Berners-Lee Takes Shot at .Mobi Domain

By Anne Chen  |  Posted 2004-05-19

Berners-Lee Takes Shot at .Mobi Domain

NEW YORK—Tim Berners-Lee, the man who created the Web 15 years ago, opened the 13th annual International World Wide Web Conference here on Wednesday by voicing his concerns over 10 new top-level domains being considered by ICANN, including .mobi, a top-level domain for mobile content.

Besides .mobi, the domains .asia, .cat, .jobs, .mail, .mobi, .post, .tel, .travel and .xxx have been proposed to join the likes of .com, .net, .org, .us, .info and .biz and are a potential windfall for any organization sponsoring a new TLD. The International Consortium for Assigned Names and Numbers is expected to make a decision on the new TLDs in December.

Addressing an audience of more than 500 attendees from more than 40 countries, Berners-Lee, director of the World Wide Web Consortium, said he is not against new TLDs; however, new domains should bring social or technological value to the Web, not constrain it.

"It would be great if new domains were opened, but ones with social or technology context that make a commitment to the social system and to the integrity of that piece of the Web," he said. "We have alternatives to a domain like .xxx. You can label porn as metadata, and there are products you can buy that set up filtering for your kid. We shouldnt try to centralize the concept of what is good and what is bad."

Berners-Lee singled out the .mobi TLD, proposed by Mobi JV (an industry group backed by Hewlett-Packard Co., Microsoft Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc. and Nokia Inc.) to encourage the development of mobile content. While he agreed that more content is needed for mobile devices, Berners-Lee said he does not believe that need warrants a separate TLD.

Read also "Coalition Aims to Boost Mobile Content with New Domain Names."

"The Web is about universality. It is independent of the hardware you are using, of the operating system, or the application software, and of the actual network by which you are connected," he said. "This is dividing the Web up. Standards are being forced. There are systems to do this without using a top-level domain."

Berners-Lee said his concern centers around the potential for .mobi to create a divide on the Internet with the development of content specific to mobile devices rather than using existing standards and tools that will enable content to be displayed on any device such as a cell phone or a laptop. He cited the W3Cs Web site,, which uses cascading style sheets, as an example of a Web site that is device-independent.

Next page: Concern over brand protection.

Page Two

Berners-Lee also expressed his concern over brand protection. "People are used to www and .com as being the open quote and close quote of a brand name. A corporation would have to buy their and so on when they thought they had protected their trademark with .com," he said. "If youre going to step a new [domain] out, the governance of this resource should be fair. You should provide visible value to the overall community, not just use it as a cash cow."

He encouraged his colleagues to continue working on the universality of the Web. Forcing organizations to purchase domain names for new TLDs to protect their brands, Berners-Lee said, is unnecessary.

During his keynote, Berners-Lee also applauded his colleagues for their work on the foundation for the Semantic Web and encouraged them to build applications as the second phase of its development.

"Were going to have to bootstrap and justify in the short term by producing applications," he said. "Its going to be exciting because this is the one Web where youre actually connected to something else."

Check out eWEEK.coms Developer & Web Services Center at for the latest news, reviews and analysis in programming environments and developer tools.

Be sure to add our developer and Web services news feed to your RSS newsreader or My Yahoo page

Rocket Fuel