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July 19, 2006

Domain Names — It's true: 'All the good ones have been taken'

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Lee Gomes's entertaining and informative column in today's Wall Street Journal explores the truth behind the old saw.

FunFact: "A domain can have, at most, 63 characters."

Who knew?

Here's the piece.

    All the Good Ones Have Been Taken — In Domain Names, Too

    It's hardly secret knowledge, though perhaps only Dennis Forbes has seen it in all its glory.

    There are roughly 47 million domain names that end with ".com," making that space the biggest and most prestigious piece of real estate on the Internet. Getting a URL listed as a dot-com involves, ultimately, checking in with a database at Verisign, the Mountain View, Calif., company that keeps tabs on the dot-com world, the way your state's DMV knows about which cars have which license plates.

    If you know who at Verisign to ask, you can get the complete dot-com list. Mr. Forbes, an analyst at Vastardis Capital Services, a New York mutual-fund service company, got it and has since made a hobby of studying the list, something he does in his spare time. He has, in the process, become the world's pre-eminent domainologist.

    His findings ought to be relevant to aspiring Web entrepreneurs everywhere. For the rest of us, they are an amusement. (Registering a dot-com domain costs around $9 a year. After the initial registration period is purchased, you have to re-register the name or risk losing it to someone else.)

    Most people trying to do business online will tell you that the good domain names are already taken. Mr. Forbes's research proves them out. For example, for every possible two-character and three-character combination -- including both letters and numbers -- all possible domains are taken. Virtually all English words with four letters are claimed; those that aren't are usually contractions, and Web rules don't allow apostrophes.

    All of the 1,000 most common English words have been snatched up. The word "a" appears more than any other, though most of the time, of course, it's just a letter in a longer word. The least-used common word is "consonant," Mr. Forbes says, which is in just 42 domains, including "consonantpain.com," which isn't a misspelling but a word game.

    Mr. Forbes checked the U.S. Census Bureau's 1,219 most-common male names, the 2,841 most-common female names and the 10,000 most-common surnames; all were booked. Not only that, but when you link the top 300 first names with the top 300 last names, 89% of the resulting combinations are taken for male names and 84% for female ones.

    Beyond single-letter words like "a," it's hard to say what is the most common word in all the URLs. It's the same for all short words that tend to be portions of other words. The most common word four letters or longer, though, is "home"; 719,000 domains have some sort of home in them. Given the economics of the Web, chances are that many of those involve refinancing: 114,700 URLs mention "mortgage," which is more than discuss "science," "nature" or "children."

    Because you might be curious, "sex" appears in 257,000 domains. It may be tied to one of the most popular uses of the Web, but the word itself is only the 89th most-popular in dot-com domains. Incidentally, what is perhaps the naughtiest English word -- the one with four letters -- appears nearly 38,000 times.

    So smutty is so much of the Web, that often the best way to figure out what a certain word might be doing in a domain is to think of the most indecent activity you could possibly imagine associated with that word. The word "imagine," for instance, appears in 3,700 URLs, one of which asks us to imagine a certain actress without her clothes.

    Half of all domains are between nine and 15 characters long; the average length is 13. A domain can have, at most, 63 characters, and there are 550 such domains. In fact, some people have made a haiku-like art out of 63-character domain names.

    "I hope you have a pen and paper handy cause this is a crazy long domain name man," says one. (Spaces have been added in the interest of readability.) "Did you know that you can only have sixty-three characters in a domain name?" asks another.

    There are other oddities in this fringe world of hyperlong domains. For example, each of the 26 letters of the alphabet has a domain in which the letter is repeated 63 times until there is no room left.

    While much has been made of domain names like business.com being bought and sold for millions of dollars, Mr. Forbes is dubious about the value of expensive domains. Most people now search for Web sites using a descriptive word or phrase, or else are introduced to a site by a friend or colleague who emails the URL. So, domains don't need to be short and snappy the way they had to be in the earliest days of the Web.

    A large percentage of these domains don't even have working Web sites attached to them. So why do people bother to register them? Besides whimsy, Mr. Forbes credits a lingering spirit of bubble-era speculation -- however improbable it may be.

    "Someone out there," he said, "is still hoping that someone will come along and form a corporation called uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu.com, and when that happens, they will be sitting on a gold mine and will reap the rewards."

July 19, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Jump the shark — in Silver Spring, Maryland?

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Above, what you'll see if you venture down to the Discovery Communications building in the Washington, D.C. suburb.

It's got "... a head 50 feet long and three stories high [and] a double row of leering triangular teeth...," wrote John Kelly in his column in today's Washington Post.

But why is it there?

I'm glad you asked.

The huge inflatable great white is there to mark the Discovery Channel's Shark Week, which begins Monday, July 30.

It took a year of planning and over six miles of stitched-together vinyl-coated nylon fabric to create the monster in California before it was packed aboard a truck and sent east.

There are actually a total of five pieces: in addition to the head there's a tail, a dorsal fin and two pectoral fins, attached to the Discovery Building's sides and roof in the appropriate relationship.

    Wrote Kelly:

    Two dozen workers from Hutchinson/United Rigging spent the weekend installing the shark with the help of a 230-foot crane. They used ropes and wires to attach the flaccid fish to anchors on the roof used by window washers.

    To passersby it might have looked at first as if giant gray Hefty bags were being lashed to the building. Then the air pumps were turned on — two run constantly for each part — and the shark took shape.

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The shark is located at One Discovery Place in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland (tel: 240-662-2000; Metro: Silver Spring).

Directions and map here.

July 19, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Nic Lite — Lemon-Flavored Nicotine-Infused Water

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Alicia Ault wrote about Nic Lite, the latest in a series of nicotine-infused waters, in a story that appeared in yesterday's Washington Post Health section.

