VATICAN CITY — As top-level domain names are being rolled out and up for grabs, the Vatican has scored control of .catholic.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which coordinates the assignment of Internet domain names and addresses around the world, has been allowing entities to apply for ownership of hundreds, and soon thousands, of new domain names such as .london, .insurance and .xbox, among others.
The Pontifical Council for Social Communications completed the application process last summer and just received approval that it will now control the new Internet address extension .catholic and decide who is allowed to use it.
The Vatican will control .catholic and its equivalent in other languages using Latin letters, as well as the equivalent of the word “Catholic” in the Cyrillic, Arabic and Chinese alphabets. Its request for .catholic in Chinese is number one on the ICANN list of priority domain names, right above .Amazon in Japanese.
Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the council, told me this morning that “we are very happy the approval has been achieved, but there is still a lot of work to do before it goes live.”
Contrary to reports that the domain name will go live this month, Msgr. Tighe said seeing sites with the .catholic extension online still has “a long way to go.” There are still bureaucratic kinks to iron out, like contracts to sign, technical trials to run and clear guidelines to set up for potential users of the domain name.
As the monsignor told us in last year, the Vatican plans to allow “institutions and communities that have canonical recognition” to use the extension, “so people online — Catholics and non-Catholics — will know a site is authentically Catholic.”
The Vatican does not plan to allow individual bloggers or private Catholics to use “.catholic,” Msgr. Tighe said. Use of the domain would be limited to those with a formal canonical recognition: dioceses, parishes and other territorial church jurisdictions; religious orders and other canonically recognized communities; and Catholic institutions such as universities, schools and hospitals.
Controlling the domain name will promote “a more cohesive and organized presence” of the church online, “so the recognized structure of the church can be mirrored in the digital space,” he said.