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resources on the Internet contain a
domain name designation, the value of
the bounded community of trust
provided by a dedicated TLD should be
he scope of this trust may be
extended by controlling further
aspects of the .museum namespace. As a
further proof of concept, the second level
in .museum is reserved for generic and
geopolitical designations. (This is more
easily demonstrated than described and
the reader is encouraged to visit This provides a
basis for cohesively named coordinated
action within subsegments of the
museum community. Examples might be
the deployment of cataloguing or meta-
data schemes, with specific disciplinary
CANN is now preparing to open a
second call for proposals for further
sTLDs. The selection of .museum from
among the responses to the first call was,
in part, motivated by the expectation that
it was going to be the first of what
would subsequently become a larger
number of sTLDs within the broader
heritage management sector. Attention is
currently being focused on the other two
communities in the ALM sector
archives and libraries. Additional members
of the envisaged sTLD cluster may also
be found in the fixed cultural property
management community monuments
and sites. The scope of further expansion
is potentially as wide as that of culture
although it is currently totally unclear
how many new TLDs will ultimately be
established. Present action is focused on
the `approval of a limited number of new
sponsored gTLDs'. Who within the
DigiCULT sphere of concern will be
need for extending or redesigning the
DNS, it would thereby become possible
for communities to establish collective
identities on the Internet.
ne Big Question required a con-
vincing answer before this was
actually implemented. What would a
community be able to do with its own
TLD that it could not do on a lower
level in one of the pre-existing TLDs?
The obvious alternative device was
something along the lines of SECTOR.
ORG. There was, however, a simple and
compelling case to be made against this.
Assuming that, as a second-level domain
it received the full consensual support of
the community for which it was created,
it would still be vulnerable to the indivi-
dual whim of its operator. This could be
offset if the domain were operated by
some broader corporate entity established
by the envisaged TLD's target community,
but it was still necessary to prevent the
operator from being able to redefine the
purpose of the domain.
his issue was ultimately resolved by
entrusting the operation of each
community-based TLD to a `sponsoring
organisation' (SO) on the basis of a char-
ter established jointly by the prospective
SO and the agency responsible for the
management of the top-level of the
DNS, the Internet Corporation for
Assigned Names and Numbers
(ICANN). The SO could not then unila-
terally alter the terms of the charter and
ICANN was empowered to redelegate
authority over the TLD to a new sponsor
if the initial SO failed to maintain the
policies established in the charter.
his was finally put into practice
with the creation of three spon-
sored generic TLDs (sTLDs) in October
2000. Given their innovate nature, it was
not possible to anticipate where their
establishment action might ultimately
lead. Much depended on the value that
individual members of the target com-
munities ascribed to being identifiable as
a member of that community by means
of a name in the new TLDs. There were,
after all, other means by which institu-
tions could indicate the sectors to which
they belonged.
he pivotal issue became one of
trust. If the Website WWW.BIG-
BESTMUSEUM.COM claims that it is
operated by a museum, the user is left to
verify its origin either on the basis of the
site, itself, or through deliberate research
elsewhere. If the same site were to appear
as BIG.BEST.MUSEUM, the validation
effort would require nothing more than
reference to description of the domain's
purpose in the .museum charter. This is,
in fact, based on the definition of
`museum' contained in the Statutes of
the International Council of Museums
(ICOM). Although erudite users might
argue the details of that definition, from
the perspective of the average user, the
assurance that a .museum resource con-
forms to ICOM's notion of what consti-
tutes a bona fide museum is probably
t may be suggested that a non-specia-
list user has little need for concern
with verifying the organisational status of
a Website that is otherwise found useful,
elucidating, attractive, or entertaining.
However that might be, it can be coun-
tered that it is in the museum communi-
ty's own interests to provide a clearly
identified and easily accessible area on
the ever so vast Internet that contains
material guaranteed to reflect the
museum profession's expertise and values.
It is, in any case, the sector's mandate to
make such material publicly available.
Since the identifiers assigned to all