The Church Gets dotCatholic

The Church has taken control of the top-level domain .catholic, which has been in the works since they applied for it last summer. The decision was the anticipated result of ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) radically expanded the number of “dot” extensions, which they are awarding based on consultation with entrails.

Ha ha, just kidding. They’re actually playing Pin the Tail on the Application, which is the only way to explain how the American Bible Society, which gave us the ghastly Good News Bible translation, got the .bible extension.

Yo, ICANN, if you’re looking for the people who put the canon together and gave the world the Bible, that would be us.

Back to the Mackerel Snappers. I’m certainly glad “the Vatican” (actually PCCS: The Pontifical Council for Social Communications) took control of .catholic rather than, say, the Scientologists, but I’m not sure endlessly multiplying high-level domains (which may well balloon into the thousands as time goes on) does all that much. dotCom has a charming clarity and simplicity, and we already own all the relevant dotComs except for–ahem–www.catholic.com, which belongs to Catholic Answers. Frankly, I’d rather see catholic.com in Karl Keating’s hands than in the hands of the PCCS, since Catholic Answers has been a pioneer in internet apologetics, while the PCCS has been a pioneer in parchment backgrounds.

But, really, What Does It All Mean?

It means that .catholic in all Latin and foreign characters (Arabic, Chinese, Cyrillic, etc) will be under the control of the PCCS, which will use them solely for official church institutions, diocese, and religious orders. That eliminates the problem of stblogs.catholic flying under the flag of the Good Ship Vatican without any oversight, but it does raise other questions.

The purpose of .catholic is to give the Church its own internet footprint. The effect of its official status, however, will be to convey a kind of de facto imprimatur on that site’s content. If .catholic is official, the thinking may go, then all that appears on a .catholic site may appear to be “approved.” I doubt the PCCS–or anybody–will be capable of drilling down through every potential .catholic site to make sure it’s clean of false material, which will likely limit the extent of .catholic. Will LCWR get a LCWR.catholic? That could be … problematic

For example, I can see a diocese using .catholic, but what about a parish? It would seem natural to have stpatricksnewyork.catholic, but what about stsabina.catholic? It’s already scandalous when a local church wanders off the reservation, but when that parish becomes part of the Official Global Catholic Network, it risks expanding that scandal beyond, say, the ravings of one Chicago lunatic to his flock.

These are minor issues, and it’s nice to see the actual Church in charge of the domain. It would have even better if She was in charge of .christian, but I doubt very much ICANN is crazy enough to put that one out there. Wars have been found for less. Much less.

We’ll probably see a lot of Vatican.catholic, Franciscans.catholic, NewYork.catholic, and so on. That’s the smart way to go, pegging each institution and diocese to a single simple domain. The results will be limited, and that’s all for the best. The nature of the Church means that we shouldn’t see endlessly multiplying official domains. On the other hand, it’s good to have all of the official domains under one unified banner. My guess, however, is that no one will bother going to vatican.catholic when vatican.com takes them to the same place for five fewer letters.

I’m glad to see the official Church get some coherency in its url naming, merging lots of .org, .net. and .com sites into .catholic. I don’t see a lot of effect beyond general housekeeping, however.

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About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.


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