AC Buzz

.cat: Internet’s most innovative domain

.Cat, is without a doubt, the Internet’s single, all-time best domain. If cats rule the Internet — which they do, obviously — .cat puts .com, .net and .org to shame.

And yet, you almost never see it. There are few .cat start-ups, or .cat novelty sites, or cheeky .cat resumes. The exception, in recent history, was a site called nytimes.cat, which replicated The New York Times’s homepage. Except for the news photos, which it replaced with cat memes.

But the founders of .cat, who spent years lobbying multiple governments and nonprofits for the domain, never intended for it to be used this way. That’s because .cat actually has nothing to do with felines — it’s short for Catalan, as in the much-persecuted language/culture of Eastern Spain.

A little history is called for here, so bear with me briefly — Catalans have had a rough deal for many years. Originally an autonomous nation-state in the east of the Iberian peninsula, with its own distinctive culture and language, Catalonia was folded into Spain in the 18th century — and systematically eroded from there. A series of Spanish monarchs dismantled Catalonia’s regional self-government in the 18th and 19th centuries. For much of the 20th century, under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, Catalans were only allowed to speak, say mass, and do business in Spanish — a bit of authoritarianism meant to stamp out Catalan culture. Read more here.

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