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An Appeal to Google: Make ".io" a gccTLD (clay.io)
138 points by austinhallock 1729 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 121 comments

In defense of the current status: You are all misusing (or absuing) the DNS. Do you live in (or target) the British Indian Ocean Territory? No? Then this domain is not meant for you. This is a hack, and I don't like it. (For the same reason i don't like the new gTLDs) This sound a bit like a complain that reading Shakespeare in hexspeak is not very pleasant.

/Edit: Sorry for beating a dead horse. I know TLDs are not used the way I think they should be used. But I think it was important to point out once again that this is a dirty hack. It works, but when working outside of the spec you should be aware of it a accept shortcomings. Not saying you should not ask google to route around it. But it has it limits. ".at" are meant for Austria and not for email providers, that's something they just should deal with.

That ship has long sailed. Saying people are abusing DNS by using a country level domain is like saying people are abusing the word 'awful' when they use it to mean 'bad'.

People _are_ using TLDs in this way, and the relevant countries, registrars, and ICANN seem happy to let them. It has no impact on the internet, other than freeing up a whole bunch of domain names, thereby lowering the price for everybody.

[responding to your edit]

...If you think things shouldn't be hacked, then maybe "Hacker News" is not the site for you?

Everything is a "hack" on something else. When we invented the wheel, we noticed that round things were easier to move than square things. When we invented fire, we noticed that rubbing two sticks together produced something that kept you warm.

It's evolution. The alternative is to stay with what we've got today, just because.

Sure, "everything" might be a hack, but you should recognize that a hack is a workaround - and understand the limitations when you implement it (rather than acting surprised afterwards and asking for someone to change the rules).

If they were suing Google or anything like that, you'd be right. But they're not. They're just saying "Google, your index would be more accurate if you made this change".

They have figured out a limitation, think it's unnecessary, and are suggesting a way of making the system better. They're using the blog post to encourage others to support the suggestion.

Absolutely nothing wrong with hacking. But when i write my own userland i do not recommend it for production. And i do not compare my own radio with a B&O HiFi, and not my cart with a Porsche.


Hacks are great. Hacks are evolutionary. Something like "hire and fire". If a hack does not work, try a something different! And this just seems not work very well.

It turns out that we've got massive domain squatting, America somehow snagged .com instead of .us, England decided to use .co.uk for no apparent reason, there's seemingly some sort of massive corruption going on in ICANN 'selling' tlds, etc., etc.

i.e. the whole thing turned into a complete and utter farce long ago.

In the end it's not a perfect world and it's a hack because the very tld domain system itself was woefully broken even in conception.

> England decided to use .co.uk for no apparent reason

Eh? The UK (not "England") use .uk. This is then subdivided into .co.uk, .ac.uk, .org.uk, .gov.uk and many more depending on the type of organisation, as ccTLDs were initially envisioned, i.e. type.country

Why wan't it .co.us then? Or .com.uk? At best it's meaningless, at worse the US was the very first domain squatter sitting on all the tlds.

What actually happened is a massive waste of money paying for stupid extra domain names to stop someone else impersonating you. It's just historical.

And now they claim their increasingly worrying and opaque laws apply to any website that uses it, which is even worse for us all.

That the UK decided to then follow the naming convention (or any other country that did) is a waste of letters.

Total farce.

(I did actually mean UK, I'm English and it was a slip)

Because county tlds organization is devolved to that country duh they each do their own thing.

.co.x vs .com.x is arbitrary. But .uk should be .gb technically.

Actually, .gb exists as well, but the subdomain is dra.hmg.gb.

.uk was created before the standard was agreed, and the UK was allowed to keep using it.

England has chosen to split up their tld into .ac.uk, .co.uk, .gov.uk etc.: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.uk

Because the Americans owned ICANN, they got away with first-level domains for everything, .com, .gov, ... Other countries had to either put everything under one domain, or split it up like the brits.

That is some terrible revisionist history.

