OMGWTF: Google Could Spend $10 Million On .LOL Domains

Textspeak continues to conquer all forms of communication and according to Owen Thomas in Business Insider, Google wants to take control of a new family of Internet addresses, .lol.

Vint Cerf, an inventor of key Internet technologies and Google's chief Internet evangelist, announced in a blog post that Google was applying to run the new top-level domain—what will be an equivalent to .com, .net, .biz, and other so-called top-level domains.

It's also seeking .google, .docs, and .youtube, in an effort to protect its brands and secure prime Internet real estate for properties like Google Docs.

Obviously, .lol has comedic potential—a bonus for a company that, aside from its hilarious annual April Fool's jokes, isn't known for its sense of humor. But at what price? Running a top-level domain isn't like registering a regular domain name like Google.com. The application fee alone is $185,000.

Domain-name expert Phil Lodico tells Bloomberg that Google could end up spending $1 million a year to operate .lol over the course of a 10-year contract.

Shareholders to GOOG: OMGWTF.

- As seen in Business Insider
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Google, Facebook, And Twitter Will Be The Only Winners In The Coming Domain-Name Disaster

Today begins one of the greatest disasters in the history of the Internet: the introduction of new top-level domain names, or "strings," that come at the end of Web addresses, according to Owen Thomas at Business Insider.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, which oversees the whole domain-name system, is unveiling all the applications it's received at a press event in London on June 13.

Paul Sloan at CNET calls it "the greatest landgrab in Internet history." Everyone from Google to Go Daddy is applying for new strings like ".lol" and ".casa." Brands like BMW and Canon are angling to secure ".bmw" and ".canon," which will let them run websites that don't end in ".com."

That's the problem with this whole scheme.

After years of TV and radio ads touting Web addresses, consumers are somewhat familiar with strings like ".com" and ".net." Those pretty much define Web addresses in the popular imagination.

If you're a startup-founding hipster in Brooklyn or San Francisco's Mission District, you might just be a connoisseur of ".me" or ".ly." But as Bit.ly has found out, those are a bit too precious for most people—the Web-address shortening service had to get the slightly longer "bitly.com" just to be safe.

So now we're expecting people to understand that, say, "cars.bmw" is some kind of thing you can type into a Web browser and get to BMW's website?

Good luck with that. All this is going to accomplish is to pour a lot of money into ICANN's hands—new top-level domains cost as much as $185,000 to start up—and confuse the heck out of consumers.

Marketing chiefs everywhere are going to be in a panic trying to figure out if they need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to register their brand name as a string, just to keep it out of mischief-makers' hands. Outside of a few global brands, most won't be able to afford that kind of expense.

Meanwhile, Google, Facebook, and Twitter are going to make out like bandits. Why? Because anything that makes Web addresses even more confusing than they already are drives people to type things into a search box.

Or they head to easy-to-find Web presences like a Facebook page or a Twitter account.

Overstock.com learned this to its dismay when it tried to rebrand as "O.co." (That's not one of the new strings—it's Colombia's country domain name, used by some companies looking for an alternative to ".com.")

The online retailer ran a bunch of TV ads touting its rebranding. It even secured naming rights to a sports stadium in Oakland, Calif.

But consumers didn't get it. They typed in "o.com" or other variations into their browser.

Now Overstock.com has pulled back and is only using "O.co" internationally, where "Overstock" is a less-useful brand name.

If Overstock couldn't make it happen here with a huge TV push, do you really think marketers are going to be able to make these new names stick?

We leave you with these thoughts from Harper's about an earlier land grab, the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889:

The development of Oklahoma will in this respect resemble the settlement of Kansas, where it was found that the real settlers were in many instances men with some means, who came to take up the claims of those whom drought and mortgages and hard times had driven to the wall. Hundreds of people who were starved out of Kansas were among the first to enter Oklahoma with the intention of retrieving their scattered fortunes; yet as they went into Oklahoma with no more resources they had carried into central and western Kansas, it is not unlikely that the ultimate result will be the same. Men who have gone into Oklahoma and obtained quarter sections of land on the fertile parts of the river-bottoms, with the intention of pasturing stock on the sandy uplands, which are adapted for nothing better than grazing, stand a fair chance of keeping the mortgage company from the door, as, from present indications, it is not probable that the uplands will be disturbed for many years to come.

Good luck in the uplands, domain settlers.

- As seen in Business Insider
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Trolls: How nasty nameless commentators are poisoning discourse on the Web

Once thought to be harmless, anonymous online provocateurs have become a scourge to virtual communities in recent years. Does it have to be this way?

