US-centric top-level domains

Internet technology and standards originated in the U.S. Many internet users, and nearly all internet technologists, know that “.us” is the top level domain (TLD) associated with the United States of America. Every country has a TLD.

At the inception of the internet, its eventual international character was not appreciated. In the early days, the government (.gov), military (.mil), and educational (.edu) institutions that spearheaded the development of ther internet assigned themselves domain names that implicitly assume US dominance. So, we have,, and, all referring to institutions in the US; but we have (Number 10 Downing Street, the residence of the British prime minister), (the French armed forces), and (University of Toronto, also sometimes identifying itself as

Now, a quarter century after its invention, the internet is thoroughly international. The com, net, and org domains were, and remain, country-neutral. However, the US-centric nature of the historical edu, gov, and mil TLDs is now plainly apparent to hundreds of millions, if not a few billions, of internet users outside the US.

It seems to me that the US-centric nature of the edu, gov, and mil domain holders is not appreciated by their US owners. They’re too close. As McLuhan said, “We don't know who discovered water, but we are pretty sure it wasn't a fish.” Many people in the rest of the world, however, see in those domains symbols of the presumed dominance of the US – it’s “in their face” (to use American slang).

In my view, US-based registrants of the edu, gov, and mil domains should start using, and The existing TLDs can simply be redirected, so that current web and e-mail addresses continue to function – what is important, it seems to me, is the form of the externally-visible domains.

For the edu domains, it’s an open question. They could be considered to imply US presence; in that case, US educational institutions should start using Alternatively, the edu TLD could be considered as international; in that case, a new registration policy needs to be adopted.

For .edu, .gov, and .mil to retain US-centric reminds the whole world, continually, every day (or maybe even every hour) that the US considers itself to be dominant. That's downright unfriendly, gosh-darn it.

Copyright © 2010-07-01
Charles Poynton