Real estate professionals underline the importance of location in a property’s value. In the same way, on the internet, the URL (Uniform Resource Locator) – or less formally, the “internet address” – anchors an offer in the digital space. Domain names therefore constitute the cornerstone of our digital economy. Commercial parties are very much aware of the importance and value of URLs, and a domain name market has emerged, where URLs are bought and sold. The gradual evolution towards a more structured and Semantic Web, combined with the Internet of Things, will emphasise the importance of stable and meaningful domain names.
The opening up of the top-level domain name market in 2012 has offered new perspectives for companies, administrations and individuals to include a geographic component within the domain name of their website. In Belgium, this has resulted in the possibility to buy and use new top-level domain names such as .brussels or .vlaanderen, in addition to the traditional .be.
Little to no research had been carried out since then to analyse the uptake of the new top-level domain names. This is no longer the case for .brussels, which has been studied by a team of researchers in communication at Université libre de Bruxelles. In the 119th issue of Brussels Studies, Margot Waty, Seth van Hooland, Simon Hengchen, Mathias Coeckelbergs and Max De Wilde propose an empirical study of the impact of the commercialisation of this top-level domain name.
Based on a statistically representative sample of domain names using .brussels, their analysis provides detailed insight into the impact of the recent changes to the rules concerning domain name registration. The authors underline that .brussels addresses constitute a niche which has not fallen prey to speculation. Even if less .brussels domain names have been acquired than expected and the number of major commercial stakeholders has remained limited, this has had the positive impact of leaving sufficient room for small and local players with a clear connection to Brussels. The local semantics of this domain name is thus better respected. It is good news for webmasters as well as for end users, who will thus find contents which correspond with the address.
However, the use of .brussels should still evolve significantly over time, as end users at the time of the study were often unaware of the existence of .brussels, sometimes even thinking that there was an error in the URL. The promotion of and awareness-raising with respect to .brussels will certainly take place in the coming years, but the authors underline the fact that it is good that the uptake is happening slowly and that there is local content on the websites which use it.
At a time when city managers are analysing social networks more and more in order to anticipate events, this article has the virtue of underlining – for anyone who is concerned with the Brussels identity – the fact that the address .brussels also deserves some attention.
Authors of the article:
Margot Waty, Seth van Hooland, Simon Hengchen, Mathias Coeckelbergs, Max De Wilde and Jean-Michel Decroly, “How hot is .brussels? Analysis of the uptake of the .brussels top-level domain name extension”, Brussels Studies [Online], General collection, No 119, 22 January 2018.