What do we, and what should we do when people type single words in the URL bar?
ICANN is opening up the registration of new gTLDs (generic TLDs, like .com, .info, .museum etc.). Applications open in 2012, and they expect to create thousands of them over the next few years. In general, I think this is a good thing. It will make many more naming possibilities available, and drive down domain prices. However, there is one policy question we need to consider.
Let’s say I’m the large corporation FooBar Corp, and I apply for and receive the top-level domain .foobar, which I plan to use for websites connected to my company. The New gTLD Applicant Guidebook is 352 pages, so I haven’t read it all, but section 126.96.36.199 gives the permitted DNS record types for that entry in the root zone. It specifically allows SOA, NS, DS and DNSSEC-related records, and then says:
An applicant wishing to place any other record types into its TLD zone should describe in detail its proposal in the registry services section of the application. This will be evaluated and could result in an extended evaluation to determine whether the service would create a risk of a meaningful adverse impact on security or stability of the DNS.
So here’s the big question: could FooBar Corp set up an A record for “foobar”? And, if so, should web browsers take users to that site when “foobar” is typed in the URL bar?
I can see how companies would love it if users who typed e.g. “nike” into their URL bar automatically got taken to an official Nike website, instead of doing a search for “nike” using the user’s default search engine. But I’m not certain that this is what we actually want to happen, particularly for non-trademarks. Do we let someone spend $185,000 (the application fee) and buy all URL bar searches for the word “car”? Or “mortgage”? I think it’s at least questionable whether that is in the best interests of users.
Someone who knows: what exactly do we do now? I think we do a DNS lookup and, if it fails, do a search. So perhaps we would go to the A record for “foobar”. Is that what we want?
If we decide we should change Firefox’s behaviour, we would ideally do it before applications start, so applicants can’t claim they weren’t warned. So it’s important we discuss this now.