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Jewish World Review Feb. 14, 2002 / 3 Adar 5762

David Weinberger

David Weinberger
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http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- [Dan Gillmor wrote a column on Google's effects on domains a few weeks ago which is unfortunately unable because his newspaper "reorganized" the site. Dan argued that getting a unique domain name no longer matters so much since you can find just about any site just but searching at Google The Good. This recalled an article on a similar topic I've had sitting around for a while.]

The year is 2090. It's 60 years since Arnold Schwarzenegger cinched his support belt one notch tighter, added 50 pounds to the barbell, pushed up ... and exploded, spewing steroids, formaldehyde and Viagra all over the Hollywood Gym. His site, www.schwarzenegger.com, has been maintained by his estate ever since. There hasn't been any new content added since the year 2047 and it's now mainly consulted by historians studying Arnhold's role in the Richard Simmons presidency. But now Arnold's estranged great-granddaughter has filed suit with 65 other of Arnold's descendants who feel they have a legitimate claim on schwarzenegger.com. The movement spreads among the progeny of other first generation web site name grabbers. "No Dots for the Dead!" becomes an international rallying cry. Their opponents begin to sport bumperstickers that say "Sure you can have my dot-com name...when you pry it from my cold dead fingers" on their levitating personal scooters ... because, um, Flubber turned out to be real.

I'm facing a version of this problem right now. I own www.weinberger.org. (Weinberger.com was taken by a company that mass-registers surnames.) There are lots of other Weinbergers in the world - If I use Google to look for myself, I find a rabbi in Israel, a car dealer in California, and a kid who writes record reviews, all on the first page of the results. So, as the sole owner of weinberger.org, when I'm dead and gone, which of my kids should I leave the Weinberger family org to, assuming I agree to be an "org donor"? And which of their kids, lo unto the many generations will inherit ... and which ones will be frozen out? And how about the poor car dealer's kids who'll never have a chance at inheriting their-name.org?

This question has been resolved in a hardheaded way in the business world. American Airlines owns aa.com, but everyone from Alcoholics Anonymous to Aukland Adventures would probably like to own it. The victory goes to the person who applied earliest or can afford to buy it from the person who did ... with trademark-owners trumping everyone. So what do the losers do? They register a lame variant such as "aa-Aukland.com" or "alcoholics- anonymous.org" that you might guess at after five wrong tries.

And adding new extensions besides .com and .org and the others, as has been done, doesn't really help matters. The fact is that there are lots more people than meaningful web site names, and it's only going to get worse as the generations increase.

So, the vast majority of us are going to be frozen out. You'll locate sites by looking up our name on some web directory, which is how we already do it with Google. On the other hand, those of us who grabbed our names early are going to the new royalty. "Hello, I'm David Weinberger, of the .org weinbergers." Ah, it's gonna be sweet.



JWR contributor David Weinberger writes and speaks about the Web's effect on business and culture. The co-author of the national best-seller, The Cluetrain Manifesto, , which InformationWeek called "The most important business book since [Tom Peters'] In Search of Excellence," his work appears regularly some of the technology industry's most important publications. He is the publisher of The Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization. Comment by clicking here.

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11/17/01: Pinpoint hatred
10/08/01: My bumpersticker
10/01/01: Generation Alpha

© 2001, David Weinberger