What did I learn on my first and recent trip to France? Well, for starters, I confirmed that the wine and cheese in France really is the best (sorry, rest of the world). Yet, oddly enough, not one of the three companies that applied to run the new top-level domain (gTLD) .WINE is based in France – and not a single company applied for .CHEESE, perhaps because only a portion of the world’s population possesses the genetic ability to digest dairy (limiting, to some degree, international market growth). Upon connecting to my hotel’s wi-fi, I also noticed that my Apple device immediately began running Google.fr and that many, though not all, of the businesses in France run advertisements for websites using the .FR country-code top-level domain (ccTLD).
When surfing the web in Paris I was also introduced to the French version of Amazon, http://www.amazon.fr. Given that its application for .AMAZON was recently recommended for rejection, Bezos’ company will have to continue to use ccTLDs like .FR. The rejection recommendation could only have come as welcome news to the French government, which is currently battling the Internet giant over taxes and also accuses the e-retailer of being “destructive to bookshops.” After visiting the famous Shakespeare & Company bookstore, I can certainly understand the appeal of tucking into a small, independent bookstore on a rainy day in Paris (then again, guess where I purchased my travel books for my trip? … Amazon.com, of course).
France’s attempts to protect cultural mainstays isn’t limited to independent bookstores. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that “The French government is considering a new tax on smartphones, and broadening existing taxes to apply to foreign video-streaming companies, as it looks for ways to keep financing its cinema, music and literature in the digital age.” As the article points out, France’s movie industry, home to some of the most prolific film producers in the world, is already troubled by the rise in online video consumption and the decrease in funding for French movies.
Just as the City of Lights has changed dramatically over the centuries – walls erected and torn down, canals carved, an arsenal turned into a palatial museum – French culture will likely erect and dismantle an array of rules and laws in an attempt to both accommodate and limit the influence of technology on its traditions of grandeur and creative expression (and, of course, the principles of liberté, égalité and fraternité).