Saturday, May 30, 2009

Restrictions as a positive enabler

I haven't updated this blog in a while, I was extremely busy (and still am) with all the software releases for .tel. The app Superbook is out on the iPhone app store (at among many other things.

However, I took the time today to write a post on the Namepros forums to point out that one could easily fall into the trap of thinking "all .tel domains are the same" because of the obvious similarity in their form when viewed through the web. Here's most of my post calling for lifting restrictions on showcasing .tel domains on Namepros, edited for readability on this blog:

You could easily fall in the trap of viewing development restrictions on .tel domains as being a negative point. But then you'd be looking at .tel from the viewpoint of someone building a website where form and function are driven by the restrictions of http+html. You've been operating within them for so long that you've learned not to get close to the boundaries. Hence, you don't see them. Nevertheless, they exist.

Requesting a web page is costly in time and resources. So you work on mobile-optimised versions as well as regular "heavy" versions. Similarly, because creating a single page is hard work, you try to make as few pages as possible. For both reasons, you rely on search rather than navigation.

Making any kind of data-driven site means "dynamic" website, which entails scripting and database backend, and therefore expertise in both (or passing knowledge, which results in a very average user experience).

And let's not discuss multi-dimensional visualization, which automatically means Flash, Java or some kind of 3D language.
And you can only convey text, not language inflexions. Well you can add an audio file, but that's pretty horrible. Then again you can switch to a podcast which is nothing like a web page. You can't even write the text you want, you're stuck with standard fonts. Which is partly why comic book artists scan their strips.

Now let's get to the subject at hand, .tel. With .tel, the form is set. You have two choices: fight it or be happy that you don't have to worry about it. If you're in the first camp, no problem, get any other domain (.com, .biz, etc...). If you're in the second camp, then we can start talking about the benefits of the form being set, and ultimately about the nature of .tel.

Which brings me to the real question that's at the root of the discussion: what are .tel domain builders?

The answer is really simple : Data architects. Librarians. Navigation interface designers. In more mathematical terms, graph creators.

And that is why thinking all .tel domains are the same can hit such a raw nerve. Telsters aren't showcasing their HTML-fu, they're showcasing their graph building knowledge. Yes, the current overwhelming majority of .tel domains contains very simple graphs, but that is why showcasing .tels is so important: learn from your peers. I don't think anyone on the Namepros forum is a librarian by training (please do correct me if I'm wrong!), but they're clearly eager to learn.

Beyond small business owners quickly understanding the value of owning a .tel filled with their contact info, a domainer who wants to build value in a .tel will view it as an incredibly easy-to-use, fast and efficient data source for contact and short textual info.

Think about building mobile apps where the only necessary data source is the DNS. That is of course what the iPhone app Superbook is about, or the TelProxy web application. But you could as well have a navigable compendium of all plant species in the Amazonian Forest, with web link cross references, image links to flickr photo albums, or IRC pointers to live discussions on how to best extract sap from a rubber tree. Without ever writing a single line of code.

Thanks for reading,

PS: The original post is here