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Naming in the online Anglican world
Two events triggered our thinking this year. The first was this item in the 'How to contact us' information from the Diocese of Malaita, which is in the Solomon Islands:
The second event was the Diocese of Virginia telling us that they were now universally using the domain name 'thediocese.org'. No, whoops, wait a minute. That was 'thediocese.net'. Not to be confused with 'thediocese.com', which is for sale, or with 'diocese.net', which is Catholic Life magazine.
We realized that these are, in the abstract, the same situation. The Diocese of Malaita, in the far-off Solomon islands, has telephone numbers that only work when the caller is local. And the Diocese of Virginia has a name that only has meaning if you are local. Surely you will have noticed that we use names in anglican.org to refer to all dioceses, so, though the Diocese of Virginia likes to call itself 'thediocese.net', we call it 'virginia.anglican.org', which works fine. We know someone whose given name is Elizabeth whose family calls her 'Jake'.
Almost every web site wants more traffic, and site operators sometimes employ consultants to help them increase traffic to their site. A trick long favoured by pornographers is to grab domain names that are similar to popular sites, and hope that people mis-remember or mis-type the name, thereby coming to the site by accident. There are two variants of this trick; the first is to pick a name like 'whitehouse.com' to snare people who were really looking for 'whitehouse.gov'; the second is to pick a name like 'altevista.com' that is a common misspelling of a popular name like 'altavista.com'.
Use of these tricks is not limited to pornographers and casino operators. All of them seem to be in use in the Anglican world. At the same time that ECUSA is starting to use the name 'episcopalchurch.org' (and a parish church in California is using theepiscopalchurch.org) there is a far-fringe site that uses the name the-episcopal-church.org. We don't know whether this site uses that name because they believe that they are official (or will be official once God sends all of ECUSA to Hell), or because they hope it will drive traffic their way, but if you are brave* you can look at it.
During Lent we noticed that the domains anglicansonline.net and anglicansonline.org.uk delivered the Church Times web site, and we made inquiries. Our inquiry caused the names to be quickly moved; both names now deliver a clever framed clone of the about.com 'English Culture' page, but you can see the difference (a gold bar at the top) if you look at about.com side-by-side with anglicansonline.net, anglicansonline.co.uk, or anglicansonline.org.uk.
All of these fake domains are owned by 'McNeill Associates', whose web site says it is an IT consultancy. We can imagine many reasons why this organisation might have done such a thing, but we see no point in telling you what we imagine. We know that our readers are not fooled by tricks like these. The usual practice in domain name piracy is to file a lawsuit against the pirate, but we have neither the money nor the inclination to sue this particular Jolly Roger. They probably paid 50 pounds apiece for those names, which is its own punishment.
What's in a name? Sometimes nothing.
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