E-flux and DeviantArt are joining forces. Both entities are among the 10 finalists who want to run the soon-to-be-unveiled .ART domain. The stakes are high given the potential profit to be gained from this ownership as well as the veto power over who gets to purchase a domain name ending in .ART. Until now, there hadn’t been much crossover between the two organizations, but as the deadline approaches for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to make their final decision, there’s been a change in tactics.
A May 21, 2014 letter sent out by DeviantArt to ICANN spells out that if either art organization gets the ICANN vote, both organizations propose to jointly form a policy board of arts professionals to implement standards for the domain’s use. They are not planning to jointly operate .ART, but this way both would have some say in which domain names are approved.
DeviantArt’s letter arrives late in the application process, but it shows just how serious both DeviantArt and e-flux are about preventing any purely commercial interests from controlling .ART.
Banding together might quell some of the initial fears expressed over having a single entity run an entire corner of the Internet. Namely, that e-flux or DeviantArt would end up curating the .ART domain to reflect their specific visions. Initially, e-flux pledged to give 10 percent of the profits from .ART in the form artist grants; whether this would be the case with the DeviantArt policy board remains to be seen. It seems like the two have found some common ground by potentially broadening the definition of an art community; at the very least, they’ve found a common enemy in the eight other applicants.
Out of the 10 finalists for the .ART domain, only e-flux and DeviantArt have applied for “community designation”; the eight others are UK Creative Ideas Limited, Merchant Law Group, Aremi Group S.A., .ART REGISTRY INC., Top Level Domain Holdings Limited, Baxter Tigers, Uniregistry, and Top Level Design. DeviantArt, we should mention is a corporation; however, they have this “community designation” status. In making their case for community designation, e-flux’s endorsement letter lists nearly every living curator and critic in the world; DeviantArt lists the support of their 31 million users.
According to ICANN, organizations with a proven track record serving a community are supposed to be given priority. But in their letter, DeviantArt calls out ICANN for a “resulting and evident bias towards commercialization,” having granted the vast majority of new gTLDs to corporations.
Though the entire ICANN process is shrouded in a bit of mystery, we could hear about the winner of the .ART domain as early as this month.
I’ve included the full text of DeviantArt’s letter below. [UPDATE: We've also been sent e-flux's letter stating similar aims. You can find the full PDF here.]
[Submitted to ICANN May 21, 2014 by deviantART on behalf of its applicant, Dadotart, Inc., for the .ART gTLD]
SAVE DOT ART
ICANN has a choice: it can promote the arts or destroy their common identity.
“.ART “ can become an authentic Internet address for the arts and represent its community. We are on the cusp of an extraordinary opportunity with the simple use of a single word: a virtual place within the Internet for the arts and a virtual palace to the arts built site-by-site by millions of artists and art institutions each with an individualized artistic contribution gathered around the simple namespace of “.ART.” The .ART gTLD can become a touchstone of world culture and contribute transformative vision across all boundaries.
But left to pure commercial exploitation, .ART will stand as a complete failure. It will only occasionally and haphazardly designate the arts themselves. It will not be a welcomed location for the arts. The impact of the worldwide abuse of a beloved term through disjointed, disorganized, and random designations – – completely irrelevant to its meaning and associations – – would be an irretrievable tragedy.
There are two applicants for .ART, which have elected community designation, DeviantArt and e-flux who mutually support each other’s applications. Eight other, purely commercial, entities and individuals have chosen to oppose or stand in the way of that joint effort.
We believe preservation of the arts is at risk based upon the results of the initial community evaluations made by ICANN that clearly disfavor their approval with a resulting and evident bias towards commercialization.
DeviantArt has over 31 million registered members and an audience exceeding 60 million unique visitors a month all drawn to the arts. It is one of the top 150 Internet sites in the world measured by traffic. E-flux is a network of over 100,000 art institutions and professional artists, curators, and practitioners.
DeviantArt and e-flux are committed. We stand prepared to convene a Policy Board of the most passionate and essential artists and art institutions to first debate and then establish standards for the use of the .ART address. As representatives of the community of the arts, we are prepared to initiate a gTLD for the arts, by the arts, and with the arts.
We call upon the ICANN Board to intervene on behalf of the arts. We ask the Board to recognize the .ART gTLD’s unique and substantial value as a world cultural monument and to dedicate its management to trusted, proven organizations that have introduced and guided the arts to the World Wide Web since its inception.
We call upon ICANN to set aside its unlimited and seemingly unrestrained commercialization of the Internet name space and embrace the opportunity that it hardcoded into its guidebook for applicants to self-identify as a community. ICANN must choose to promote the arts rather than destroy their common identity.
We call upon the Government Advisory Committee to the ICANN Board to safeguard the arts as a universal human right in its shared culture. We call upon the GAC to insist upon the recognition of valid community interests in the assignment of gTLDs by ICANN’s management in line with the GAC’s own requests to ICANN at the Singapore meetings held in March of this year.
And through DeviantART we call upon the world community of the arts to make itself known and rise to the defense of its own integrity and good name.