An Internet Domain Naming Alternative

Every page that composes the World Wide Web is identified by a web address — technically known as a uniform resource locator (URL) — such as "https://www.example.com/index.html". A critical part of the address, in this instance "www.example.com", is known as the domain name. A domain name has several levels: The top-level domain (TLD), in this instance "com", is an abbreviation that usually indicates the type of domain name, in this instance a commercial one. It can instead indicate the country of the domain name; for instance, "www.example.uk" tells us that this particular domain name is controlled by the United Kingdom.

The second level domain, in our first instance "example.com", identifies its company or organization. If you are the head of the marketing department of a new US-based commercial company, Syzygyky, you would be wise to register the domain name "syzygyky.com". If your company were instead located in Great Britain, you might register the domain name "syzygyky.co.uk".

Third-level domains, for instance "www.example.com", are quite common. The first part of that is known as a subdomain, and is equivalent to a functional subsystem of the domain. For instance, if your company is operating a web server, a mail server, and an FTP fileserver, then you could locate them on three separate subdomains, such as "www.example.com", "mail.example.com", and "ftp.example.com", respectively. Subdomains can be created for other special needs, such as "forum.example.com". You can be creative with their uses and names, but there are some technical limitations: A full domain name — all three parts, including the TLD — cannot exceed 26 characters. Also, it cannot contain any underscore characters, but the second part ("example"), which is chosen by the organization registering it, may contain hyphens.

Illogical Imperfections

Although the domain name convention currently in use worldwide has served us well, there are some flaws in the system, as is to be expected of anything developed decades ago when most people had never even heard of the Internet and the future demands on it could not have been fully foreseen. This article does not and cannot hope to detail all of the areas of possible improvement, but at least a few flaws should be mentioned, and are best illustrated by example.

As the marketing head of the company Syzygyky, you obviously would register the domain name "syzygyky.com". If your company were an Internet service provider (ISP) or other company focused on the infrastructure and operations of the Internet, then you might instead register "syzygyky.net". But most people assume that any US commercial company has a "com" domain name as their primary one, even for so-called "network" companies. Nonprofit organizations typically choose "org". If you were to register only the "com" version, wouldn't you also want to register all the other possibilities, if only to prevent anyone else from doing so (such as a rival company, a legal adversary, or an activist group intent upon (ab)using any domain names similar to yours)? In the early decades of the Web, commercial companies scrambled to secure all possible domain names containing their company name. These multiple registrations had to be scrupulously monitored and renewed to avoid falling into the hands of anyone else. Moreover, the registration costs accumulated with every passing year, and increased every time a new TLD was introduced.

Since the beginning of widespread web use, countries other than the United States have complained that the current domain naming scheme is US centric. Sometimes their major corporations have chosen not to use as their primary domain name any one that includes the country's two-letter TLD — since those domain names are longer and less elegant. But if they instead choose a "com" domain name and later incur the wrath of the US federal government, the company might be at risk of losing the domain name most associated with their company, thereby requiring them to change all of their marketing material and try to train their customers to always think of their newly-chosen domain name for going to the company's website.

Logical Labeling

Naturally, I realize that any proposed alternative system would, at this point, never be implemented — if only because of the tremendous costs in altering the countless domain name servers, web pages, and software that assume the current naming scheme. Nonetheless, it can be interesting to consider the possibilities.

The naming scheme proposed in this article would do away with top-level domains. Instead, your company, Syzygyky, would have a single domain name, say, "web.syzygyky". This alternative would allow every organization to purchase only one domain name and not waste any resources trying to purchase those of multiple countries. Potential customers, upon hearing the name of the company, would never be left wondering as to whether any country TLD would need to be appended to arrive at the company's website. It risk of name collisions would likely be minimal, because nowadays any corporation of significant size will secure the rights to their corresponding domain names in all countries of consequence.

Taking the idea further, we could get rid of all of the US-specific TLD's, such as "com", "net", "academy", "accountant", "accountants", and the seemingly hundreds of others. If you wanted to add a third-level domain, then the logical location would be immediately after the company name, for instance, "web.syzygyky.ftp". This approach has the added advantage that when reading from left to right (the standard direction in most human languages), it begins with the most general part ("web") and becomes more specific with each subsequent part. Furthermore, this order seamlessly flows into any appended directory name(s) and any file name, e.g., "web.syzygyky.ftp/reports/2024/annual_report.pdf".

More specifically, national and provincial governments could have very concise and elegant domain names. For instance, the United States government could use "web.us" and Great Britain could use "web.uk". The American state of Texas (not yet its own country…) could use "web.us.tx" and the province of Ontario, Canada could use "web.ca.on".

So there you have it — one possible alternative naming scheme that is cleaner, more logical, and will likely never be utilized. But we can dream.

Copyright © 2024 Michael J. Ross. All rights reserved.
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