With the Internet growing rapidly over the years, the number of generic top-level domains (gTLDs) has increased from just a handful to about twenty, with many more proposed or in planning. Some, such as .com and .edu, have seen widespread adoption and are a useful contribution to the Internet. Others haven’t been quite as lucky. You could say they have flopped.
From domain extensions that never made it past the planning table, to those that make little sense at all, there are probably more flops than successes. Here are five of the worst TLD flops in Internet history (in no specific order).
The .xxx TLD was first proposed by ICANN as a catch-all extension for adult content. Proponents argue that the name would provide a virtual red light district, keeping the likes of 2 Girls 1 Cup and Girls Gone Wild isolated to one place. This, they claim, would make those raunchy Paris Hilton videos easier for schools, parents, and workplaces to block.
ICANN came close to approving the domain in 2005, but, in light of pressure from conservative groups and other organizations, decided not to allow the extension. There was worry within the agency that creating the extension would establish ICANN as an Internet content regulator, a role it wasn’t willing to assume. Two more attempts to establish .xxx were made in 2006 and 2007 by a third party, but were also shot down.
We all enjoy a trip to the museum now and then, but these educational venues are simply not popular enough to warrant their own domain extension. With museum websites spread out across dozens of TLDs including .com, .org, and country-code extensions like .uk, the introduction of.museum in 2001 made affairs even more confusing.
To make things worse, it is also one of the longest TLDs ever created and probably one of the most commonly misspelled. Domain extensions were created to make navigating the web easier, not harder.
A lengthy application process and austere usage restrictions have further limited adoption. Only a legitimate museum can register the name for a yearly fee of $100. An online index of .museum names reveals that less than 600 are registered. Many of these do not contain a website, but rather redirect to a URL on a more widely known extension.
Introduced in 2001 as an alternative to .com, .info is a failure for a number of reasons. Though it is one of the most popular TLDs with 5.2 million registrations, its small renewal fee has made it a haven for the worst of the worst – spam, phishing, and malware. According to a 2007 report issued by McAfee, 7.5% of the sites on the .info TLD contain dangerous or unwanted content.
Because of its bad reputation, the name has received almost no recognition from the Internet community. No website on a .info domain is taken seriously by anyone. And considering the goal of most sites is to provide information to begin with, isn’t “.info” a bit redundant?
One of the oldest TLDs, .web is a failure because despite nearly 15 years of attempts, the domain has never been accepted into the official root DNS and is thus unreachable.
It was created by in 1995 by Jon Postel, one of the architects of the early Web, as an alternative to .com. Since then, multiple attempts have been made to have it added to the root DNS, all of which have failed.
Many would agree that the moniker “.web” is redundant and serves no purpose. Regardless of this, the .web registry could finally have its day in 2010, when ICANN will introduce a much more lenient process for approving new TLDs.
Launched in 2002, .aero was created for companies and individuals in the aviation industry. It never quite took off, however, ending up somewhere between the hangar and the runway for a number of reasons.
Perhaps the names biggest failure is appearing too late. By the time it was introduced in 2002, nearly all airlines had an established web presence. No air travel firm in their right mind then or now would give up a well-known .com or other domain to be an early adopter of .aero. Had it appeared when the Web was just getting started, the TLD might have seen greater adoption.
Finally, a spelling issue has hampered North American adoption of the TLD. In Europe people fly on an “aeroplane,” but in the United States and Canada, “airplane” is the preferred spelling. In these countries, “aero” risks being misspelled as “airo.” Given that the American airline industry is the largest in the world and carries 41% of the world’s scheduled passengers, “.air” would have been a better (and shorter) alternative for the extension. Simply put, .aero arrived too late at the wrong gate for the wrong flight.
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About the author:
Daniel Foster is a technology blogger and photography enthusiast. In addition to developing websites, he operates his own computer blog, PC Fastlane.