How ICANN manipulates natural language development

ICANN is the organization that governs “top-level domains” on the Internet / world-wide web. Years ago, I asked Esther Dyson, its founding CEO, whether she thought there could ever be 2 Internets / world-wide webs (after all, Alexandria was not the world’s only library ;) ). She and I agreed that it simply doesn’t see to “make sense”… (much in the same way that it doesn’t make sense for land-line phones to be separated from mobile phones).

Yet a significant change is afoot at ICANN — and that change may indeed undermine the unified world-wide web.

Up to this point in time — with some rather minor exceptions — top-level domains have been merely organizations (and not concepts). The exceptions have all been miserable failures: Nobody I know has ever recommended a .jobs, .travel or .museum website to me. I bet that the reason why this is so is simply because anyone who creates a website refuses to accept any dictatorial overlords — which is quite simply put pretty much exactly what these sponsored domain name organizations are.

The change ICANN is proposing will essentially open up such dictator-domains to a free-for all bidding war — and the likely winners will probably be limited to the world’s very largest multinational corporations. For example:

  • Amazon (the company) may soon be the dictator of .SONG

  • Google (the company) may soon be the dictator of .MAIL

  • “Goose Fest, LLC” may soon be the dictator of .HEALTH

If one single organization is allowed to dictate what qualifies as a valid use of commonly used words (such as “song”, “mail” and/or “health”), then that may significantly change how people think about natural language.

Up until now, people have been free to use whatever words they care to use, and however they decide to use them. Different dictionaries included different words, with different meanings, and the meaning of words could vary from one context to the next. There was no such thing as “Entartete Kunst” with respect to freedom of expression in most democratic societies… — and this was also the case with respect to the Domain Name System (for example: and are alternative interpretations of the concept “movies”). The multitude of alternative interpretations of the same string allows for something like “free-market competition” to function as an “invisible hand” guiding the most relevant information to the most appropriate websites.

If we allow ICANN to go through with its plans, then that would turn against such democratic ethics and towards dictatorship. To me, this seems like a horrible idea.

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