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.MOBI Top Level Domain Names Have Misguided Rules

Well the “Sunrise Registration” period for the new .MOBI [1] top level domain names just started up about a week ago, and I have to say that the rules that have been imposed with .MOBI are irritating. The company that serves as the registry for it, “mobile Top Level Domain Ltd” (“mTLD”), has required that anyone who is delivering up content on a .MOBI TLD must deliver up at least the root level page in XHTML-MP format.

According to their mandatory registrant rules, you could just own the .MOBI domain for your site and not publish a site on it — just sit on it, to keep others from hosting stuff on your trademarked name. Once you publish content on the .MOBI domain, at least the root response must be in XHTML-MP flavor, and they will police these domains to insure compliance. Sites not in compliance will be warned, and if they aren’t fixed, their zone file entries will be deleted until the sites are corrected!

Now, I understand that they idealistically want to make the internet world a better place, and they’re seeking to insure consistency by imposing this standard. However, I think they’re misguided and this is a pretty bad business decision. I don’t see anything wrong in having generally thematic rules associated with TLDs, like using .EDU only for educational institutions and .MIL only for military sites. My beef is with having a registry now take on additional powers of setting a required protocol for the content on the site, policing it and checking for validity, and unplugging sites that don’t comply. This is another case where corporate business gets too full of its own self-importance, and tries to get everyone to join in lockstep. I think that business can sometimes work much better with fewer restrictions — how about selling a product and then giving some leeway in how the customer decides to use it? They’re shooting themselves in their own feet with these rules.Just imagine — at the beginning of the internet, if the registry had required that website owners have 100% valid HTML, or else have their domain names unplugged? Or, when version 4 of HTML was released, if they’d then required all sites to convert from earlier HTML versions over to it, or be suspended? Such measures would’ve slowed down the growth of the internet by creating additional entry barriers.

Insisting upon a particular format for .MOBI sites is exactly the same thing. HTML and the internet have been as successful as they have because browsers have been forgiving of invalid HTML, and there hasn’t been some autocratic entity policing the internet. According to the Wikipedia article on HTML:

“Early versions of HTML were defined with looser syntactic rules which helped its adoption by those unfamiliar with web publishing. Web browsers commonly made assumptions about intent and proceeded with rendering of the page. Over time, the trend in the official standards has been to create an increasingly strict language syntax; however, browsers still continue to render pages that are far from valid HTML.”

I think that the registries should concentrate on the basic administration and handling of domain names, but should keep their noses out of what protocols are used on the domains, and whether they’re validly formed or not. For instance, if I already had my applications built in HDML or WML, why should I have to deliver any content at all in XHTML-MP? Many of the wireless devices are have legacy support. XHTML-MP, on the other hand, is not backwards compatible with legacy wireless protocols.

I think this requirement of theirs is misguided — the idea of a .MOBI TLD for wireless devices was an interesting idea, but they should have left it up to site owners how to handle content on there, just as the internet has operated thus far. Market forces are strong enough to influence how/what people deliver content on their sites!

As it stands, those of us who already have mobile applications are already able to use dynamic aplications to sense device types used to access our regular WWW.COM domains, and deliver up content in formats friendly to those devices. Why would I now want to deliver up mobile content on this new domain where I have to worry about their restrictions? After all, typing in .COM on your cellphone is one character shorter than .MOBI. Many sites already sniff the USER_ACCEPT strings which indicate the compatible protocols for devices, and then deliver up interfaces which work on mobil apps directly from their .COM domains.

So, what incentive is there for endusers to suddenly adopt typing site domain names into their devices using .MOBI?


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