ice has been broken. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
or ICANN has proposed seven new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs). [For
the full story, see Wallace Koehler's "ICANN and the New 'Magnificent Seven'"
Searcher, vol. 9, no. 2, February, 2001, or http://www.infotoday.com/searcher/feb01/koehler.htm.]
While not quite yet a reality while awaiting U.S. Commerce Department approval,
the new gTLDs represent an interesting mix of the general to the specific.
The seven — .aero, .biz, .coop, .info, .museum, .name, and .pro
cover general business (.biz, .info) and specific business (.aero,
.coop) classification , as well as professional (.pro), individual
(.name), and a gTLD for a specific non-profit sector (.museum).
In a recent Searcher
editorial, Barbara Quint asks the interesting question: "So will someone
tell me why none of our beloved library associations, no library consortia,
no major library vendor, no large library, nor — apparently — any individual
librarian proposed a 'dot-lib' gTLD?" ["Searcher's Voice: Dot-Lib," Searcher,
vol. 9, no. 2, February 2001, http://www.infotoday.com/searcher/feb01/voice.htm].
It should be pointed
out first, that the "dot-lib" idea is not exactly new. While not a proposed
gTLD, Synopsys [http://www.synopsys.com]
has developed .lib as part of its submicron library support product,
Liberty. As a matter of fact,
.lib already identifies libraries,
usually as a 3LD (third-level domain) in many ccTLDs (country code TLDs)
like .lib.ca.us and .lib.ok.us [for example, http://sfpl.lib.ca.us/
for the San Francisco Public Library, and http://www.pioneer.lib.ok.us/
for the Pioneer Library System]. And Susanne Calpestri of the University
of California, Berkeley, has proposed the .lib designation for Web
sites that meet standards of or qualify as "libraries."
Still to paraphrase
Barbara, if museums have their own gTLD, why not libraries? That's simple
enough, but reaching that goal may be a bit more complex. First, let us
assume that the most recent ICANN model to select new gTLDs will hold up.
In the last round, a substantial number of registrars, ISPs, and other
parties proposed all kinds of potential TLDs [for the list see the ICANN
We can expect a similar response next time around. Each of the proposing
agencies was required to post a $50,000 fee for the privilege of proposing,
which probably explains why no librarian or individual library sought to
.lib in round one.
Second, it is still
not certain that the process will prove successful. ICANN is under challenge
from a number of fronts and the "Icannoclasts" could win at least some
of the battles. And finally, ICANN exists at the pleasure of the U.S. Department
of Commerce, which in the end must ratify its decisions. Who knows what
USDOC will do?
That said, I think
it's a good idea for libraries to support the .lib gTLD.
Who then should
administer it? ALA (American Library Association)? IFLA (International
Federation of Library Associations and Institutions)? FID (International
Federation for Information and Documentation)? Some other library association
or consortium of associations? I don't think any single national library
association should try to own .lib for the simple reason that the
gTLDs have lost most if not all of the regional cachet they once had. They
are now accepted as truly global.
The dot-lib gTLD
should be used to designate libraries anywhere. To that end, I suggest
that .lib should be held by and administered by an international
body. Perhaps international library associations could form a consortium
to propose and if successful manage the .lib gTLD. If the Museum
Domain Management Association can manage .museum, why couldn't a "Library
Domain Management Association" do the same for .lib?
I have no idea
when ICANN will accept applications for a second round of new gTLDs. I
think, however, that it would be wise to begin to build the momentum among
librarians, libraries, and library associations to establish a modus
vivendi, to build consensus, and to develop a gTLD proposal for .lib.
|A Good Idea?
We received several
letters and comments in response to the February 2001 editorial's suggestion
that the time may have arrived for the Internet and its Web to see a "dot-lib"
generic top-level domain go into play. One response came from as far away
as Rome, Italy. Another came from the Washington, DC, Beltway region. Natural
enough for the elite readers of Searcher magazine — top-of-the-line
information professionals all — both responses took a rolled-up-shirt-sleeve,
So we asked Wallace
Koehler, our resident expert on all matters concerning domain names, to
give us an assessment of what such an effort might require. As you can
see, money would be part of it. He suggests — and we and respondents agree
— that the library associations seem the most appropriate candidates for
proposing this new change.
Mr. Koehler, however,
seems to limit the concept to identifying libraries and their Web productions
worldwide. While I agree wholeheartedly that this alone would be a major
contribution, I think we should expand our view of the "dot-lib" functionality.
The way things are going with expansion of domain name categories, many
outfits now have and more will be getting multiple listings that link back
to the main site. I believe the "dot-lib" could extend to any URL that
librarians have designated as possessing information of "library-quality."
It could serve as a mark of approval. Search engines could allow users
to specify searches of URLs with the "dot-lib" tag first and move to targets
that would transform into "dot-coms," "dot-orgs," "dot-govs," "dot-edus"
or whatever. Then, if no library-quality sites were found, the search engines
could back off and broaden to full database searches. Remember, the registrar
usually gets paid for granting domain names, which should provide a steady
income to defray operating costs and maybe even make some profit.
It would give our
profession the opportunity to broaden the impact of our professional judgment
to serve the worldwide population of Web users. When we categorize Web
sources for clients, instead of serving only a few hundred people in a
corporation or a few thousand in a university community or even a million
or two in a large metropolitan public library, our professional judgment
could enrich the searching experience of millions upon millions of Web
Ready? Set? GO!
e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.