29 April 2022
I recently created every.horse, a website cataloging every .horse domain. It serves no particular purpose.
A Python script runs on demand that:
This is then included in a single-page served up by a Jekyll instance running on a Raspberry Pi at my home.
I did this for a couple of reasons, the primary one being simply as something to keep my mind occupied during a period of recent extreme grief.
The early prompt came when I was reading about a company that was offering the ability to hire people who could (for example) be directed around a distant art gallery for you while wearing a GoPro - a kind of remote human avatar.
This is very similar to the some of the themes explored in William Gibson’s ‘Jackpot’ series, especially around agency, remote labour, and ‘avatars’ as a concept.
This is turn led me to thinking about how there should be a website which documents instances of companies furiously creating ‘torment nexuses’ - technologies expressly forewarned of in science-fiction.
Sci-Fi Author: In my book I invented the Torment Nexus as a cautionary tale— Alex Blechman (@AlexBlechman) November 8, 2021
Tech Company: At long last, we have created the Torment Nexus from classic sci-fi novel Don't Create The Torment Nexus
Then I remembered: there is a .nexus top-level domain, used/owned by Google for their defunct Nexus phones (ironically itself the target of a trademark claim by the estate of a classic sci-fi author). I could build the website and give it the perfectly apt domain of https://torment.nexus! I decided this would become my next project.
But attempts to hunt down where one could buy a .nexus domain were fruitless. Even Google’s own domain registar did not sell the domains for the TLD.
Which raised the question: are there any .nexus domains that are live? Is the entire .nexus TLD - notionally a distinct chunk of the internet domain space - just a long-dead corporate vanity project? And… how do you verify that? How do you find a list of all of the websites for a TLD?
After some digging, I discovered that you can register for ICANN’s Centralised Zone Data Service where you could simply request the Zone File (simply put, a centralised file used for telling the internet where to look for a website1) for a TLD2. I promptly did so for a number of TLDs.
My journey seemingly ended when my .nexus TLD request was approved and I discovered that there are no .nexus domains in use at all. Google appears to just be letting it sit derelict.
So I’d hit the end of the project.
But now, as a side-effect, I had a list of every .horse domain.
The only logical course of action was to share it.
It is a strange thing - a distinct chunk of the internet, offered in the retro format of a directory. And it is largely just a list of joke domain names, likely bought on a whim and largely derelict.
A monument to late-night impulse purchases of bad jokes.
It is perfect.