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Will the internet get two new ccTLDs (and lose one)?

Kevin Murphy, October 12, 2010, Domain Registries

One country dropped off the map on Sunday, and two new countries were created. So does this mean we’re going to get two new country-code top-level domains?

The islands of Curacao and St. Maarten have reportedly become autonomous countries, after the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles, a collection of former Dutch colonies off north-east coast of Venezuela.

The reorganization sees a number of other islands join the Netherlands as municipalities, while Curacao and St. Maarten become countries in the own right, albeit still tied politically tied to the motherland.

It seems quite possible that these two islands will now get their own ccTLDs, for two reasons.

First, both states are now reportedly as autonomous as fellow former Dutch Antilles territory Aruba, if not more so. Aruba acquired this status in 1986 and had .aw delegated to it by IANA in 1996.

Second, St Maarten shares a landmass with St Martin, a former French colony. The French northern side of the island is already entitled to its own ccTLD, .mf, although the domain has never been delegated.

ICANN/IANA does not make the call on what is and isn’t considered a nation for ccTLD purposes. Rather, it defers to the International Standards Organization, and a list of strings called ISO 3166-2.

The ISO 3166 Maintenance Agency in turn defers to the UN’s Statistics Division and its “Countries or areas, codes and abbreviations” list, which can be found here.

How long a new ccTLD delegation takes can vary wildly.

Montenegro, for example, declared its independence on June 3, 2006. It was added to the ISO 3166 list on September 26 that year, applied for a ccTLD on December 24, and received its delegation of .me following an ICANN board vote on September 11, 2007.

Finland’s Aland Islands got .ax less than six months after applying in 2006. North Korea, by contrast, received .kp on the same day as Montenegro got .me, but had first applied in 2004.

IANA treats the deletion of a ccTLD much more cautiously, due to the fact that some TLDs could have many second-level registrations already.

The removal of the former Yugoslavian domain, .yu, was subject to a three-year transition process under the supervision of the new .rs registry.

The Dutch Antilles has its own ccTLD, .an, which is in use and delegated to University of The Netherlands Antilles, based in Curacao.

Will we see a gradual phasing-out of .an, in favor of two new ccTLDs?

Top-level domain count likely to top 300 this year

Kevin Murphy, August 16, 2010, Domain Registries

Perusing the big stack of marketing literature that I picked up at ICANN Brussels in June, I noticed that few companies agree about how many top-level domains currently exist.

Mildly surprising really, given that the official count isn’t especially difficult to come by. According to IANA’s database, there are 292 delegated TLDs today.

That number breaks down like this:

251 ASCII ccTLDs
9 IDN ccTLDs
4 gTLDs
3 “restricted” gTLDs
1 “infrastructure” TLD
13 “sponsored” gTLDs
11 test IDN TLDs

Interestingly, according to IANA, there are only four vanilla, open gTLDs – .com, .net, .org and .info.

I wonder how many sites NeuStar has shut down because .biz is “restricted” to business users? Or how many .mobi domains have been put on hold for breaking the “sponsored” guidelines.

The list does not yet count the six IDN ccTLDs that ICANN’s board approved August 5. So there are actually 298 approved top-level domains today.

In the IDN ccTLD pipeline as of Brussels were also Qatar, Singapore and Syria, which had met string approval but were not yet delegated, and about 15 others that had not.

There are two (or three) more voting meetings for ICANN’s board this year, and so it seems likely that the delegated TLD count will break through the 300 mark before 2011.

Palestine gets its own Arabic domain names

Kevin Murphy, August 6, 2010, Domain Registries

ICANN has awarded five more non-ASCII top-level domains under its internationalized domain name fast-track process for country-code TLD managers.

Palestine, Tunisia and Jordan will all shortly receive delegations for Arabic-script versions of their existing ccTLDs. They join previous recipients including Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Palestine gets فلسطين, Tunisia gets تونس and Jordan gets الاردن.

These apparently translate as “Falasteen”, “Tunis” and “al-Ordan”, respectively, and are presumably more useful to Arabic speakers than .ps, .tn and .jo.

Because they’re all Arabic, the dots appear to the right of the TLD, rather than the left.

The Occupied Palestinian Territory is, of course, a fringe case when it comes to ccTLDs.

But long ago, IANA made it a matter of policy that it would make no decision about which country or territory deserves its own ccTLD.

If it’s on the ISO 3166-1 list, which is overseen by the UN, it’s in. Palestine was added to that list in 1999, and was awarded .ps by ICANN/IANA in 2000.

The .ps registry is sponsored by the Palestinian National Authority’s telecoms ministry.

ICANN has also resolved to delegate Thailand the IDN ccTLD .ไทย and Sri Lanka both .ලංකා and .இலங்கை.

Interestingly, these two TLDs were approved as part of yesterday’s board meeting’s consent agenda.

The three Arabic names were approved separately, preceded by this:

RESOLVED (2010.08.05.13), the Board IANA Committee is directed, in coordination with ICANN’s CEO, to create improvements to the processes and new guidelines for implementation of the IDN ccTLD Fast Track process.

Bulgaria polls public for Cyrillic TLD ideas

The Bulgarian government is asking its people what Cyrillic top-level domain it should ask for if ICANN refuses to reverse its rejection of .бг.

The Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology has published a poll on its web site, presenting four options for an IDN ccTLD.

Its first choice, .бг, was rejected by ICANN/IANA in May due to its visual similarity to another ccTLD, believed to be Brazil’s .br.

The four new options are .бгр, .българия, .бя and .бъл.

Bulgarians can also vote for “nothing but .бг” or declare that they do not want a Cyrillic domain at all.

The poll page, via Google Translate, suggests that the Ministry is prepared to wait for another opportunity to apply for .бг or for an ICANN appeals process to be created, if that’s what the public wants.

The Minister had previously promised to appeal the rejection of .бг.

(First reported by Novinite.)

Chinese TLDs now live, broad adoption achieved in just seven days

Check it out: 教育部。中国.

That’s one, but by no means the only, of the first live, fully Chinese-script domain names. It’s China’s Ministry of Education.

Previously, it had been announced that the .中国 internationalized country-code TLD would not go live until August.

But on Friday CNNIC said that 90% of China’s ministries have got their .中國 domains already, along with 95% of news websites, 90% of universities and 40% of China’s Top 500 enterprises.

Not only was that level of adoption achieved very quietly, it was also achieved very quickly. According to IANA, .中國 was delegated just seven days earlier, on July 9.

IANA also reports that .中國, the IDN for Hong Kong went live on July 12. Taiwan’s .中國 was delegated on July 14.

All of these Chinese-script TLDs were approved by ICANN’s board at the conclusion of the Brussels meeting last month.

It’s perhaps not surprising that ICANN did not broadly announce the latest delegations. It got burnt for pre-empting Arab nations’ publicity when the first IDN TLDs went live in May.

I wonder whether this will help CNNIC reverse the trend of declining registrations in its namespace. According to the latest statistics, the .cn has halved in size over the last year.