Ongoing net neutrality debates reveal the tensions between the Internet’s open-source, free access ideals and the commercial or private forces behind the web. The debate extended into the internet’s officially biblical realm—the .bible domain—in a recent dispute over its faith-based standards.
Some Bible scholars accused the American Bible Society (ABS) of unfairly restricting use of the top-level domain, which it secured a contract to run as an administrator back in 2013.
The year before, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) opened up thousands of possible new web endings, called top-level domains, and asked interested entities to submit an application—and a $185,000 fee. Beyond the typical .com, .org, and .edu, these branded top-level domains allow for punchier marketing and unique URLs.
Plenty of the top-level domains, even ones with Christian crossover, ended up going to secular corporations. The tech-savvy Oklahoma megachurch then known as LifeChurch.tv applied to run the .church domain, but got beat out by Donuts Inc., a major domain name registry. It still changed its URL and name to Life.Church, but doesn’t serve as the registry operator for fellow .church sites. Donuts also owns .community, .care, and .life, the extension used by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Evangelicals for Life conference (evangelicals.life).
ABS, though, had no competition for .bible and, in partnership with several other Christian organizations, became the entity in charge of registering .bible websites, a task that it said follows its 200-year mission to promote Bible engagement.
Certain companies restrict their top-level domain for their corporate branding—for example, Amazon owns .prime, and L’Oreal owns .makeup—while an administrator like Donuts wants to see others register under its domains since the more who pay to use the extension, the more Donuts stands to make.
ABS, a nonprofit, has a different approach to its role. With .bible, this online venture represents a 21st-century extension of its ongoing advocacy for the Bible and biblical resources.
“When the domain became available, we sought to administer it so we could help facilitate the creation of a trusted online space for those seeking to engage with the Bible,” Geof Morin, ABS senior vice president for ministry mobilization, told CT. “American Bible Society supports the free flow of information and ideas, but we also want content found on .bible sites to have a healthy respect of the Bible.”
ABS oversees .bible in partnership with United Bible Societies, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Life.Church, and Bible publisher Crossway.
It launched its own site, american.bible, in 2015, and about 1,200 others have registered with the domain since it went public the next year—sites like translation.bible, search.bible, leadership.bible, kingjames.bible, and mlk.bible.
Along with the typical legal requirements any top-level domain administrator would have in its acceptable use policy, ABS includes several conditions related to respect for biblical and religious views, including its mission to promote “the Bible community, and its issues, causes, interests, perspectives, positions, supporters, and admirers.”
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Source: Christianity Today