I’ve always been mystified by ICANN (the “Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers”), the US non-profit corporation that manages the internet. Somehow, and without governmental authority, ICANN has gotten users around the world to accept as authoritative its decisions on internet protocols and, in particular, “generic Top Level Domains,” or “gTLDs” — the familiar .com, .org, and .edu designations at the end of internet addresses. A good example of spontaneous ordering, I guess.
Anyway, this spring, ICANN invited proposals for new gTLDs. The organization is now taking public comments. Given the importance of religion on the web, it’s not surprising that many of the proposed new gTLDs involve religion, and that some of them are causing controversy. For example, the Vatican has requested that it receive a new gTLD, “.catholic.” Among the objectors to this proposal is Saudi Arabia, which points out that other Christian communions, for example, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, also refer to themselves as “Catholic”; the designation would thus create confusion. Actually, Saudi Arabia has objected generally to new gTLDs that name particular religions – for example, “.islam,” – on the ground that no one entity should be able to claim the internet identity for an entire religion. It’s an interesting point. ICANN will accept comments on proposed gTLDs until September 26. (H/t: Christianity Today).