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:


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).


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


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.


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.


"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.


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:

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.)

Apple Wants to Patent a Keyboard You’re Allowed to Spill Coffee On

In the future, eating and drinking near your computer keyboard might not be such a dangerous game. On March 8, Apple filed a patent application for a keyboard designed to prevent liquids, crumbs, dust, and other “contaminants” from getting inside, Dezeen reports.

Apple has previously filed several patents—including one announced on March 15—surrounding the idea of a keyless keyboard that would work more like a trackpad or a touchscreen, using force-sensitive technology instead of mechanical keys. The new anti-crumb keyboard patent that Apple filed, however, doesn't get into the specifics of how the anti-contamination keyboard would work. It isn’t a patent for a specific product the company is going to debut anytime soon, necessarily, but a patent for a future product the company hopes to develop. So it’s hard to say how this extra-clean keyboard might work—possibly because Apple hasn’t fully figured that out yet. It’s just trying to lay down the legal groundwork for it.

Here’s how the patent describes the techniques the company might use in an anti-contaminant keyboard:

"These mechanisms may include membranes or gaskets that block contaminant ingress, structures such as brushes, wipers, or flaps that block gaps around key caps; funnels, skirts, bands, or other guard structures coupled to key caps that block contaminant ingress into and/or direct containments away from areas under the key caps; bellows that blast contaminants with forced gas out from around the key caps, into cavities in a substrate of the keyboard, and so on; and/or various active or passive mechanisms that drive containments away from the keyboard and/or prevent and/or alleviate containment ingress into and/or through the keyboard."

Thanks to a change in copyright law in 2011, the U.S. now gives ownership of an idea to the person who first files for a patent, not the person with the first working prototype. Apple is especially dogged about applying for patents, filing plenty of patents each year that never amount to much.

Still, they do reveal what the company is focusing on, like foldable phones (the subject of multiple patents in recent years) and even pizza boxes for its corporate cafeteria. Filing a lot of patents allows companies like Apple to claim the rights to intellectual property for technology the company is working on, even when there's no specific invention yet.

As The New York Times explained in 2012, “patent applications often try to encompass every potential aspect of a new technology,” rather than a specific approach. (This allows brands to sue competitors if they come out with something similar, as Apple has done with Samsung, HTC, and other companies over designs the company views as ripping off iPhone technology.)

That means it could be a while before we see a coffee-proof keyboard from Apple, if the company comes out with one at all. But we can dream.

[h/t Dezeen]

Google Adds 'Wheelchair Accessible' Option to Its Transit Maps

Google Maps is more than just a tool for getting from Point A to Point B. The app can highlight the traffic congestion on your route, show you restaurants and attractions nearby, and even estimate how crowded your destination is in real time. But until recently, people who use wheelchairs to get around had to look elsewhere to find routes that fit their needs. Now, Google is changing that: As Mashable reports, the company's Maps app now offers a wheelchair accessible option to users.

Anyone with the latest version of Google Maps can access the new feature. After opening the app, just enter your starting point and destination and select the public transit choices for your trip. Maps will automatically show you the quickest routes, but the stations it suggests aren't necessarily wheelchair accessible.

To narrow down your choices, hit "Options" in the blue bar above the recommended routes then scroll down to the bottom of the page to find "Wheelchair accessible." When that filter is checked, your list of routes will update to only show you bus stops and subways that are also accessible by ramp or elevator where there are stairs.

While it's a step in the right direction, the new accessibility feature isn't a perfect navigation tool for people using wheelchairs. Google Maps may be able to tell you if a station has an elevator, but it won't tell you if that elevator is out of service, an issue that's unfortunately common in major cities.

The wheelchair-accessible option launched in London, New York, Tokyo, Mexico City, Boston, and Sydney on March 15, and Google plans to expand it to more transit systems down the road.

[h/t Mashable]


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