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Dot-WTF? These Top-Level Domains Could Be Coming Your Way

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In June, ICANN announced that over 1,400 new generic top-level domain names (in other words, .wedding, .sex, and .lawyer) were under consideration to join the familiar .com and its kin. Weirdness has ensued.

A Brief Technical Lesson

In the world of web domains, there are two crucial parts: the Domain Name itself (like "mentalfloss") and the Top Level Domain (like ".com"). Those Top Level Domains (TLDs) are broken up into two broad categories: "generic" (gTLDs) like .com, .net, .org, .biz, and such; and then a staggering array of "country codes" (ccTLDs) like .uk, .jp, .tv (Tuvalu), and on and on. (I wrote about the latter in The Weird World of Country-Specific Web Domains.)

When you type a web address into your browser, the browser looks up the site first by using the TLD (".com"), then the Domain Name ("mentalfloss"), then connects you to the site. All of this technical business happens behind the scenes; what's more interesting is the weird domain names companies are choosing -- and the political problems those are causing. We already have .xxx (which carries the tagline "Let's Be Adult About It"), but it took eleven years to make it a reality. Now we're coming right out and talking about .sex.

Just because a new TLD has been proposed doesn't mean it'll be granted. An evaluation process is underway, and companies will have to wait to find out whether they'll get to have .sex in .madrid.

Strange Choices

The nonprofit organization responsible for managing TLDs (called ICANN) allowed companies around the world to propose new generic TLDs from January 12 through May 30 this year. The proposals cost $185,000 each, and over 1,900 proposals came in, covering around 1,400 unique TLD extensions. Many companies applied for the same TLDs because when proposing a TLD name, you didn't get to see if anybody else had proposed it (although a technical glitch apparently revealed some of the proposals early). The resulting list of proposed TLDs turns up some strange choices:

.george

Wal-Mart applied for a series of TLDs: .asda (its British supermarket chain), .george, .grocery, .samsclub, .walmart, and .???. But wait, what's up with .george? That's for Wal-Mart's "George" fashion line. I am disappointed that they didn't apply for .thunder to power that titan of branding Dr Thunder (formerly "Southern Lightning").

.dog people

Three companies applied for .dog, including Google. No one applied for .cat. (Update, from reader Zirta -- it already exists, promoting the Catalan language.)

.blog versus .book

.blog received nine applications (despite being so last decade), but good old .book also garnered nine applications -- despite being so last millennium. Google is going after both, while Amazon is just pursuing .book (along with .author and .read...and oddly enough, .joy).

.earth

In a slightly creepy move, Google and Interlink (a Japanese company) are vying for ownership of .earth.

.you

Amazon and Google both want to .talk to .you. Neither is interested in .dating, though Pine Fest, LLC is. Google wants your .dad and .mom to get involved.

.sucks

A three-way race is on for .sucks. One of the competitors is "Dog Bloom LLC," which, aside from its colorful name and aspiration for sucky glory, appears to have no web presence. According to CNN, Dog Bloom LLC is one of 307 subsidiaries of Donuts Inc., a domain registration company. Donuts created this series of mini-companies using random, computer-generated company names -- many of which sound like band names. CNN lists some of the weirdest:

That computer spat out such gems as Spring Frostbite, Hidden Frostbite, Bitter Frostbite, Wild Frostbite, Binky Frostbite, Bitter Sunset, Half Sunset, Corn Sunset, Sand Sunset, Dog Edge, Atomic Maple, Atomic Madison, Extra Madison, Big Dynamite, Extra Dynamite, Fox Dynamite, Corn Dynamite, Pixie Station, Bitter McCook, Atomic McCook, Atomic Tigers, Sea Goodbye, Sea Corner, John Goodbye and Just Goodbye, among many, many others.

.wtf

"Hidden Way LLC" (one of those Donuts subsidiaries) did have the stones to apply for .wtf. Good luck with that one, guys. (Seven comments have already been filed objecting to this TLD, including several from Saudi Arabia -- more on that in a bit.)

.adult, .sex, and .porn

The company behind .xxx (ICM Registry) also applied for .adult, .sex, and and .porn. It faces competition in the sex space -- another company is going after .sex, and a third is looking for .sexy. .porn and .adult were not applied for by any other companies, though. Seven companies are vying for .love.

.football less popular than .tennis

.football received just two applications, but .tennis received four. .soccer also received four, plus one for .futbol. Even .rugby got three. .basketball got three, and .baseball got two. Take that, American sports! (On the other hand, there was one application for .nfl -- maybe that's all we really need.)

Note: .sport and .sports are also proposed TLDs.

.app

Thirteen separate companies want to own the .app TLD, making it the most popular new TLD of the bunch. However, nobody applied for .apps, .appstore, or .application. Try a little originality, folks!

