The way we experience art online may undergo drastic change starting in 2013, with the introduction of a specialized .art domain.
The Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the global organization under which domains (such as the familiar .com, .net and .org) operate, is set to establish over 500 new generic top level domains (gTLDs) in 2013. Domains such as .food, .cars—even .lol and .porn—will become available for purchase. A mad dash to gain administrative and management rights to the domains has resulted, and the race is expensive: the application fee alone is $185,000 (with an annual renewal cost of $25,000). A large percentage of the application fee will be refunded to unsuccessful applicants.
As it happens, .art is the fourth most contested gTLD. With 10 companies (some of them already mammoth registries) competing for the right to oversee the domain, the art domain is a hot commodity. Little information is available online at present about some of the applicants, but here are A.i.A.‘s findings on the roster:
1. Aremi Group SA. Founded in 2010 in Luxembourg, Aremi is a private company that focuses on the registry of gTLDs. In a press release, they claim to have trademarked “.ART” and “DOT ART.”
2. Top Level Domain Holdings. TLDH is an investment company that also focuses on gTLD domain space. It applied for 92 of the new niche domains to be unveiled in 2013, 22 of which were uncontested. The company has a subsidiary called “Minds and Machines” that provides technical service to gTLD applicants.
3. Dadotart Inc. Created by DeviantART—a website that allows users to upload original artwork and was founded in 2000; the site attracts many anime artists.
4. Baxter Tigers LLC (Donuts Inc.). Donuts Inc. is a major domain name registry, backed by more than $100 million in venture and private equity funding. Under various subsidiary names, it has applied for the most gTLDs, with Google and Amazon as runners-up.
5. UK Creative Ideas Limited. Almost no information is available at press time on this mysterious applicant.
6. Merchant Law Group LLP. A nationwide (Canadian) law firm.
7. Uniregistry, Corp. A relatively new company that partnered with Internet Systems Consortium Inc (ISC). The partnership applied for more than 50 new gTLDs.
8. Top Level Design LLC. Created in 2012 by the founders of AboutUS, SnapNames, and ICANNWiki. Raymond King, a founder, is very involved in the ICANN community, and is the director of ICANNWiki.com-the website that covers ICANN’s new gTLD program. Though closely associated with Top Level Design, ICANNWiki claims that it will remain impartial throughout the process.
9. Art Registry Inc. Its contact person works for the larger gTLD domain registry, Afilias (launched in 2001).
10. e-flux.art LLC. Formed in 1999 as an art-world mailing list, e-flux now publishes a critical and informational monthly journal, develops traveling exhibitions and has a New York gallery space. It is the only art world applicant.
The applications are available online. While DeviantART describes the application as “pretty complicated (and somewhat tedious),” e-flux’s responses to the questions are eloquent and careful. They write: “With its unique expertise in the historical and contemporary development of art gained through years of collaboration with thousands of practitioners, institutions, and publication in virtually all parts of the world, e-flux plans to bring this unique knowledge to the .art top-level domain. E-flux envisions this new space as a reliable, ethical, selective, and educational resource for art professionals, educators, institutions, and especially the public at large.”
“We see this as an opportunity to make art much more intelligible to people outside the art world in a way that is dignified and reliable and dependable,” e-flux founder Anton Vidokle tells A.i.A.
“The problem that has plagued the .com domain from the beginning is cybersquatting,” a process by which a party unaffiliated with, say, Art in America magazine buys the domain artinamericamagazine.com and sells it to the actual magazine for a profit. “Commercial exploitation of .art would create unnecessary costs for museums, galleries, etc., which is one problem we hope to avoid.”
Will a new domain name necessarily change our experience of art online?
“Anytime we want to find something out, we go online, from buying shoes to finding the right bar or hotel,” Vidokle says. “People also ask questions about art online. A more intelligent search filter could reshape the common understanding of what art is.”