.com, .net, .gov etc. were the first TLDs created in the early 1980s (when the DNS was invented, before ICANN existed). Only later in the mid 1980s were country codes added to the repertoire, and each country was given one based on the ISO 3166 standard — including the US (.us).

The only domains with geographic prohibitions were .gov and .mil, being run by the US Government. People of all countries have always been able to register domains in .com, .net etc., not just Americans.

Anyone can register a .com, .net, .org address, but the registries are subject to US law. So, for instance, US courts can order a .com domain taken down, even if it points to servers in another country.

United Kingdom, not England.

What's wrong with .co.uk? It's the same in Japan: .co.jp, .ac.jp, .or.jp... And I think it's good.

http://nic.io/ runs this TLD and specifically targets it toward "the next generation of social websites"

Interesting tidbit, their logo looks a lot like the one for Google I/O 2012: https://developers.google.com/events/io/2012/

They should use google.io for the Google I/O events.

The British Indian Ocean Territory does not have a "general population". It's a perfectly good waste of a short and meaningful TLD, which we already have a few of as it is.

.io isn't the only one either. There's quite a few ccTLD for countries that don't exist, never existed, or have never had a permant population. I can't imagine Google does geographical targeting for the lesser used ones like .co.ck. (for the Cook Islands off Australia).

Another one is the Heard Island and McDonald Islands, which have the .hm ccTLD [1] despite having no human inhabitants.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heard_Island_and_McDonald_Islan...

Edit: Corrected domain. Thanks @jonemo.

.hn is Honduras, I think you meant to type .hm

If you are wondering if show.hn and ask.hn are valid: No, Hondorus uses the *.[com|net|org|edu|...].hn format [1]

Edit: Ignore that second part. It's wrong. You can register .hn and someone did that for show.hn and ask.hn. You can have ask.hn for $10k [2]. Didn't do thorough enough research earlier because I was on my phone and my fingers are fat and the touchscreen buttons small.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.hn

[2] http://www.sedo.com/search/details.php4?language=us&doma...

Some registries seem to be fairly lenient though, formally domains can't be registered at the second level of .au (must be .com.au or .org.au), yet somehow http://csiro.au/ exists.

Its often the case that these domains were registered by organisations (like, I assume, CSIRO) that had an early internet presence which pre-dates the formal procedures that were later adopted by registrars.

They predate even whois apparently. The web based auDA whois returns absolutely no data too.

    $ whois csiro.au
    No Data Found

Also strange things like .britishlibrary.uk in the early days no one quite knew how naming was going to pan out.

Looks like a useful TLD for some kind of websites

How chauvinist is this reply. I would not have thought to see such a thing on HN.

I don't see how it's chauvinist to suggest that a "country" with no human inhabitants except for foreign military personnel doesn't need its own ccTLD.

So when I remove you forcibly from your land (which the inhabitants were by the British government), then I steal your land and later I declare there is "no general population" so you have no right to a TLD either, it is not chauvinist when I declare you non existent? Because you were native and could not defend yourself against a modern army?

"On 11 May 2006, the High Court ruled that a 2004 Order in Council preventing the Chagossians' resettlement of the islands was unlawful, and consequently that the Chagossians were entitled to return to the outer islands of the Chagos Archipelago. [...] According to a WikiLeaks disclosure document, in a calculated move in 2009 to prevent re-settlement of the BIOT by native Chagossians, the UK proposed that the BIOT become a "marine reserve" with the aim of preventing the former inhabitants from returning to their lands. " http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Indian_Ocean_Territory

that's because it isn't.

It is. Removing natives, stealing their land, then declaring there is no population so you also get their TLD is chauvinist.

Yes, we should all stick to using .com at $50 per year per domain, and we all should be using Network Solutions because they're the original provider of it.

  | This is a hack, and I don't like it. 
Registrations spilling over into other namespaces (in this case the ccTLD namespaces) are an effect of the common namespaces (.org, .com, .net) becoming crowded by legitimate companies and people squatting on domains hoping for a huge payout. People don't want to type in sanford-and-sons-incorporated.com (or was it sanford-and-sons-inc.com or maybe sanford-sons.com?).

