The Internet just got more interesting for the geeks among us. And for the Catholic techies? Well, I think there are toasts under way.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which coordinates the assignment of Internet domain names and addresses around the world, has been allowing entities to apply for ownership of hundreds, and soon thousands, of new domain names such as .london, .insurance and .xbox, among others.
The Pontifical Council for Social Communications completed the application process last summer and just received approval that it will now control the new Internet address extension .catholic and decide who is allowed to use it.
It means that .catholic in all Latin and foreign characters (Arabic, Chinese, Cyrillic, etc.) will be under the control of the PCCS [Pontifical Council for Social Communications] (the Vatican), which will use them solely for official Church institutions, diocese, and religious orders. That eliminates the problem of stblogs.catholic flying under the flag of the Good Ship Vatican without any oversight, but it does raise other questions.
The purpose of .catholic is to give the Church its own Internet footprint. The effect of its official status, however, will be to convey a kind of de facto imprimatur on that site’s content. If .catholic is official, the thinking may go, then all that appears on a .catholic site may appear to be “approved.” I doubt the PCCS — or anybody — will be capable of drilling down through every potential .catholic site to make sure it’s clean of false material, which will likely limit the extent of .catholic. Will LCWR get a LCWR.catholic? That could be … problematic
McDonald maintains that this is a housekeeping step: consolidation of sites that have .com, .org and whatever else. And really, considering that Msgr. Paul Tighe, who’s secretary of the PCCS, mentioned that there is “a long way to go,” maybe that’s true.
But given the mountains of laundry and the piles of housework in my own domestic castle, I’m not knocking some clean-up. Catholic News Service points out
Controlling the domain name will promote “a more cohesive and organized presence” of the Church online, “so the recognized structure of the Church can be mirrored in the digital space,” [Tighe] said.
And being able to “tell” that a site is authentically Catholic? I’m not going to complain about that. I don’t expect it to be easy, but at least our guys are on it at the beginning.