What are trolls?
They’re the anonymous provocateurs who flood the internet with inflammatory insults, threats, and profanity. The term originates from the fishing technique of dragging a baited hook behind a moving boat; someone who uses offensive language to provoke a response is said to be "trolling." The practice has existed since the earliest days of the Internet, and was long considered to be harmless, if annoying. But in recent years, trolls have become a scourge. Reasoned political discussion is often so overwhelmed by venomous, tit-for-tat name-calling that websites have to shut down their comment boards, as hundreds and even thousands of invective-filled responses pour in. On sites across the internet, liberals are regularly slammed as "libtards" and conservatives as "teabaggers"; comparisons to Auschwitz, Hitler, and the Nazis run rampant. Letting people comment about a racial controversy like the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case, said Slate.com political reporter David Weigel, has become the equivalent of "putting out a freshly baked pie on the windowsill, smack dab in the middle of Racistville."

What motivates these people?
Trolling gives its anonymous practitioners the catharsis of venting forbidden feelings and ideas without suffering any consequences. On the Internet, you can cuss out a stranger with even more vigor and impunity than you can a bad driver from the safety of your own car. "The enjoyment comes from finding a context in which you can let go, take a moral vacation," says psychologist Tom Postmes of Exeter University in the U.K. "Trolls aspire to violence, to the level of trouble they can cause in an environment." That prospect is particularly appealing to disaffected men in their late teens and 20s, but they are hardly alone: CNN tracked down a troll putting anti-Islamic screeds online and found that he was a 39-year-old father in Belgium. Rider University psychologist John Suler says an "online disinhibition effect" allows people who might never utter a hateful word in person to unleash withering vitriol on comment boards. Politics, race, gender, and religion all serve as lightning rods for troll rage, provoking such witty banter as "you n---er lover" and "you racist scumbag." But almost any topic can lead to outpourings of bile. When author Paul Carr recently wrote a column in The Wall Street Journal about quitting drinking without the help of Alcoholics Anonymous, he was greeted by an avalanche of furious commenters calling him a "narcissistic dry drunk" and predicting he would soon relapse and ruin his life.

Why have comments at all?
"Commenting is the secret sauce of social media," says Stanford social psychologist BJ Fogg. Creating a place for readers to debate issues makes them more likely to return, and that drives up website traffic and advertising revenue. Impassioned debate can be lucrative: The most engaged 1 percent of the audience on any given site can account for as much as 25 percent of its traffic. But editors who allow trolls to take over their comment sections risk undermining their sites in the long run. "Everyone is desperately chasing eyeballs as a way to increase advertising," said Rem Rieder, editor of American Journalism Review. "But rare is the advertiser who would want to be associated with the ugliness of many comment sections."

Could legislation deter the trolls?
Not in the U.S. While the U.K. has a law banning the posting of "grossly offensive" or "indecent, obscene, or menacing" messages online, our Constitution protects the right of trolls to be as rude or offensive as they like. In March, Arizona passed a bill banning the use of "any electronic or digital device" to "terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy, or offend a person." But legislators withdrew the bill after freedom-of-speech groups protested that it violated the First Amendment. UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh said the broad statute would have outlawed the use of such relatively tame insults as "this author is f---ing out of line."

So are sites powerless to halt personal attacks?
Some are calling for an end to online anonymity as a way to restrain trolls. Users of Facebook and Google+ must now use their real names and email addresses when creating accounts, and some comment boards are using software from Facebook that requires commenters to identify themselves. But a total ban on anonymity would be almost impossible to enforce. Far better, say Web activists, to let all comments stand, if only as a mirror of human depravity. "People are saying nasty, stupid things. So deal with it," says Rob Manuel, founder of digital community B3TA. "Shutting down free speech and stamping on people’s civil liberties is not a price worth paying." But more and more websites are taking a middle course by rigorously policing their own comment boards. "We’re still trying to find our way," says Paul Bass, editor of the New Haven, Conn., Independent, "between a free-flowing democratic discussion and a harsh, anonymous hate-fest."

Cleaning up after the trolls
The rise of the internet troll has created a booming new profession: comment moderator. Patrolling the endless reams of internet comments for abusive and incendiary language has become a massive task. HuffingtonPost.com, for example, which attracts more than 5 million comments every month, says each member of its in-house moderating team "reads the equivalent of Moby-Dick 18 times a month." Outside companies have spotted a business opportunity. Market leader ICUC Moderation Services generates annual revenues of some $10 million cleaning up comment boards for companies such as Starbucks, Chevron, and NPR. The job isn’t for everybody, says founder Keith Bilous, who employs some 200 moderators around the world. Many new hires quit within the first two weeks, and even after 10 years in the business Bilous says he still isn’t completely inured to the vile stuff he has to read. "Some Fridays you feel like you need to spend two hours in the shower, it’s so disgusting," he says.

- As seen in The Week
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