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Nazis rejoice! A TLD for you could be coming soon

Kevin Murphy, January 21, 2019, Domain Registries

The domain name system could soon get its first new standard country-code domain for eight years.

This weekend, ICANN’s board of directors is set to vote on whether to allow the delegation of a ccTLD for the relatively new nation of South Sudan.

The string would be .ss.

It would be the first Latin-script ccTLD added to the root since 2010, when .cw and .sx were delegated for Curaçao and Sint Maarten, two of the countries formed by the breakup of the Netherlands Antilles.

Dozens of internationalized domain name ccTLDs — those in non-Latin scripts — have been delegated in the meantime.

But South Sudan is the world’s newest country. It formed in 2011 following an independence referendum that saw it break away from Sudan.

It was recognized by the UN as a sovereign nation in July that year and was given the SS delegation by the International Standards Organization on the ISO 3166-2 list a month later.

The country has been wracked by civil war for almost all of its existence, which may well be a reason why it’s taken so long for a delegation request to come up for an ICANN vote. The warring sides agreed to a peace treaty last year.

South Sudan is among the world’s poorest and least-developed nations, with shocking levels of infant and maternal mortality. Having an unfortunate ccTLD is the very least of its problems.

The choice of .ss was made in 2011 by the new South Sudan government in the full knowledge that it has an uncomfortable alternate meaning in the global north, where the string denotes the Schutzstaffel, the properly evil, black-uniformed bastards in every World War II movie you’ve ever seen.

The Anti-Defamation League classifies “SS” as a “hate symbol” that has been “adopted by white supremacists and neo-Nazis worldwide”.

When South Sudan went to ISO for the SS delegation, then-secretary of telecommunications Stephen Lugga told Reuters

We want our domain name to be ‘SS’ for ‘South Sudan’, but people are telling us ‘SS’ has an association in Europe with Nazis… Some might prefer us to have a different one. We have applied for it anyway, SS, and we are waiting for a reply.

To be fair, it would have been pretty dumb to have applied for a different string, when SS, clearly the obvious choice, was available.

There’s nothing ICANN can do about the string. It takes its lead from the ISO 3166 list. Nor does it have the authority to impose any content-regulation rules on the new registry.

Unless the new South Sudan registry takes a hard line voluntarily, I think it’s a near-certainty that .ss will be used by neo-Nazis who have been turfed out of their regular domains.

The vote of ICANN’s board is scheduled to be part of its main agenda, rather than its consent agenda, so it’s not yet 100% certain that the delegation will be approved.

“Yes” vote would be good for .scot

Kevin Murphy, September 15, 2014, Domain Registries

The prospect of a healthy .scot gTLD would be improved if this week’s Scottish independence referendum produces a majority “Yes” vote.

People living in Scotland this Thursday get the opportunity to vote to split the country from the United Kingdom after over 300 years together.

While the No campaign seems to have been winning most of the opinion polls recently, the margin has been reportedly narrowing, and there are still large numbers of undecided voters.

Whichever way the vote goes, Dot Scot will take .scot to general availability next Tuesday.

The registry is backed by Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond, the leading voice of the Yes campaign, and it seems inevitable that a Yes vote will bode much better for its business prospects.

A vote to split would no doubt create a new sense of national pride in the small majority of Yes voters, spurring registrations in that community.

But, more importantly, it will mean that .scot will become, I believe, Scotland’s de facto ccTLD.

If Scotland does vote for independence, it would not formally split from the UK until, it is planned, March 2016.

The new country would not qualify for a ccTLD until some time after that — it would first have to be recognized by the United Nations, the International Standards Organization, and then ICANN.

When it did finally get a ccTLD delegated and launched, probably in 2017, its two-character string would not have much semantic relevance to most of the world’s internet users.

The ISO 3166-1 alpha-12 list, which assigns two-character codes to countries and territories, only has three strings beginning with S — SP, SQ and SW — currently unaccounted for.

.sc belongs to the Seychelles, for example, while Sao Tome and Principe has .st and Sudan has .sd.

One alternative put forward is .ab, which could be used to represent Alba, the Scots Gaelic name for Scotland.

But it’s hardly a commonly known name outside Scotland (even in the rest of the UK) and there are only 57,000 native Scots Gaelic speakers in a Scottish population of 5.3 million.

It seems pretty clear that if .scot goes up against .ab, or any other two-character string, .scot will win in the marketplace, in much the same way as .com eclipses .us today.

That would be the case even if .scot didn’t get the three-year head start that starts next week.

Google junks three of its new gTLD applications

Kevin Murphy, September 6, 2012, Domain Registries

The identities of the first four new gTLD applications to be withdrawn have been revealed by ICANN.

Google has, as predicted, dropped its bids for .and, .are and .est, because they’re protected three-letter country-codes listed in the ISO 3166 alpha-3 standard.

An application for .ksb, by the KSB, a German maker of “pumps, valves and related liquid transportation systems”, has also been withdrawn, though the reasons are less clear.

KSB is not a protected geographic string, nor has .ksb received any negative public comments. I’m guessing the application was an unnecessary defensive move.

With Google expected to lose 30% of its application fees for the three withdrawn applications ($165,000) I can’t help but wonder why ICANN allowed it to apply for the strings in the first place.

The ban on ISO 3166 alpha-3 codes in the Applicant Guidebook appears to be hard and non-negotiable. The strings essentially enjoy the same degree of exact-match protection as Reserved Names such as .iana and .example.

However, while the TLD Application System was hard-coded to reject attempts to apply for Reserved Names, banned geographic strings did not get the same safeguards.

There’s one other application for an ISO 3166 alpha-3 string — .idn — which does not appear to have been withdrawn yet.

There are at least 16 other applications for protected geographic words that may require government support — but are not outright prohibited — according to our DI PRO study.

According to ICANN, six applications have been withdrawn to date. The change in status only shows up on ICANN’s web site after the refunds have been processed, however.

Google, which applied as Charleston Road Registry, has 98 new gTLD applications remaining.

Did Google withdraw three new gTLD applications?

Kevin Murphy, August 10, 2012, Domain Registries

Is Google behind the three new gTLD applications that have already been withdrawn?

ICANN senior veep Kurt Pritz revealed yesterday that three applications were already on the scrap heap, long before they’ve been evaluated, but he didn’t say which ones.

After a helpful nudge from a DI commenter, my best guess now is that they’re Google’s applications for .and, .are and .est.

As I blogged here and reported here over a month ago, these three strings are all protected geographic names, under ICANN’s rules.

They’re the ISO 3166-1 alpha-3 codes for the United Arab Emirates, Estonia and Andorra, which would be classified as country names and therefore banned by the Applicant Guidebook.

Many thanks to Silvia for the reminder.