City cites credibility for switching from .org to .gov.
The Town of West Hartford recently changed its domain name from a .org to a .gov, and I found its rationale for doing so rather interesting.
Here’s a news brief from West Hartford News:
This month, the Town of West Hartford changed its domain name from westhartford.org to westhartfordct.gov. The .gov domain offers a higher level of scrutiny that only federal, state and local governments are allowed to use. Joining the .gov community verifies that our internet address is the official Town of West Hartford, CT and that we have been vetted by the General Services Administration (GSA), an independent agency of the United States government. All visitors to the old website address will automatically be redirected to the new website address.
Town employee email addresses will also change to the new domain name and will end with westhartfordct.gov. Messages will also be automatically forwarded to the new one.
First observation: the city didn’t just change the top level domain name. It also went from “westhartford” to “westhartfordct” as its second level domain. This is a downgrade.
Second observation: the city views .gov as an authenticated space, and believes its residents do, too.
The second observation is obviously the bigger of the two. The news brief explains that .gov is restricted and that it had to apply and be approved in order to use the domain name. It also implies that visitors to the address will know it’s the official city website since it’s on a .gov.
This thinking is exactly what purveyors of restricted top level namespaces argue. If you go to a namespace in which the registrants have to be licensed or authenticated, then you’ll trust the websites ending in that TLD more.
The challenge, of course, is that the TLD and its authentication has to be sufficiently well known for the typical person visiting a site under it, in order to award it greater credibility. In the United States, many people associate .gov web addresses with “official”. It will be difficult for other TLDs to get similar recognition.
It’s also worth noting that many internet users think that .org validates that a site is a non-profit or charity, even though .org doesn’t have registration restrictions.