Scotland to have its own Web Domain?

You might have expected me to comment on this week’s faster than light neutrinos story – frankly, I feel it’s a little precipitate to talk about these results (if these are verified by an independent experiment, then I’ll prick up my ears), and besides, there have been plenty of posts by much better qualified people on the subject.

I’ve decided instead to share with you a little nugget of news that might not have gone very far, about Scotland’s internet status.  There have been fresh efforts to lobby for a .scot web domain, led mainly by the Dot Scot Registry, with the backing of the Scottish Government (the UK government is considering whether to support the bid).  The Dot Scot Registry has been lobbying for this since its inception in 2009, and a golden opportunity is fast approaching.

The International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) is a not-for-profit corporation which controls the naming system of websites, in particular controlling the top level domains (such as .com).  In January 2012, they will be hearing suggestions for new top level domains, partly in response to the massive growth of the Internet outside the Anglosphere.  This is no small increase – the current total is 22, and the expectation is that this number will increase to several hundred.

Critics of the campaign have argued that the real issue for Scotland is connectivity, not domains.  There are still large swathes of the country without access to broadband, and improving this is an important milestone for Scottish commerce.  Focusing efforts on a name seems like focusing on the wrong problem.  Having said that, there is still a good case for rebranding – it would certainly lend an air of credibility to the country’s online presence.  After all, if Antarctica and Liechtenstein have their own domains, why not Scotland? A country that generates £4bn a year in tourism revenues needs to have well crafted websites with a memorable name – http://www.tourism.scot does have a nice ring to it.

But it’s not all that simple.  Icann aren’t just giving these things away.  Prospective bidders will have to prove that they are worth the domain – they need to have well-established IT capabilities, a legal system that deals with intellectual property correctly, and sufficient manpower to track down and remove abusive pages (although what abusive means in this context isn’t clear to me).

In the end, I’m not sure how much all this change would really affect me.  It would be quite nice to host this blog on a .scot domain.  That is, if I’ve not forced enough Scottishness down your throat…

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Insurers are Right to Discriminate – We’ve Got More Important Gaps to Fix

The European Court of Justice’s ruling regarding gender disparity in insurance and pension is surely a dangerous precedent.  It’s almost always a good thing to remove gender disparity – that I agree with – but is ‘almost always’ = ‘always’?

For those not in the know, insurers in the UK will no longer be able to charge women less for car insurance than they do for men.  An associated change will affect pensions – as women typically live longer than men, an annuity bought by a woman is typically worth less than an annuity bought by a man, and that is also about to change.

Are these changes correct? Is it right to demand that gender is never allowed to be an issue over which people are treated differently?  Should the law be focusing on being blind to objective, correctly analysed and unbiased evidence that shows men and women live and act differently?

Continue reading Insurers are Right to Discriminate – We’ve Got More Important Gaps to Fix