Should Internet registrars be able to impose requirements on the sites that reside within the top level domains they organize? In general, Id say no, but if there were to be an exception, the .mobi top-level domain makes a good one.
If you want a domain name ending in .mobi, you have to agree to develop your site to meet standards designed to ensure compatibility with mobile devices.
The top-level domain was created so users would immediately recognize a .mobi site as a place where mobile devices are supported. Think of this as real estate zoning in cyberspace.
The domain registrar, mTLD Top Level Domain, Inc., based in Dublin, Ireland, says its requirements are necessary to ensure that .mobi sites work with mobile devices as users expect.
Among mTLDs requirements is automatic sensing of device type, allowing the .mobi site to respond with appropriate pages for each type of device.
PCs that seek access to a .mobi site could be re-routed to a site designed for regular Web browsers on desktop or laptop machines.
I understand why some people are concerned about this. I own a half-dozen domains and wouldnt want the registrar to tell me how those sites are supposed to be built.
However, my domains are all in the .com and .org top-level domains, the basic bread-and-butter TLDs that support the majority of U.S. Web sites.
Nevertheless, .mobi sites are supposed to be specialized and the name makes it quite clear that the sites are designed for mobile users.
If you dont like mTLDs specific requirements, but still want to support mobile devices, you can instead have your .com (.net, or whatever) site autodetect the device making the request and send back an appropriately formatted page.
There is no requirement for anyone to use .mobi and there are plenty of other TLDs available that impose no requirements on how sites are developed.
For that reason, I dont have any problems with the requirements the mTLD is making, so long as they are non-discriminatory and support the widest variety of mobile hardware.
Is .mobi going to establish a precedent? Probably, though I dont know if thats a bad thing.
Making the Internet easier to use may require that specific TLDs have certain "branding" requirements for the sites they support.
As long as the requirements make sense for the TLDs stated purpose and are reasonable, such a limited practice makes sense.
If the marketplace doesnt want what mTLD is offering, the .mobi domain will fail. If companies and users find it useful, then the development requirements will have proven their worth.
Contributing editor David Coursey has spent two decades writing about hardware, software and communications for business customers. He can be reached at email@example.com.