A legitimate use-case (that doesn't run under 'only for use in association with said country') is for allowing user-defined webpages on sub-domains, while not enabling access to cookies for the master domain (e.g. Github moving Pages to github.io vs github.com).

This site is called "Hacker News". Hack doesn't mean 'dirty', it means glorious, better-than-intended, revising-and-improving. And to be sure, the nonsense system that required me to slap '.com' on the end of everything, needed revising.

There are some great hacks (most are) like unix dot files, don't you think there are some dirty hacks? Like a NAT? And god forbid, i didn't want people to tell they should stop hacking. I just think worse is not always better.

IMO this means more hacking is necessary. The hierarchy with dots becomes unpleasant.

Duct tape is great, but you can't have duct tape all the way down.

Since when is "you're doing it differently than the designers intended" a valid defense of anything?

edit: not to mention that the countries/territories in question very often market their domains that way themselves.

The problem is that the entire TLD taxonomy is a hack. They have one level, at most two, to squash a complex hierarchy of abstractions into, and there's going to inevitably be a lot of leakage.

But I'm not sure it hugely matters. It's like naming your company a made up word - Pepsi, Google, Nike, Jeep - people remember it anyway if it gains some significance to them.

I expect eventually the same thing will happen with internet domains to some extent, whether it's goodyear.com or mydistributedsocialnetwork.bit, as new generations get used .com as just another TLD, rather than the TLD.

Google is not a made up word. Nor is Nike.

Actually, "Google" is a misspelling of "googol", which, if I was told aright, was in fact made up by a child.

Ah, a greek goddess, didn't realize that. You get the general point though, I'm sure.

I think you're missing the point in defending the current status. Nobody is "misusing the DNS" when they're searching for something and don't find the most relevant examples on the first page because of shortcomings in Google's categorization.

Search users shouldn't "just deal with" substandard search results because of geographic hacks chosen by webmasters, and we certainly shouldn't accept search providers' shortcomings on something as palpably obvious and relatively easy to fix as genericizing an obviously-generic TLD for ranking purposes.

Slightly ignorant question: What is the technical argument against getting rid of any form of syntax for domains and simply allowing any ASCII string? Or even any UTF-8 string?

> this is a dirty hack

I disagree.

This is people starting businesses within a reasonable budget. I assume you've tried to purchase a reasonable domain name in the gTLD space. If so, you already know that a name like "filepicker.com" or "forecast.com" is going to cost you in the tens of thousands USD.

I have personally worked for companies where we paid upwards of $200K for a nice, short gTLD domain name. Unless you've got money to burn from the A-list of SV VCs, your startup simply can't afford it.

I find it grating too. I thought this was an interesting point:

"Generic top-level domains (gTLDs) don’t target specific countries. If your site has a generic top-level domain, such as .com, .org, or any of the domains listed below"

I actually consider .com etc to be largely US based, particular as it appears they can be seized by the US government and are under US jurisdiction.

> You are all misusing (or absuing) the DNS

It's only misusing or abusing if the entity in charge of the ccTLD deems it so. It does not appear that the owner of .io has any such restrictions.

There is no over-arching requirement that you must live in or target the nation that a ccTLD is assigned to.

Completely agree but the same can be said the other gTLDs. The actual problem people are mad at is the lack of spec-appropriate domain names and TLDs

In defense of the Internet: why are Internet locations tied to geographic locations? It seems silly and mostly used for i18n purposes.

It will be interesting to see how google regulates these when there are all sorts of gLTDs up for grabs.

Damn Kids! Get off my TLD Lawn!

"This is a hack, and I don't like it."

You are on Hacker News. :)

You are all misusing (or absuing) the DNS. Do you live in (or target) the British Indian Ocean Territory? No? Then this domain is not meant for you.

Meant or not meant, my best domains are with .me.

Google can probably give webmasters the option of using any domain for that country or globally.

Flame me down, but this is what you get when you "misuse" .io.

