The Barcelona City Council has recently announced that it will request the establishment of the .bcn domain for the city. Earlier this year, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) voted to approve lifting restrictions on the classification of domain names, allowing for new customized Web addresses.
In 2006, ICANN approved the .cat domain, which was subsequently launched by the Catalan Regional Government (Generalitat de Catalunya) as a new domain for websites in the Catalan language. This domain therefore was not intended to represent a specific politically defined region or nation, but a cultural and linguistic group, and had therefore from the outset a strong ideological and national-linguistic component. As explained in the .cat domain charter:
The .cat TLD is intended to serve the needs of the Catalan Linguistic and Cultural Community on the Internet (the “Community”).
The Community consists of those who use the Catalan language for their online communications, and/or promote the different aspects of Catalan culture online, and/or want to specifically address their online communications to that Community.
The success of the .cat domain has encouraged numerous applications for other top level domains centered on creating an independent internet identity for linguistic and cultural communities.
Given the weight of local identity politics contained in the .cat domain, it is no surprise that the Generalitat has reacted angrily and is firmly opposed to Barcelona’s application to have its own domain. The Regional Government’s position is that .bcn will weaken the .cat domain, and will strengthen Barcelona’s approach to presenting itself as a ‘city-state’ with the rest of Catalunya as ‘part of the Barcelona metropolitan area’, rather than as being the capital of the Catalan nation.
In the words of Jordi Bosch, the Generalitat’s Secretary of Telecommunications and Information Society:
Barcelona perdrà l’oportunitat d’exercir com a capital del país i optarà de nou pel paper de ciutat estat que no beneficia el conjunt de Catalunya […] i es donarà un concepte erroni de la resta de Catalunya com a àrea metropolitana de Barcelona.
The Generalitat has further accused the City Council of trying to carry out a branding and marketing operation at the expense of Catalan national identity.
And so it goes.