Nineteenth Century prospecting consisted of heading-out to the Wild West with a mule and a gold-pan or a pickaxe and literally digging-for-gold, whilst Twentieth Century prospectors tended to be more urbane, Gordon Gekko types in red braces, playing hard-and-fast with the lives of ordinary people by 'hedging' and 'shorting' against individual currencies and economies. Digital Economy prospecting, however, has returned to the New Wild West, in the form of the land-grab for domain names and, now-more-so-than-ever, with the 21st Century Gold Rush for unlimited domain extensions that's about to unfurl in 2012.
More specifically, the ethereal, so-called 'Internet Authorities' have decided - in their apparently infinite wisdom - to open-up the whole domain extension market so that, as of next year, not only will you have Dot-Coms and Dot-Nets etc, but you'll also be able to buy Dot-London, or Dot-Food or, perhaps even more tantalisingly (seeing as pornography alone allegedly accounts for over 10% of all web traffic), Dot-Sex.
Crucially, we're talking about domain extensions here, not just domain names, so - by way of example only - this is not just a question of owning ImAPillock.Pillock, but actually a question of owning .PILLOCK outright and then being able to charge people to register any name using that extension (such as MyNeighboursAPillock.Pillock or ICantBelieveItsNotPillock.Pillock).
Now the really interesting part is that, unfortunately, you won't be able to register Dot-RememberYoureAWomble for Fifty Quid, like you can for most domain names... if you want to buy any of these domain extensions, then there's an application and vetting process and the starting price is a whopping £250,000.oo. Joking aside, therefore, who should get extensions such as Dot-London ?
Personally, I think that Boris should become a socialist - "Just For One Day" as David Bowie would have said - and 'nationalise' the bloody thing on behalf of all Londoners... then London and its citizens could actually generate very significant revenues from selling thousands of domains, such as Cinemas.London, Restaurants.London, Pubs.London and ICantBelieveItsNotLondon.London... or, better still, we could simply lease them out for short periods (which should appeal to the Dulux Dog's landed-gentry sensibilities). Similar arguments shall, of course apply to other, even more critical extensions such as Dot-Medicine... and, as for Dot-God, well, we'd better pray for divine intervention on that one.
The battles that shall rage over the ownership of these domain extensions shall be epic - although I hear that Dot-Gaddafi will be coming soon to a Pound Store near you. Web Sheriff has already been embroiled in innumerable skirmishes on behalf of clients to recover fraudulently registered Dot-Coms, Dot-Nets, Dot-Co-Dot-UKs and many more and, equally, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter and 'user-generated' sites such as YouTube are all awash with 'cyber-squatting' (ie. bogus accounts, profiles and channels, that we again are obliged to return to their rightful owners). Laughably, we've even had some Russian imposters trying to pass-themselves-off as being the Web Sheriff of, in effect, the New Wild East and they are now getting sued in both the US and Russia for their sins and shall doubtless end-their-days cracking rocks in Siberia... but that's a whole other blog for another day.
Why should these crucial decisions be left to grey-men-in-grey-suits however... geographic, monopolistic extensions should be sequestrated by the area authorities that they relate to - globally - and other, generic extensions should be put to some kind of international, popular vote... I suppose the Pope is a shoe-in for Dot-Vatican, although he might be surprised to also get Dot-ChildAbuse in a two-for-one deal.
So, there you have it. There's Gold In Them There Names... and, if you can't afford A-Cool-Quarter-of-A-Million for your own moniker, then what-the-heck, just remember to set-up "I Can't Believe It's Not [Me]" accounts on Twitter, so that you annoy those who've stolen your identity with a constant stream of abusive tweets... now, where's my donkey ?!
Follow John Giacobbi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/websheriff