ICANN, the internet domain-name-minting entity, has announced a list of ten "finalists" for the .art gTLD (generic top level domain) including deviantart.com (commercial art/illustration) and e-Flux (fine art). ArtFCity reports on a supposed mutual support pledge between these two, issued in hopes of snagging .art. They aren't proposing to share the domain -- each still wants to be the winner -- but instead are promising ICANN that whoever wins will set up a "policy board of arts professionals to implement standards for the domain’s use," to be jointly managed by the two applicants. This is pretty weak, as the loser will not have much incentive to staff and manage such a board after the domain is awarded, and for the winner "an independent board" is just window dressing for the centralized control it hopes to gain. Besides, who said we needed another board dispensing standards?
The gTLDs have been called a scam or shakedown by ICANN, which is charging $185,000 just to apply for these domains. Nevertheless ArtFCity writer Corinna Kirsch mentions "initial fears" that e-Flux or deviant would be "curating" the domains, linking to earlier AFC discussions yours truly participated in. Those fears weren't really "initial" so much as ongoing, and they aren't really "fears" so much as disgust at the attempted power-grab. Of course the applicants will be curating (or gatekeeping, whatever you want to call it) and plan to make money off of the domain or they wouldn't be coughing up so much dough and making such a fuss trying to rouse artists to their quests.
Discussing the mutual application support pledge without clarifying the larger issues is "horse race" reporting, similar to what we get in political campaigns from the mainstream media. Here's a comment I posted:
The larger questions here are (i) should ICANN be doing this? (No) (ii) will these top level domains create new gatekeeper powers on the web? (Maybe) (iii) is it gatekeeping to have a "policy board of arts professionals to implement standards for the domain’s use"? (Yes) (iv) is curating the same thing as gatekeeping? (Yes) (v) are the applicants for these domains seeking to win for commercial reasons? (Yes)
Corinna, you mentioned that there were "initial fears" about deviantart or eflux "curating" the domain. Fear might be too strong a word but having either of these two competitors deciding what is or isn't art is a source of ongoing concern. If one of the other eight applicants wins, this entire issue goes away. Far more damage can be done by well-intentioned sounding but basically dishonest appeals to a community than will be done by organizations that have no communities to begin with. It would be good if ArtFCity would take a position rather than just reporting.