Because there are so many legitimate uses in the British Indian Ocean Territory.

(as a note, nic.io actively want the domain used as people are indeed using it)

nic.io want to exploit the extension for profit, so obviously they will encourage wide usage, but ultimately what they have under their control is a ccTLD.

So? Someone chose clay.io instead of claycorp.com or somethingelse.com, doesn't get found by Google and now wants Google to change the TLD to a gccTLD disregarding the locals.

This is a complicated solution that will produce many false positives. The simpler solution would be to just give each customer a box in Webmaster Tools where they could select whether they wanted their domain (wherever that is) to be targeted generically.

False positives? Please correct me if I'm wrong but I can't find a single .io site that is actually intended just for residents of the British Indian Ocean Territories.

Edit: Checking the NIC rules, actual IO residents with servers in the territory can use the reserved third level domains like foo.com.io. I still can't find any that actually exist.

That's a problem with users of .io domains, not with the system. Every time I see a .is domain that is just from some ego-driven developer (mygreatname.is or similar) I cringe, just like when I saw nyan.cat (cat is the top-level domain for Catalan and Catalonia and supposedly has stringent conditions for granting its use)

Nyan.cat at least used to have an information page explaining their use of .cat; having a version of your content in Catalan (which they still do) is apparently sufficient.

Last time I checked in addition to having your content in Catalan, you had to do business or have some kind of "grounded" relation with Catalonia or the Catalan language.

Was one of the reasons I didn't buy Fatou.cat as a domain for my cat's blog (left it at tumblr), or thefancypuffin.cat for our handmade shoemaking business (in addition to the larger exposure of .com domains, of course)

For those who had to look it up "nyan" is the sound a cat makes in Japanese aka "meow" in English.

Well, the Nyan Cat was a meme hit something like 2 or 3 years ago. Reddit gets you this stupid knowledge ;)

I actually learned of Nyan Cat from all the silly Nyan Cat hacks that showed up on HN.

You're right, I conflated it with ".li", from this video, where Matt Cutts talks about the issue:


Indeed there is no indigenous population and hasn't been since 1966 [1]. It's nothing but a strategically well-placed airbase with a few thousand personal and contractors.

.io is clearly a gccTLD. The TLD administration and commissioner in charge of 'the government' reside in the UK.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Indian_Ocean_Territory#...

There is a population that would like to return home...

True. And the "marine reserve" shenanigans are disgraceful.

I found a couple: http://www.brinks.io/en/ and a whole bunch of subdomains under Mauritius.io https://www.google.com/#output=search&q=site:mauritius.i...

Sorry if I'm being dense - but I can already do this in GWT. I run jobboard.io and am able to set US as the GEO Target for that domain.

Oh that's odd, can anyone else confirm?

I think this is the first time I've seen anyone whose question could be answered by RTFAing, but... RTFA.


> “If no information is entered in Webmaster Tools, we’ll rely largely on the site’s country domain”

"If no information is entered in Webmaster Tools" -> "It's possible to enter information into Webmaster Tools"

He later says:

> Even if ccTLDs and gccTLDs were treated exactly the same in terms of ranking, Google does not take into account the Geographic target set in Webmaster Tools. Own a “.io” domain and want to target towards US searchers? It doesn’t work.

With the evidence being that socket.io is only a 19th in a search for WebSockets, which I think so sorta shaky, but there you go.

Happy to post a screenshot, but wonder if it is a violation of Google T&C?

This topic is especially sensitive to me, so please enjoy the enraged rant below.


I have a better proposal:


Remember, back in the day, when .net meant you were a network services provider, or when .org was only used by non-profit organizations. Wasn't that confusing as hell?

What the hell happened?

The network had a beautiful, well planned design, and PEOPLE LIKE YOU threw it away.


I recently had a conversation, with someone I respect greatly, about creating a series of informational sites very specific to US audiences, and he had a fit when I insisted on using the .us TLD. (Blasphemy, right?) He demanded I use .io, for a site that contained exclusively United States related information... Seriously?

