ICANN’s Plan to Privatize the English Language: Dot Gay

A friend of mine, Ray King, is one of the applicants for .Gay — and he just wrote:

The current issue is whether a small group of the Internet elite understand the problems with delegating a single company as the gatekeeper and censor for the global “gay community,” and if a company that has objected to .lgbt can still be considered credible community representatives. I welcome your comments and debate on this topic as a productive means of creating a prideful and empowering .gay TLD, and encourage those with opinions to weigh in on ICANN’s public forum, where your voice is most effective.

Very few people understand the implications of what privatizing part of the English Language means, but Ray raises some very good points. In my opinion ICANN’s entire plan is completely misguided. No one company should be allowed to dictate what is or is not a valid “gay” domain, or for that matter a valid domain that has anything to do with the English Language. The English Language belongs to its speakers, not a private corporation.

ICANN’s attempt to privatize the English Language will probably do a great deal of harm to English as “lingua franca”. If a private company is allowed to dictate what a gay domain is, a book domain is, an app domain, a bank domain or a health domain, … and that domain has up to now been an English word, then that word will lose it’s meaning.

Let me give you an example: When Facebook started, it was apparently called THEFacebook. I guess the thinking was in part because the term “facebook” was actually a jargon term used by college students at many colleges to refer to a student directory which included a picture of every student — in other words: it was a slang term (not yet language, but in such widespread use that it was almost a part of the language; and this term was quite well known in many college communities).

Today, Facebook is a brand name. When people talk about a/the “facebook”, they mean the website developed by Mark Zuckerberg and his team, and now the private company which manages that website, a very large company, a company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. “Facebook” was almost a word, but now it has been privatized.

ICANN’s plan is to do pretty much the same thing with many English words — not odd terms like “facebook”, but regular everyday words like “book”, “music”, “song”, “health”, “baby”, … and also “gay”. If ICANN gets its way, then speakers of English will be disenfranchised of significant parts of the language they have spoken for most of their lives.

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