The Manhattan Grid of the Internet
June 4th, 2008

To Tom Lowenhaupt, Manhattan’s street grid represents a vision for the physical landscape that the city has yet to match on the Internet. New York needs to “organize and make accessible New York City’s digital resources,” he said recently during a presentation to the Internet Society’s New York Chapter.

So how can we bring order to the Wild Wild Web? Dot NYC, thinks Lowenhaupt. You’ve got .gov, .edu and .us – well now it’s time for .nyc, he says, and has been saying, since 2001, when he was member of Community Board 3 in Queens. And now he has started a non-profit devoted to pushing for the so-called top level domain.

Try using a search engine online to find New York City schools or hotels, he points out. It’s not like those millions of search results you get represent the limitless choices offered by our fair city. No, obviously, it’s clutter. On hospitals, he quips, “Go on Google, you’ll be dead before you find something good.” Dot NYC will help keep your search within the city, Lowenhaupt argues.

Another reason for the handle is that it would make the Internet more intuitive. Sure, large corporations have there names in their Web addresses, but try buying a dot com for your small business, and you’d be hard pressed to do so. Opening up dot NYC would provide an easy way for people to find the Web site of their local sports retailer, the former taxi driver, bartender, and Vista volunteer opines.

It’s a marketing tool. “It makes the world more aware that we’re here,” says Lowenhaupt. It leads to a connection to a physical area.

His non profit, called Connecting.NYC, is trying to garner community and official support for the project in advance of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers‘ call for cities to apply for such top level domain names. There is a push for the handles in Berlin and Paris, as well.

Lowenhaupt envisions a non-profit that manages the operations of the domain name, similar to that of the non-profits that operate the public access television channels – which receive city funds, but are operated independently. While the process in which the non-profit operates is till unclear, and would ultimately be decided by the community, he envisions a domain name that is only given to those with some sort of physical connection to the city. He says that a vetting process could also limit spammers.

But regulation of the name could prove unwieldy, and even undesirable to a certain extent, as questions from the audience during the presentation made light of. It would take money and staff to vet domain name applicants, and could slow the growth of the domain. As a solution, Lowenhaupt would enroll the community as watchdogs. He envisions a process where individuals report abusive users, and points to WikiPedia as a successful endeavor run by its members.

By on June 4, 2008, 1:15 pm
In category: Tech | 25 Comments »

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25 Responses to “The Manhattan Grid of the Internet”

  1. Joly MacFie Says:
    June 4th, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Good write up!

    Please note that a DVD of the video is available for free to educators wishing to use it as a course material. Email [email protected] – ask for DVD1352.

  2. Tom Lowenhaupt Says:
    June 5th, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    Thanks for the post. You captured most of the points made in the presentation quite well. One that I’d have emphasized a bit more is the role .nyc will play in facilitating local communication and creating better communities and a more livable city.

    One other point. When I was on Community Board 3, I learned that one of the prime responsibilities of a Queens Community Board member was to fight the near-global “Manhattan is New York City” view. Having used a slide of the Manhattan Street grid to make a point in my presentation, I will accept that the post’s “Manhattan Grid” subject resulted from my laziness in not searching out a suitable Queens street grid map, and I’ll accept your title as my bad.

    But our focus is a five borough plan – Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. While Manhattan might be the center of the city in an alphabetical listing, and the center of our thriving tourist industry, it’s important to keep in mind that the green boroughs comprise 85% of its population.

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