Short story shorter: Just as it did in 2002 with the first two such drinks, the FDA forced the manufacturer of Nic Lite to stop selling it, stating that the product is an untested drug rather than a dietary supplement as claimed by Nico Worldwide, the company which makes the water.

Here's the Post article.

    Smoke and Water

    The Complaint: Two consumer groups -- the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Public Citizen's Health Research Group -- have asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to stop online sales of Nic Lite, a lemon-flavored, nicotine-infused water made by Nico Worldwide, a company based in Oxnard, Calif. Nicotine is an addictive chemical that makes tobacco habit-forming. In 2002 the FDA forced two other companies to stop selling their nicotine-laced waters after finding that the products were untested drugs, not dietary supplements, as claimed. Dietary supplements do not require safety and efficacy testing and are only loosely regulated by the FDA.

    The Product: Nic Lite is said to contain 2 milligrams of nicotine (about two cigarettes' worth). But its exact contents can't be confirmed, says Matt Barry, director of policy research for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, because the product has never gone through formal testing. Barry said he drank a bottle of Nic Lite that he ordered online and felt no effects -- ill or otherwise. But he argues that consumers "should have an assurance that they aren't going to get sick from it."

    Nico Worldwide CEO J. Robert Knight said Nic Lite is safe and effective in helping adult smokers cut back or quit. Knight called the water "an alternative method of delivering nicotine," ideal for smokers who can't get through a flight without lighting up.

    The Upshot: In a late June letter to Nico Worldwide, the FDA ruled that Nic Lite is not a dietary supplement, but an unapproved new drug that requires safety and effectiveness testing. Knight said the letter was a surprise to him because the company has a certificate from the FDA granting it the right to sell the product. The company's Washington-based attorney, Paul Hyman, said the matter is under negotiation. "We hope to work it out with the FDA," he said.

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Looks like you'll just have to get your fix the old-fashioned way.

Unless you're willing to head up to Canada.

July 19, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Peekaboo Chair — Episode 2: One for the little people

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Designed by Monika Mulder for IKEA.

Not only is it physically smaller than its grown-up big brother, but the price is even more more diminutive.

From the website:

    PS LÖMSK

    Key features:

    • With the hood pulled down the armchair is a secret hiding place for the child.

    • Fabric has good light transmission — it is never completely dark under the hood.

    • Spinning round helps the brain to sort sensory impressions.

    • May be completed with a cushion, pad etc. for added comfort.

    • 75cm H x 59cm W x 62cm D.

    • Seat height: 17cm.

£39.90 ($73.35).

[via Guy King]

July 19, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

cribcandy — 'A wists-powered thumbnail blog'

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Elmer Fudd-approved.

Lists, wists — twig?

But I digress.

    From the [wists] website:

    wists is a free service that lets you visually bookmark any page on the web, then automatically create a small image, text summary and add a set of keywords without having to save and upload anything.

    You can share your visual bookmarks with friends

    Logostuffhome

    and you can add any non-private items from other wists users to yours by clicking 'copy to my wists' under their bookmarks.

    wists is particularly useful where images are important, for things like clothes, gadgets, household items and auctions.

    You can use wists to put all your wishlists — from any stores on the web — in one place!

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Wists

Note that wists is still in beta so don't get your baggies in a twist if things aren't as silky smooth as you're accustomed to here.

Way above my TechnoDolt™ pay grade — but not yours.

July 19, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Collapsible Wheelbarrow

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From the website:

    WheelEasy™ Collapsible Wheelbarrow

    Soft-sided "wheelbarrow" is gentle on your back

    WheelEasy is a compact, collapsible garden cart that does as much hard work as its bigger cousin but without the heavy, cumbersome lifting.

    Just drop the handles for ground-level loading, then use your rake, shovel or slide to easily fill with gravel, firewood, or plants.

    The one-wheeled cart is designed to carry the bulk of its load more towards the front so when you grab the handles and roll, there's less load to lift and stabilize.

    Lightweight enough to hang on the wall to save space, yet it will carry up to 150 lbs.

    Measures 45-1/2"L x 10-3/4"W.

    Nylon body hoses clean.

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Take your pet or child — or both — for a spin around the 'hood.

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$129.95.

July 19, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lines Written During a Period of Insanity — by William Cowper (1731-1800)

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Hatred and vengence—my eternal portion
Scarce can endure delay of execution—
Wait with impatient readiness to seize my
Soul in a moment.

Damned below Judas; more abhorred than he was,
Who for a few pence sold his holy Master!
Twice betrayed, Jesus me, the last delinquent,
Deems the profanest.

Man disavows, and Deity disowns me:
Hell might afford my miseries a shelter;
Therefore Hell keeps her ever-hungry mouths all
Bolted against me.

Hard lot! encompassed with a thousand dangers;
Weary, faint, trembling with a thousand terrors,
I'm called, if vanquished, to receive a sentence
Worse than Abiram's.

Him the vindictive rod of angry Justice
Sent quick and howling to the centre headlong;
I, fed with judgment, in a fleshy tomb am
Buried above ground.
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July 19, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Needle Threader with Cutter

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From the website:

    Needle Threader w/Cutter

    Designed for use with tapestry and chenille needles.

    Just push the threader wire through the needle eye for quick, easy threading.

    A safely recessed cutting blade snips your thread — an added convenience any sewer or crafter will appreciate!

    1-7/8"L x 3/4"W.

    Plastic, metal.

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Though not noted explicitly on the website, there's a little hole in one corner so you can attach it to your keychain.

Spiffy.

$1.99.

July 19, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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