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

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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Big Questions
What Could the Repeal of Net Neutrality Mean for Internet Users?
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What could the repeal of net neutrality mean for the average American internet user?

Zouhair Belkoura:

The imminent repeal of net neutrality could have implications for Americans beyond the Internet’s stratification, increased costs to consumers, and hindered access to content for all. Net neutrality’s repeal is a threat to the Internet’s democracy—the greatest information equalizer of our time.

With net neutrality’s repeal, ISPs could be selective about the content and pricing packages they make available. Portugal is a good example of what a country looks like without net neutrality

What people may not realize is that a repeal of net neutrality would also give ISPs the ability to throttle people’s Internet traffic. Customers won’t likely have visibility into what traffic is being throttled, and it could substantially slow down people’s Internet connections.

What happens when this type of friction is introduced to the system? The Internet—the greatest collective trove of information in the world—could gradually be starved. People who experience slower Internet speeds may get frustrated and stop seeking out their favorite sites. People may also lose the ability to make choices about the content they want to see and the knowledge they seek.

Inflated pricing, less access to knowledge, and slower connections aren’t the only impact a net neutrality repeal might have. People’s personal privacy and corporations’ security may suffer, too. Many people use virtual private networks to protect their privacy. VPNs keep people’s Internet browsing activities invisible to their ISPs and others who may track them. They also help them obscure their location and encrypt online transactions to keep personal data secure. When people have the privacy that VPNs afford, they can access information freely without worrying about being watched, judged, or having their browsing activity bought and sold by third-party advertisers.

Virtual private networks are also a vital tool for businesses that want to keep their company data private and secure. Employees are often required by their employers to connect to a VPN whenever they are offsite and working remotely.

Even the best VPNs can slow down individuals' Internet connections, because they create an encrypted tunnel to protect and secure personal data. If people want to protect their personal privacy or company’s security with a VPN [they] also must contend with ISP throttling; it’s conceivable that net neutrality’s repeal could undermine people’s freedom to protect their online safety. It could also render the protection a VPN offers to individuals and companies obsolete.

Speed has always been a defining characteristic of the Internet’s accessibility and its power. Net neutrality’s repeal promises to subvert this trait. It would compromise both people's and companies’ ability to secure their personal data and keep their browsing and purchasing activities private. When people don’t have privacy, they can’t feel safe. When they don’t feel safe, they can’t live freely. That’s not a world anyone, let alone Americans, want to live in.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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Pop Culture
An AI Program Wrote Harry Potter Fan Fiction—and the Results Are Hilarious
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Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

“The castle ground snarled with a wave of magically magnified wind.”

So begins the 13th chapter of the latest Harry Potter installment, a text called Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash. OK, so it’s not a J.K. Rowling original—it was written by artificial intelligence. As The Verge explains, the computer-science whizzes at Botnik Studios created this three-page work of fan fiction after training an algorithm on the text of all seven Harry Potter books.

The short chapter was made with the help of a predictive text algorithm designed to churn out phrases similar in style and content to what you’d find in one of the Harry Potter novels it "read." The story isn’t totally nonsensical, though. Twenty human editors chose which AI-generated suggestions to put into the chapter, wrangling the predictive text into a linear(ish) tale.

While magnified wind doesn’t seem so crazy for the Harry Potter universe, the text immediately takes a turn for the absurd after that first sentence. Ron starts doing a “frenzied tap dance,” and then he eats Hermione’s family. And that’s just on the first page. Harry and his friends spy on Death Eaters and tussle with Voldemort—all very spot-on Rowling plot points—but then Harry dips Hermione in hot sauce, and “several long pumpkins” fall out of Professor McGonagall.

Some parts are far more simplistic than Rowling would write them, but aren’t exactly wrong with regards to the Harry Potter universe. Like: “Magic: it was something Harry Potter thought was very good.” Indeed he does!

It ends with another bit of prose that’s not exactly Rowling’s style, but it’s certainly an accurate analysis of the main current that runs throughout all the Harry Potter books. It reads: “‘I’m Harry Potter,’ Harry began yelling. ‘The dark arts better be worried, oh boy!’”

Harry Potter isn’t the only work of fiction that Jamie Brew—a former head writer for ClickHole and the creator of Botnik’s predictive keyboard—and other Botnik writers have turned their attention to. Botnik has previously created AI-generated scripts for TV shows like The X-Files and Scrubs, among other ridiculous machine-written parodies.

To delve into all the magical fiction that Botnik users have dreamed up, follow the studio on Twitter.

[h/t The Verge]

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