I will not participate in this madness, and the HN audience should know better.

It's really simple, you see: your new project has lots of video content? Considering .TV? Is your company based in Tuvalu? THEN DON'T USE IT.

.AM? That's Armenia .FM? Federated States of Micronesia .ME? Montenegro.

The list goes on and on. Wikipedia has a complete list of them, along with their intended uses and common abuses. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Internet_top-level_doma...

What makes this whole thing even more insane is that there are still tons of quality .us domain names, completely open for registration, and people insist on using TLDs of other random places! The Indian Ocean? Really?

I want some of whatever everyone is smoking.

"Only you can prevent domain abuse."

But why? Just because it was an unintended use 20 years ago? "People like us" didn't throw away the beautiful design. Squatters did. There are literally zero remaining good .com names that are available.

ccTLDs stopped being used exclusively for their original purpose a long time ago. People are already used to them. The market has already adapted, and it opens up a lot of good branding opportunities. If you want to stay pure to the ideal of the spec, you're just holding yourself back.

It's kind of like a language - the original meaning of a word may be different than how it's used now, but the only meaning that matters is what people intend it to mean.

NO .org was not just for nonprofits it was every thing else that didn't fit the other TLD's

Some in the US non profit industry wanted to make it so retroactively when .org came up for renewal - but they got shot down in flames ( the red cross and Oxfam did not fit their narrow definition of a non profit for example)

BTW I used to work for a registrar and this is direct from the guy who lead our bid to run .org

Realistically, .us is never really going to see any real mass adoption by American businesses.

The only time consumers encounter a .us domain is in a spam email. In all my time on the internet, I can only think of a single .us site that I visited that was real, and that site eventually moved to .com when it became available.

It's the equivalent to opening up a store in the red light district.

Yes, I hope we can avert this situation when we reboot DNS hierarchy. In the meanwhile I don't see tilting against windmills to be a productive approach to the issues related.

Personally I've been against the 'abuse' of the domain name system in this way (using ccTLDs as if they were gTLDs) for years, but the world disagrees with me. So at this point there seems little point in hanging on to geo-targeting by ccTLD, might as well flatten the playing field.

But we do need some country-targeting and while we do have the Webmaster Tools thing (but that is only Google-specific, you'd end up having to do this for any and all search engines, if they offered it) I'd like to see control put back into the hands of the sites themselves, and have some way of tagging available in the HTML of the page.

It'd also get rid of the ridiculous assumption that search engines make that if your site is hosted at an IP in a country, then that's the country that should be targeted in their results (if there are no other signals, ie ccTLD). Here in the UK there are many web hosts which are based in Ireland or Europe, and at the moment I worry that using them would hurt the site's reach into a UK search result.

> I'd like to see control put back into the hands of the sites themselves, and have some way of tagging available in the HTML of the page.

I'd like to think that, as a web dev/master/admin/whatever, I wouldn't have to tag each one of my thousands and thousands of pages with the exact same tag. This is just a tough approach - it would work for super small sites only IMO.

Point taken (though presumably you do tag other things about each page - language, direction of reading, cache length etc). Tagging each page would give you the ability to nominate that different sections of a site target different countries though?

An alternative then might be something akin to robots.txt - place a geo.txt (or whatever) file in the root of a site to indicate its relevance to particular country or countries?

Yeah, something like that would be more ideal than the tags. That way you could do it at the folder/subdir level.

Why are people arguing over the misuse of the .io TLD?

No one is saying not to use it - but if you misuse it, then you should understand the consequences. If you buy a domain in the .ly TLD and it gets removed for whatever reason, it's your fault. If you brick your iPhone while jailbreaking it, it is your fault. Go ahead and hack away, as is the spirit of everyone on this site - but don't think that it means everything will behave the way you expect it to.

gccTLD = Generic Country Code Top Level Domains


I'd argue many TLDs present the same issue. I myself use the .es TLD (Spain) as a "novelty" domain name (geekeri.es), but Google won't treat its content as targeted towards international, and mainly english-speaking audience.

