.com is dead, art on the Internet gets organized

The online editorial platform-cum-artist project/archive, e-flux, recently announced the creation of a new Internet domain pertaining specifically to art-related online resources.


Whilst the difference between a .com and a .art may seem inconsequential, e-flux have taken the project very seriously, applying for the rights to the domain over 6 years ago, announcing “a new development that will have a serious impact for art practitioners, institutions of art, and art publics worldwide.”


The rights were sold off at auction by ICANN and eventually went to UK Creative Ideas Ltd. (UKCI) but e-flux is aiding the launch of the domain which goes live this week. Early adopters include: Van Abbemuseum, the Walker Art Center, the Dia Art Foundation, the Stedelijk Museum, Para Site in Hong Kong, the ICA in London, Artists Space in New York, RAW Material Company in Dakar, Beirut Art Center and Museo Tamayo in Mexico City. But why?





According to Anton Vidokle, co-founder of e-flux who has been managing the project since its conception, “for many individuals, galleries and museums, who do not have the word art in their name, having such a distinctive identifier will help them become more visible online and more intelligible to the public.” This visibility is linked to the ease with which people are able to remember a company website: “most good names in the .com domain (which is still by far the most popular) are taken at this point,” says Vidokle, and this results in companies having to come up with obscure formulations of their name in order to have a coherent web address. The problem is, no one can remember what it is. “For example the ICA in London have been using ICA.org.uk which is a very complex string. Now they have ICA.art which is infinitely more clear and simple to remember.”


You may think that with the overarching dominance of Google, the ICA need not worry about the complexity of their domain name. However, with the ever-increasing presence of the Internet and its websites in all spheres of life, smaller galleries or artists are drowning in a sea of digital data, and this new initiative may be a step towards a clearer, more visible online presence.


Vidokle also sees .art having more than just a practical business role. “The internet is very shaping in terms of how we learn about things and what we know. It is also a source of all kinds of misinformation, espionage, data mining and much of what has led to the “post-truth” which is wreaking havoc in politics and many other aspects of our life,” he says. “From this perspective, it is crucial that the art domain develops to become a trusted, reliable resource that reflects values implicit to art, among them a commitment to truth.”





Building reliability via the .art domain name is also an important step, with unconventional domain names frequently linked to phishing scams and viruses: the providers of .art will need to convince users that the general public will trust their website. As domain name expert Bill Sweetman explains, “once the general population starts to see and use .art websites 'in the wild' that are associated with well-known arts organizations and artists, this will breed familiarity and, eventually, trust. This will likely take years, if not decades, but eventually these new domains will seem commonplace.” However he believes that an initial mistrust of .art is unlikely, suggesting instead that the domain is likely to generate intrigue: “These new domains are, by their very nature, a big change to the Internet namespace,” he says. “It is almost a form of naming and branding 'shorthand' wherein the domain extension contributes significantly to explaining what the named entity (to the left of the dot) is all about.”


A professional period, during which arts organizations can apply for a .art domain name at a reduced rate, is running from February 8 through May 9. More details here.