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Competing Groups Vie for .Gay Web Suffix

Two for-profit groups are planning to start the application process to create a top-level website domain, “.gay,” adding another suffix to a growing list that includes “.com,” “.edu,” “.org,” and “.net,” the New York Times reports.

The petitions for the new gay-focused domain reflect a growing adoption of top-level internet domains by various causes - such as the environmental movement, which established “.eco”—as a means for creating online community and generating proceeds to benefit their related interests.

The parties vying for “.gay” include Dot Gay Alliance, a New York-based group led by a longtime gay activist, and dotGay, a group lead by a heterosexual, Latvia-based German man who has incorporated a company in San Francisco.

The competitors, who have not yet ruled out the possibility of working together, are attending a meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), in Seoul, South Korea today.

The process for incorporating a new top-level domain with ICANN can cost more than $400,000. The incorporation fees are generally recouped by the $8 or so in annual fees paid by internet sites that register with the top-level domain.

Joe Dolce, founder and executive director of the Dot Gay Alliance and a long-time gay activist, said that if successful, his group would donate 51% of proceeds from the domain registration process to gay causes.

Dolce said he got the idea for the “.gay” domain when working with Minds and Machines, an internet-domain consulting service, to help create the .eco domain. He said he was fascinated by former Vice President Al Gore’s call that half of the proceeds from “.eco” benefit environmental groups, and thought the model would also work well for the gay community.

The parent company of Minds and Machines will provide financial backing for the expansive application process, Dolce said. Dot Gay Alliance has also received political backing from two New York-based openly gay politicians, New York City Council speaker Christine C. Quinn and State Assemblyman Daniel J. O’Donnell.

On the other side, dotGay does not appear to have any local support. Alexander Schubert, who was born in Berlin but now lives in Latvia, said he planned to move to San Francisco to lead his company. Schubert was co-founder of the group that lobbied for the “.berlin” domain.

Schubert, who is heterosexual, has nonetheless offered to donate more than half his proceeds - or maybe as much as two-thirds - for gay causes.

LGBT Community Active Online

The successful addition of a ".gay" domain will likely influence how marketers target the LGBT community online, especially if LGBT users begin to widely adopt its use as a means of raising funds for various gay causes, or expect that it will be used to specifically target GLBT users, who have proven to be loyal to products, organizations and causes that support gay issues.

According to one Harris Interactive poll, nearly one in four (24%) LGBT adults said they had switched products or service providers in the previous 12 months because they found a competing company that supported causes that benefited the LGBT community.
The “.gay” movement also may be a natural fit for the online-friendly LGBT users, who are much more engaged online, and with social media in particular,  than their heterosexual peers, a recent survey found.
Approximately 55% of gays and lesbians report reading some type of blog, compared with just 38% of heterosexuals, according to a separate Harris Interactive survey.

Other statistics about the online GLBT population:

  • 34% of online gay and lesbian adults say they read news and current-issue blogs, compared with 22% of heterosexuals.
  • 25% of gay and lesbian adults read entertainment and pop culture blogs, compared with 15% of heterosexuals.
  • 28% of gay and lesbian adults read political blogs, compared with 14% of heterosexual adults. This represents an increase over March 2008, when 23% of GLBT read political blogs.
  • 14% of gay and lesbian respondents say they read travel blogs, compared with 8% of heterosexuals.

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