The Locavore’s Internet: [dot] nyc

We are now well into week two of open registration for a .nyc web address, a top-level domain (TLD) open to individuals and businesses in New York City. After more than a decade of petitioning ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the City of New York was finally granted its own TLD earlier this year. Amid a broader movement of so-called “GeoTLDs,” the everywhere-and-nowhere internet is taking on an unexpected local flavor.

.nyc joins the illustrious ranks of .biz, .info, and .xxx, a porn-specific TLD introduced in 2011. Unlike some other location-specific TLDs (known as GeoTLDs), however, like .berlin, .asia, and .paris, .nyc applicants must be provide proof of address in New York City in order to register. (Hoboken most certainly does not count.)

Proponents of .nyc herald it as a way for businesses and individuals to assert their New York City identity—something they are all no doubt already doing, since talking about New York is about the most New York thing you can do as a New Yorker. Likewise, the fact of being in New York City is a brand strategy in itself for a lot of New York City businesses, and you could probably count on two hands the number of Brooklyn-based startups of artisanal anything that don’t include “Brooklyn” in their name. The only thing that might be more informationally redundant would be a .bklyn domain. (It’s in a part of the internet you haven’t even heard of yet.)

Not that there’s anything wrong with the hyper-identification of New Yorkers and their businesses. After all, getting to say things like “when I get back to New York” and “my apartment in New York” is half the reason any of us go back to where we’re from between holidays, and likely more than half the reason we tell ourselves we can afford the rent.

A similar if more analog effort took shape in the startup sphere this summer, with the introduction of the “Brooklyn Made” certification. Issued by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce to local businesses meeting certain hyper-local requirements, certified Brooklyn Made businesses and products were granted official stickers and unofficial bragging rights. In theory, .nyc offers the same to web surfers: any entity with a .nyc address is certifiably local, and interested in being identified as such.

It’s a communal status symbol, a badge of belonging to a place that accepts so few. In the long tradition of New York qua New York, .nyc is the new 212 area code—and much easier to come by.

Follow John Sherman on Twitter @_john_sherman.

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