollout has been very controversial, and there will probably continue to be very much and widespread confusion regarding domain names for many years to come.

Few people are aware of the ownership relationships in the media they use on a daily basis. My guess is that significantly less than 1% are aware that when they visit nytimes.com “Alphabet” — the company that used to be known as “Google” — is informed which computer has connected to which article, and that information is probably used to inform Google’s algorithms about which ads to show. In that sense, Google sort of “owns” the New York Times, even though this ownership relationship is nowhere transparent on any document or piece of paper.

Most Fortune 500 corporations have huge portfolios of domain names. Google is itself very much in the domain name business. When people say that domain names don’t work, they apparently overlook the simple fact that the Internet’s most successful companies realize that they do work. Extremely well. So well that they will bet the farm on them. They understand that the domain name is the medium.

Try to imagine an Internet where that were not the case. Oh, wait — actually that appears to be quite easy: Just look at your so-called “smartphone”. I bet they called it smart not because smart people use it, but rather because smart companies make them to spy on dummies! 😉

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