Tag Archives: internet

On .name and third-level domains

And, we’re back! After being off-line for several weeks, this site is now live again! I can’t imagine you missed it.

Here’s what happened. Let’s start at the beginning. In 2003, ICANN added .name to the list of top-level domains (like .com, .edu, etc.). The idea is that individuals would use it for personal sites and email addresses. You can still do this, but (in case you haven’t noticed), it’s not very popular, and most domain name registrars don’t even sell .name addresses.

I purchased harlan.harris.name in 2003. Unlike .com addresses, you don’t generally buy second-level domains in .name, you buy third-level domains. (.name is the top-level domain, harris.name is the second-level domain, which you can’t buy, and harlan.harris.name is the third-level domain.) A cool feature is that if you buy a.b.name, you can get the email address a@b.name, not something like me@a.b.name (although you can set that up too). So my email address has been harlan@harris.name for ten years.

Fast forward to April, 2013. I notice that my personal web site (where you are now) has been replaced by a generic sales screen. You know, with a bunch of random keywords, a stock photo, and “buy this domain!” in big red print. Not good. At first I thought that my WordPress site (which hosts this blog) had gotten hacked, but no such luck. It turns out to be a convoluted mess of broken technology and confused customer support reps. The fortunate thing is that I don’t use this site extensively, and the problem with the web forwarding didn’t seem to affect my email address forwarding, so I didn’t lose any email.

The simplified version of what happened is that the company I bought the domain from in 2003, PersonalNames, merged with a company called Dotster a year or two ago. They presumably merged their technical systems together, which makes sense. But they for some reason failed to properly set up a system for third-level .name domain administration. And so my account failed to get properly transferred into their systems, and they stopped sending me notices about problems.

Although I still technically owned harlan.harris.name, I could no longer log in and administer it, and the redirection to this web site (at another company, HostGator) was reset at some point for still-unknown reasons.

It took a week and a dozen email messages and several hours on the phone for Dotster to figure out that yes, they owned this domain, but no, they didn’t have the technical chops to administer it.

I then set up an account with another company, eNom (nom, nom…), that does support third-level .name domains. Transferring the domain took another week and three attempts, due to errors on both sides. Add 48 hours for DNS forwarding to propagate around the Internet, and I’m finally back online yesterday!

Except that although my email forwarding still works, I don’t yet have control over that, because Dotster seemingly neglected to transfer email forwarding rights at the same time as the rest of the domain. So if you need me tomorrow, I’ll be back on the phone with tech support.

Sad Rain

Online publishing, micropayments, and warm fuzzy feelings

The problem of how to monetize online publishing, particularly news publishing,  is neither new nor all that surprising. But the ongoing lack of a solution is steadily eating into news organizations across the country. Yesterday, the Times announced it was going to buy out or lay off 8% of its newsroom staff, despite being the best national newspaper in the country and probably the one making the best use of Internet technologies. (Their interactive graphics are some of the best around.) How can newspapers make money on the web? Ad revenue is inadequate, and people won’t generally pay for content. This post from a journalism blog at Harvard discusses why micropayments will never work:

Apple can charge for music because it controls access to the songs from all the major record labels. Phone companies and cable companies can charge usurious rates for text messaging and Internet because they have little or no real competition. How does any of that apply to newspapers? … Newspapers have spent the past 100 years or so with a stranglehold on both the tools of mass publishing and the means of distribution, and much of what has happened to them over the past decade is a result of them losing both of those things. The unfortunate reality is that even the best micropayment system is not going to recreate that system of artificial scarcity and control…

But I think there’s a way that might work, a way that leverages human psychology. People like to feel like they’re in control, and they like to feel like they have a voice in the system. Micropayment systems that require you to pay 10 cents to read an article, based on a headline or a link, or subscription systems that take your money and give you something you can get elsewhere for free, just make you resentful. So instead, design the system so that you associate feeling good about what you have just read with giving money to the people who produced the content. Here’s how it might work.

If I decide I want to read content from a consortium of providers (say, anything owned by The New York Times Company, or Time-Warner, or Seed Media Group, or a group of publishers that set up their own consortium), I set up an account, pay my $50/year, and get access. If I like a piece of content (article, podcast, interactive graphic, whatever), I click the “Tip the Author(s)” button, and a chunk of my $50, maybe 10 cents, gets redirected to the actual people creating the content I actually like (not just start to read). If I don’t use up my $50 for the year, the balance just gets split internally by the consortium. This way, readers have a feeling of control and an association of paying with pleasure, providers get cash, and the best providers get the most cash.

Information management for this would be straightforward, and it would (I think) work. People like to tip for good service. Let them tip for informative, well-reported news.