It would be nice if there were one way to express identity. But the numerous contexts in which identity is required won’t allow it.

One reason there will never be a single, centralized monolithic system (the opposite of a metasystem) is because the characteristics that would make any system ideal in one context will disqualify it in another.

– Kim Cameron, The Laws of Identity

Domain names have become a minor bugbear of mine.  In many ways they behave like physical sites, especially in the way people squat and speculate on them.  This comes about because of the nature of the domain registration system which is very Home-Owner-Ist/Faux-Lib in its approach, complete with its own version of homesteading.  The root of all this is the way we identify websites.  As we’re not very good at remembering numbers which all internet traffic relies on, we assign names to these numbers.  Trouble is each name can only be used once, even though there is more than one McDonald’s, so the more obvious names become more valuable while costing a flat fee to maintain.  Cue much rent-seeking.

As the Laws of Identity point out, Identity is contextual.  The domain name system acknowledges this to a degree, but tries to impose its own contexts on users which aren’t necessarily meaningful (what *is* a .info domain anyway?), typically overlap (the company I work for have identical .com and .co.uk domains), and generally have come too late for anyone to care (are there any .tv domains? Any at all?).  Methinks there must be a way to make identifying websites more contextual to the individual user, but I’m not sure how it would work.  To an extent search engines have taken up this role, but it took till the end of the third page of google results to find any reference to McDonald’s that didn’t involve clowns, and besides, you need to be able to find the search engines too!

As a side note this was also a failing of the XRI naming system, which was even more non-contextual.  Anyone who happened to be called Drummond was out of luck from the word go.

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