This time last year The Pope was warning the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to not let religion into the domain name system, with the Vatican arguing that suggested domains such as .catholic and .islam would provoke bitter disputes. New generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) have always caused controversy and are never a straightforward shoe-in, the ongoing saga over whether .xxx will or won't be accepted as a one size fits all sex domain is proof of that. However, when you throw religion into the domain mix things start getting really problematical, which should come as no surprise to any history student who knows that half the world's wars have had a religious theme at their core.
The Vatican appears to have taken the position that bringing in religious-based gTLDs would inevitably spark something of a holy domain war in which ICANN would be forced to legitimise one group or others claim over representing a religious creed online.
Things look set to hot up this week as ICANN meets in Nairobi on Friday to debate and ultimately decide whether a bunch of new gTLDs should be given approval. While much of the media is focusing on the case of the .xxx domain, which lost approval in an appeal case back in 2007, or perhaps the equally controversial .gay domain, it should not be overlooked that the question of whether .God will get tentative approval is also up for debate.
So far the Vatican has been remarkably quiet this year on the matter, which I find slightly surprising given the arguments of the past. Surely if there were worries over groups being given some kind of right to represent individual religions online the bigger picture of who represents God will be a much bloodier battle?
Related Article:Pope Benedict XVI gives Internet his blessing
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ICANN is foolhardy for even entertaining the expansion of the TLD system. They will surely find new gTLD's to be a huge Pandora's Box they will wish they never opened. The situation is fine just the way it is and Jon Postel would have surely agreed.
Sure, some will cry that there is a limited number of domains and that more need to be opened up. I would remind them of Wil Roger's acute observation that they stopped making land a while back yet the world seems to have gotten along nicely with the limited supply in existence.
It is my hope that Rod Beckstom and his friends are smart enough to figure this out before doing any permanent damage to what is clearly a fragile ecosystem.