Insurance Companies Love Typing

There is a three-way tie for the longest English-language TLD. These eighteen-character (!) TLDs are all for insurance companies, who clearly see no issue with typing ultra-long names: .northlandinsurance, .northwesternmutual, and .travelersinsurance. Keep in mind that these go at the end of what you type in a browser, so it could lead to insanely long links. Maybe this explains the length of the policy documents they mail me.

SC Johnson also applied for .afamilycompany (its longstanding slogan), which leads us to the slightly terrifying prospect of a website URL having vastly more characters on the right than on the left: http://scjohnson.afamilycompany.

Saudi Arabia Weighs In

The proposed TLDs are up for public comment through the end of September. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recently made news when it filed 160 comments objecting to, among other things, the proposed TLDs for .gay, .baby, .sucks, .wtf, .shia, and .catholic. In the comment regarding .baby, user "Abdulmjid" wrote (in part):

We consider there is a risk that this string is used in the same way as .XXX to host pornographic websites.

Many individuals and societies may find this string offensive on religious and/or cultural grounds. We oppose the introduction of this gTLD string on both of these grounds, and because pornography causes huge damage to society's social fabric. Pornography undermines gender equality and threatens public morals by objectifying and exploiting women. The values expressed in pornography clash with the family concept and they undermine the traditional values that promote marriage, family, and children.

There are a total of 49 objections (most are not from Saudi Arabia) to the .baby domain, including a variety related to concerns over child pornography. Yikes. There are 262 objections to .sex -- and you can make your own comment if you like!

What Happens Now?

In short, we wait. There are tons of issues to work out at this stage -- not least is how to decide which applicant gets those heavily contested TLDs (like .app, .blog, and .book), or what to do with controversial proposed TLDs. ICANN has a massive website with resources on the whole process, including a full list of suggested TLDs and a helpful guidebook in six languages. Stay tuned for more breaking domain-name news from .mentalfloss. (Oh shoot, we forgot to apply! We'll settle for .smart instead.)

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Use Wi-Fi? Your Device Is at Risk in the Latest Security Breach
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Another day, another way our personal data is being compromised. This time, the latest threat to your credit card numbers, social security information, and other personal data comes from a more-than-ubiquitous source: your Wi-Fi.

As Ars Technica and The Independent report, a computer security researcher has discovered a major issue with Wi-Fi that can be used to decrypt your data. The vulnerability is the result of weakness in the WPA2 protocol that secures modern Wi-Fi networks. Hackers can steal sensitive data that has been decrypted a method called KRACK, or Key Reinstallation Attacks. While we can't know yet if hackers have actually taken advantage of the vulnerability, its existence puts every Wi-Fi-enabled device at risk.

“If your device supports Wi-Fi, it is most likely affected,” Mathy Vanhoef, the Belgium-based researcher who discovered the exploit, said. That means your phone, your computer, and even your Wi-Fi light bulbs. The hacker only needs to be within range of your Wi-Fi—not logged into your network—to take advantage of it and steal your data. However, Ars Technica reports that Android and Linux users are more vulnerable to severe attacks than Windows or iOS users.

What should I do to protect myself?

Unfortunately, changing your passwords won’t help this time around. All you can do is wait for security updates for your devices. In the meantime, treat every Wi-Fi connection like it’s the public network at Starbucks. As in, don’t go sharing all your personal data. You can make yourself safer by using a VPN. According to cybersecurity expert Robert Graham, these kind of attacks can’t defeat VPNs.

Most companies will no doubt be releasing security patches to fix this issue ASAP, so keep a look out for any available updates.

[h/t The Independent]

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Dubai Plans to Outfit Police Force With Hoverbikes
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Hoversurf

Dubai is home to plenty of flashy fashion and architecture, and it has over-the-top police gear to match. The department already is outfitted with some of the fastest cars on the streets, including a Ferrari and a Lamborghini. Now, Autoblog reports that police officers in the United Arab Emirates city are getting hoverbikes to access hard-to-reach places.

The bikes, which were developed by the Russian startup Hoversurf, debuted in early October at the Gulf Information Technology Exposition (GITEX) in Dubai. Like Hoversurf’s Scorpion-3 hoverbike, the police version is battery-powered and uses propellers at each corner to float like a drone. The newly-released model can reach maximum altitudes of 16 feet and move at speeds of up to 43 mph. Though the quadcopter can only carry one passenger at a time, it can withstand weights of up to 660 pounds. A fully charged battery is enough to fuel a 25-minute ride.

The futuristic addition to the force’s fleet of vehicles isn’t designed for chasing bad guys. Rather, the city hopes to use it to reach out-of-the-way spots during emergencies. If there’s a car wreck at the end of a traffic jam, for example, the Scorpion hoverbike could simply fly over the congestion and reach the scene faster than the department could with cars on the ground.

While cities around the world are still figuring out how low-flying drones and vehicles fit into pedestrian areas, Dubai has been quick to embrace the technology. In 2015, the city invested in jetpacks for first responders. While it's still unclear when the gadgets will be used in an official capacity, the CEO of Hoversurf has confirmed that mass production of the bikes is already underway.

[h/t Autoblog]

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