It is interesting to see how namespaces evolve in the Internet…. I find it especially interesting the move in importance from Open namespaces to the Closed ones, controlled by specific companies.
In early nineties when WWW was just getting on its feet everything was about the Domain Name namespace. These were issued on first come first serve basics and you would not need any approval just desire to pay yearly maintenance fee. This free system had its flaw. Domains could be registered in thousands (or even tens of thousands) for purposes of being resold when someone is looking for well sounding name or pure extortion when names matching other company name or product name are created. As internet Evolved it became harder and harder to get decent names. Somewhere in 1997 we got “virus.ru” domain name which was available – note a word which you could find in a dictionary. In 1999 we had “spylog.com” registered which is decent sounding word combination. In 2006 we took a while to find the name for the company “Percona” which also would be available in .com TLD Now with over 100million of domains registered in .com TLD more and more people have to buy domain names from third party for anything what sounds and types reasonably.
With all its problems and limitations the benefit of it is you essentially “own” the domain name and the decision of court of law is required to take it away from you, so it is rather safe to be working on building value connected to domain name.
The Namespaces which followed domain names are company controlled. Think about your Facebook Vanity names, Twitter Handle, LinkedIn profile name. All of those are issued and controlled by the companies and the company in question has the ultimate control of providing you with access. Not to mention if company goes under so is your namespace.
Google and other search engines are in the similar league. Frankly it is less important to own “dogfood.com” domain name these days than to show up first in search results of “dog food” in Google and other search engines. With Google controlling over 80% search market share the Google love and hate can easily make or break your web site.
In case of Google the situation is even more tricky as unlike taking away your Twitter handle or Vanity page name from you which requires some explanation Google can always explain you loss of ranking in search results by search optimizations to better serve their users.
This “walled garden” where a lot of control is given to few large companies goes beyond name spaces of course. If you’re making business on Facebook Application, iPhone App or Xbox Games you will need to submit your application for approval and even after approval risk for application to be taken down for whatever reason.
Dealing with namespaces which you do not control (or even understand) is additional risk in business you have to be thinking about. The companies I mentioned are typically playing it fair and might be unlikely to go out of business tomorrow. Yet other might be less lucky. Some of my friends have spent years promoting their blogs on VOX only to see service closed few years ago.