Who is buying the weird, new top-level domains? And why you might (or might not) want to

Expressing yourself? Protecting yourself? Goofing around with a major brand's trademark? Everything is possible

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Jeffrey Rowland is the founder of Topatoco, a company dedicated to selling books, t-shirts, and other merchandise for webcomics artists. He's also a webcomics artist himself, and -- mostly unrelated -- a fan of odd domain names. Thus, when the new .horse top-level domain became available, he did the obvious thing: he bought .horse domains for two of the Internet's most prominent brands, Netflix and Tumblr. tumblr.horse still points to where Rowland put it, his company's own Tumblr page. Netflix.horse, though, prompted a response. "Netflix found out and followed the laws established to protect trademarks, and demanded I turn it over, and I complied," said Rowland.

There's just one snag to the story, though: Netflix hasn't followed up. In fact, Rowland says, "they still haven't actually taken possession of it since I initiated a transfer." Unlike walmart.horse, briefly owned by Rowland's fellow webcomics artist Jeph Jacques before he got a cease and desist, netflix.horse still points to the page Rowland made: a picture of a horse skeleton with every bone labelled "horse". I thought it should really redirect to Netflix's animated comedy Bojack Horseman; Rowland in his correspondence with Netflix legal suggested Beer For My Horses, which is, sadly, not available to stream.

noble horse François Marchal/Wikipedia

The point of this story -- other than its obvious hilarity -- is that Netflix apparently felt obliged to make a pro forma effort to keep control of its brand on the oddball .horse domain, but not so obliged that they actually did anything about it. And even though .horse was conceived of as a platform to give "horse owners, service providers, horse industry employees and volunteers the opportunity to clearly define their presence on the Internet and to help potential customers gain access to content about horses," things don't necessarily seem to have worked out that way. None of the obvious domains have been set up: no saddle.horse, no bridle.horse, no race.horse, not even rocking.horse. And .horse is just one of a slew of new top-level domain names to hit the Internet in recent months that include .boo, .fly, and .moe. So is anyone actually using these domains? And why would anybody want to?

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