Religious groups vie for Internet space in domain name grab
Religious groups have long vied for prime parcels of land, planting churches on town squares and monasteries amid isolated mountains. But now they’re targeting real estate in a less tangible sphere: cyberspace.
For the first time in its history, the international nonprofit that doles out generic Internet domain names such as “.com” and “.edu” will allow more specific web address extensions like “.church.”
Hundreds of companies, Internet entrepreneurs and cities submitted nearly 2,000 applications, seeking the right to own everything from .app to .zulu, the Britain-based International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers announced last Wednesday (June 14).
ICANN called the expansion “a new era of online innovation” that will bring “new businesses, new marketing tools, new jobs, and new ways to link communities and share information.”
But corporations like Amazon and Apple are not the only applicants for coveted online addresses. Religious power players such as the Vatican, the Mormon Church and the American Bible Society are in the mix as well.
At a time when answers to life’s questions seem just a mouse click away, the online land grab could become a lucrative investment for savvy spiritual leaders, said Heidi Campbell, an associate professor at Texas A&M University.
Nearly 8 in 10 religious Americans are active Internet users, according to a 2011 study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project. And 69 percent of the estimated 335,000 churches in the United States have a website, according to a separate study conducted by the Hartford Institute for Religious Research.
In other words, there are scores of spiritual seekers online and millions of websites competing for their attention. [More]