Dot Maori feasibility overview

A report into the feasibility of a new equivalent .com domain name dot maori (.maori) giving Māori more representation and protection that is currently afforded with .nz

ICANN the worlds governing body of Internet Names and Numbers recently announced that anyone could apply for the creation of a new Internet address suffix to add to the current extensions such as .com, .org. , .net etc[1]. Technically this is called a GTLD – General Top Level Domain or a string. There are currently 22 GTLD’s and 280 Country Code Top Level Domains including .nz .

The introduction of the new strings will see the internet flooded with new strings. In the first round there could possibly be another 1,930 strings to consider using when registering a domain name.

.maori is a possible suffix that is being discussed by groups of Māori and non Māori.

This paper explores the facts that .maori is both myopic and an unsustainable investment that will add no further benefits to online Māori. In fact .maori could in fact create more issues for Māori on the web.

I discuss the costs, procedures and the currently vast amount of space on the Internet for Māori that is either underutilised or not utilised at all. I raise the issue that it will take at least two separate, but more likely three separate applications to have a safe .maori environment. Then I discuss the fact that there are alternatives to creating a new .maori domain name including partnerships with other Indigenous Peoples.

Finally I recommend that if an organisation has money to invest in a new Internet sting, then some consideration could be given to .Aotearoa or similar that is truly representative of a bi-cultural New Zealand/Aotearoa, then I argue against this application.

Background

New web addresses or strings are coming to the web and there is no stopping them[2]. In the first round over 1,930 applications were received for new strings[3]. The majority of applications are from conglomerates and large organisations with seamlessly endless disposable income to protect their brands such as Coke, Pepsi, Amazon etc. The end consumer- the web site owner will soon be rich in choice as to which domain they will use for their web site.

The first round of applicants will set the standards and will have the financial/legal/human resources to not worry too much about extra costs and issues that may arise. The second round will likely be those organisations with large amounts of resources but who are cautious and who can wait to see what issues may arise from the first round of applications.

The third round will likely consist of applicants who cannot afford to make a mistake and to have their application declined. If you are declined you don’t get all of your money back. It is in this third round I believe we will see more culture strings and new issues of ownership and rights to access such strings.

The idea of a .pacific string was discussed by the Pacific Islands Internet Society (PICISOC) and decided against as there would not be enough interest and the costs were too high[4].

The Pacific Islands population is about 10 million and has a number of islands with communities and businesses that would benefit a .pacific string. This in comparison to the whole population of New Zealand which is less than 4.5 million, with the population of Maori being 673,00[5]. No up to date statistics exist for Māori access to the Internet, but it is likely Māori will still be lower users to the Internet via a computer and higher users of mobile access.

InternetNZ held a consultation period of its members to discuss .kiwi string[6]. After a great deal of resources and effort it was deemed not to be feasible.

Application for .maori

A hopeful applicant will firstly need to study the 338 pages of the application book to decide if they are eligible to apply for the new gtld[7].

Each application has an application fee of US$185,000 of which a non-refundable US$5,000 must be paid upon application and is not refundable if your application is declined. If you change your mind or your business changes, the refunds available vary from nothing to 80% of the application fee.

In addition to the application fee, there are other associated costs that are expected to be at least US$250,000 per annum.[8]

Applicants could partner with an organisation who is able to satisfy ICANN’s financial requests, but this would create new issues and dilute the profit margins even further. It would also create a new issue of not having complete sovereignty of your own Indigenous space or at the very least you would have to create a comprehensive business plan showing how you would make a profit for that partner to come on board.

For .maori to be of any use to Māori, at least one extra application .māori (note the macron) would also need to be applied for. This would achieve three things.

  1. Duplicate the fact that .maori.nz is also available as .māori.nz
  2. Would satisfy the orthographic conventions as set out by the Māori Language Commission and is almost the standard way of writing in Māori.
  3. It is common to see both versions of the word with and with out the macron.

As macron technology is still relevantly new and for many years Māori used the German umlaut (two dots) a third application for .mäori may be necessary to counter cyber-squatting issues and security. For people who still use outdated macron technology, their computers place a third dot in the umlaut making it impossible to see the umlaut. Hence, in the very least, a study into the word mäori would be required to ensure that it is not a common word in another language that is likely to be registered as a new string.

If this preventative step is not taken, it would be an easy task for a dubious organisation to simply register .mäori and bring .maori into disrepute, thus making it an unsafe domain to register and to be seen in with other strings such as .tk.[9]

There is the fourth option which could be considered and that is the fact that is acceptable to use a double vowel in place of a macron i.e. Maaori.

Assuming the application only used the two common spellings of the word Maori, the application would equate to two sums of US$185,000 which equals US$370,000 for only the application fee. This does not include the annual costs as discussed earlier.

Anyone with a genuine interest in Māori development and success rates could use the estimated US$1,000,000 to give every child in New Zealand/Aotearoa a laptop and training or other large scale social initiatives to assist the wider population of Māori. The return on investment would be much greater in terms of social responsibility and financial returns.

Who has the right to .maori

.maori if applied for would likely be disputed by the community on many grounds including who owns the right to .maori ? Is it Iwi, The Māori Council, Waitangi Tribunal or the individual or a myriad of other people and organisations. Or is .maori simply a term and a string that cannot be owned by any one person or organisation; Māori or non Māori.

Once ownership of the string .maori was settled, there would be new issues of who should profit from the string? Is it all Māori or the commercial entity who is profiteering off every person in the world who calls themselves Māori?

We have already seen one cultural string .scot for Scottish People enduring ownership disputes with the Scottish government recently giving permission to one organisation to apply for the string.[10]

.aotearoa

.maori is very restrictive in what it represents, while Aotearoa is a more general word that reflects a bi-cultural country and a name that most New Zealanders are familiar with and associate with.

Using the name would also open up a larger market of potential customers. The issue is that Aotearoa is an alternative name for New Zealand. Such a name is likely to not be allowed without the permission of the New Zealand Government.[11] Again, this would raise issues around the right of ownership of a Māori word.

The alternative would be to look at using the abbreviated version .ao and negotiate with Angola for such rights[12].

Conclusion

An application for .maori would not be beneficial to Māori, to New Zealand or to the Internet. There is a myriad of potential issues including allocation of funds to such a project and the fact that Māori have good representation on the Internet both internationally and locally.

There are many other more effective options that can be explored if the real need arises for greater space on the web.

[1] http://www.icann.org/

[2] http://newgtlds.icann.org

[3] http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/program-status/application-results/strings-1200utc-13jun12-en

[4] www.picisoc.org/

[5] http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/population/estimates_and_projections/maori-population-estimates.aspx

[6] http://internetnz.net.nz

[7] http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/applicants/agb

[8] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1lY3hUNcgg

[9] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.tk

[10] http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/03/26/gov_gives_nod_to_scotland_domain_name/

[11] http://archive.icann.org/en/topics/new-gtlds/gac-board-geographic-names-21feb11-en.pdf

[12] https://www.reg.it.ao/

 

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