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Dotcom celebrates 25th birthday
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) March 16, 2010

China again tells Google to obey the law
Beijing (AFP) March 16, 2010 - China on Tuesday again warned Google not to stop filtering its web search engine results, as speculation mounted about the company's plans following its threat to leave over censorship and cyberattacks. The US Internet giant has said it could abandon its Chinese-language search engine and possibly pull out of China altogether after the hack attacks. It also says it no longer wants to bow to the Chinese government's web censors. "We have all along maintained a policy of opening-up and welcome foreign investments in China. But the prerequisite is they should respect and abide by Chinese laws," commerce ministry spokesman Yao Jian told reporters. "We hope Google will abide by the law, no matter whether it continues to do business in China or makes other choices."

Yao said if Google were to decide to shut down its businesses registered in Beijing, it would have to notify the commerce ministry -- and so far, no such notice had been received. The spokesman also said Beijing was "opposed to politicising business issues" -- an apparent jibe at the US government and lawmakers who have spoken out on behalf of Google and against Internet censorship in China. Beijing tightly controls online content in a vast system dubbed the "Great Firewall of China", removing information it deems harmful -- including pornography and violence, but also politically sensitive material.

Google threatened in January to abandon and perhaps leave China altogether over what it said were cyberattacks aimed at its source code and at the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. The company has since continued to filter results on, but says it will not do so forever. "Google is firm in its decision that it will stop censoring our search results for China," Google vice president and deputy general counsel Nicole Wong told the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee last week. "If the option is that we'll shutter our .cn operation and leave the country, we are prepared to do that."

China's minister of industry and information technology, Li Yizhong, warned Google last week that it would face "consequences" if it were to violate Chinese law by ending its filters, saying such a move would be "irresponsible". The Financial Times reported at the weekend that Google was "99.9 percent" certain to move forward with plans to abandon, citing an unnamed source. But Google China spokeswoman Marsha Wang said Tuesday that, for now, no changes had been made. "Google has not stopped censorship. This is a rumour. We do not have any update to share," she told AFP.

Recognize Probably not.

But 25 years ago this week the Massachusetts computer maker played a bit role in history -- it was the first company to register a .com address on what would eventually become known as the World Wide Web.

Only five companies would join in 1985 in registering their dotcom names with DARPA, the Pentagon technology research agency which was behind the precursor to the Internet.

Ten years later there were 120,000 dotcoms and "today we have close to 85 million dotcom names registered," said Mark McLaughlin president and chief executive of VeriSign, the company which runs the dotcom infrastructure.

"In some ways (dotcom's) become somewhat of a proxy for the Internet," McLaughlin told a gathering of Internet policymakers and leaders here to celebrate the 25th birthday of dotcom.

"Dotcom's becomes part of our lexicon, our way of life, how we communicate, how we interact with each other, how we do business online," McLaughlin said. "It's a platform for business, entertainment, sports, finance, culture and how we connect with people."

Robert Atkinson, president of the Washington-based Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, said none of this was envisioned when and the others were registered as the first dotcoms.

"DARPA let these companies come on what was essentially a government research network," Atkinson said. "When they made that decision they didn't really know what they were doing.

"What they actually ended up doing was probably creating one of the greatest technological revolutions of all time," he said.

Reed Hundt, a former chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission, said the dotcom domain has become a "common medium for humanity."

"In earlier generations the printing press provided the common medium, print on paper," he said. "To a very large degree the telephone network was a common medium.

"We haven't yet wrapped the whole world in the common language of dotcom-ism," he said. "It's an important thing to do."

Participants in the 25 Years of .Com Policy Impact Forum also highlighted the economic contributions of dotcoms.

"Commerce and communications led (the Internet) to explode and dotcom has been the home for most of that," said Rod Beckstrom, chief executive of ICANN, the private corporation which administers the Domain Name System that forms the technical backbone of the Web.

"The value that all those domains add to business and commerce is absolutely massive," Beckstrom said.

According to a new ITIF study, the dotcom domain has become the platform for 400 billion dollars in annual economic activity, a number that is expected to rise to 950 billion dollars by 2020.

Of the world's nearly 85 million dotcoms, 11.9 million are e-commerce and online business websites, 4.3 million are entertainment-related sites and 1.8 million are sports-related sites, according to VeriSign.

"The value of these dotcom names is incredible," Beckstrom said. "The economic value to businesses that often pay just 10 bucks a year for their domain name may be millions of dollars.

"Google probably paid 10 bucks for when they first got it," he said. "What would they pay to replace it today?"

According to a survey conducted for VeriSign, 81 percent of Americans visit five or more dotcom websites a day while two-thirds visit between five and 25 dotcom websites a day.

One in five reported finding a job on a dotcom site while six percent said they met their spouse or significant through a dotcom website.

Dotcom may be the best known but it is just one of 270 other so-called Top Level Domain Names including .net, .org, .edu, .mil, .gov and the domains for individual countries such as .cn for China, .de for Germany or .ru for Russia.


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