It's a shame and I would have prefered Google had chosen to look at the language of the content instead of merely the TLD. Anyway, I like my domain name and wouldn't change it for a gold bullion.

Ditto, same situation! Had I known this, I would have gone with an acceptably weird dot com..

Similar situation and I also don't mind - my novelty domain\site (http://taps.af) is an obscure reference to a Scottish phrase that was just a silly weekend project as a result of a drunken joke with some friends.

Why was this even originally selected by tech companies? Trendiness? Because they saw the .io standing for input/output?

We chose it for forecast.io because of the input/output connotation. It is a concise way to imply "data service".

.io also allows us to use a short descriptive domain name. If we went with a .com, we'd be stuck with either something like forecastweatherapp.com, or a made up nonsense domain -- in which case we'd be basing the name of our app on the specific domain we were able to acquire.

But I/O is the communications between devices. forecast.io is mostly about using vast amounts of weather data and then processing it to forecast weather. What does that have to do with I/O? I'd take your company more seriously if you had a .com name. Your current name makes me envision a junky spam site.


The current name makes me envision an edgy, cool site.

It's somewhat relevant (due to the input/output interpretation), not excessively expensive, and there are loads of great short domains available. I've got a few myself, my favourite being iso.io; which is for an in-progress photography site.

Yes, but also and especially due to the lack of short, memorable .com names available.

.de is also used in many hacks, maybe even more popular than .io, and Google does not allow to change the geographic target for those domains in Webmaster Tools.

Any idea why? Do they fear that this setting will be abused? Hope to hold the floodgate and have people use geographically "appropriate" TLDs?

Maybe because .de is still pretty well used in Germany? And .de is still marketed as a German TLD, not a generic one (like, for instance, .io is). To get a .de domain, you must have an address in Germany, so it makes sense to consider it a German ccTLD.

So? You should still be able to tell Google: “Hey this .de domain? I'm using it market to an international audience, so don't hide me from the world. Kthx.”

Then shouldn't that be the case for _every_ TLD? Then surely we shouldn't go on a TLD by TLD basis, when we should 'petition' Google for revising their country bias per TLD.

Although, doesn't .de domains appear on Google.com given the right search (e.g. 'Der Spiegel')?

Had the same issue. Got a couple nice .io names for APIs, found they didn't cooperate with tools and ranked poorly, shelved them.

Thanks for bringing this up.

"found they didn't cooperate with tools" ..interesting, care to elaborate?

Kind of off topic, but I went to change my password for the IO NIC after reading this. Apparently they store it in plain text...

Did you have to spam my .io mailbox?

Most of the ten gccTLD's he mentions as being unpopular have, in the past, been associated with giant penalties in Google's rankings, especially .cc, .ws and .tk which hosted large amounts of spammy content for a really long time.

I've heard the same thing about .info but I have no idea if it's true.

Use .co

There are plenty available. Google treats it as a GTLD and co is meaningful if you are using it for a company. It's also only around $15 for a registration. Some of those country codes have ridiculous prices.

Whoa. Didn't really expect Google to respond to this and that too so quickly!

So you've bought something deliberately because it's the cheap option that comes with a downside.

And now you want to drop the downside. Maybe you'll even be successful, at least a little... good luck.

.io has a normalized meaning. Accept it, or simply don't use it :)

I don't see how .io is different from .fm or .ly or .amillionothercountryTLDsthatpeopleusefortechnicallyinappropriatereasons in this regard.

Looks like it has been added :

.fm .gg .io .la .me

Why does it matter which country a site is located?

Seems like it would only be used for prejudice against certain countries.

We need .js !!!

Why appeal to Google? Appeal to ICANN and IANA.

The article actually talks about this. The issue is how Google uses ccTLD's to decide on how to deliver search results to you.

From TFA:

> [Google] appear to have coined the gccTLD acronym, and that list of domains above is only reference by Google, so it would appear so.

What does gccTLD stand for?

Generic Country Code Top Level Domains

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