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Soviet Union “no longer considered eligible for a ccTLD”, ICANN chair confirms

Kevin Murphy, March 11, 2022, 12:28:19 (UTC), Domain Policy

The former Soviet Union’s .su domain could soon embark along the years-long path to getting kicked off the internet, ICANN’s chair has indicated.

The .su ccTLD, which survived the death of the USSR thirty years ago “is no longer considered eligible for a ccTLD”, Martin Botterman said in response to a question by yours truly at the ICANN 73 Public Forum yesterday.

It seems ICANN will no longer turn a blind eye to .su’s continued existence, and that the policy enabling ccTLDs to be “retired” could be invoked in this case, after it is finalized.

The question I asked, per the transcript, was:

While it is generally accepted that ICANN is not in the business of deciding what is or is not a country, do you agree that the Soviet Union does not meet the objective criteria for ccTLD eligibility? And would you support dot SU entering the ccTLD retirement process as and when that process is approved?

I went into a lot of the background of .su in a post a couple weeks ago, and I’m not going to rehash it all here.

I wasn’t expecting much of a response from ICANN yesterday. Arguments over contested ccTLDs, which usually involve governments, are one of the things ICANN is almost always pretty secretive about.

So I was pleasantly surprised that Botterman, while he may have dodged a direct answer to the second part of the question, answered the first part with pretty much no equivocation. He said, per the recording:

It is correct that the Soviet Union is no longer assigned in the ISO 3166-1 standard and therefore is no longer considered eligible for a ccTLD.

ICANN Org has actually held discussions with the managers of the .su domain in the past to arrange an orderly retirement of the domain, and the ccNSO asked ICANN Org starting in 2010 and reiterated in 2017 to pause its efforts to retire the domain so that the Policy Development Process could be conducted. And that is a request we have honored.

So we’re glad to report that the ccNSO recently concluded that Policy Development Process and sent its policy recommendations to the ICANN board.

We will soon evaluate the ccNSO policy recommendations, and we will do so in line with the bylaws process.

It looked and sounded very much like he was reading these words from his screen, rather than riffing off-the-cuff, suggesting the answer had been prepared in advance.

I wasn’t able to attend the forum live, and I’d submitted the question via email to the ICANN session moderator a few hours in advance, giving plenty of time for Botterman or somebody else at ICANN to prepare a response.

The ccNSO policy referred to (pdf), which has yet to be approved by the ICANN board, creates a process for the removal of a ccTLD from the DNS root in scenarios such as the associated country ceasing to exist.

It’s creatively ambiguous — deliberately so, in my view — when it comes to .su’s unique circumstances, presenting at least two hurdles to its retirement.

First, the Soviet Union stopped being an officially recognized country in the early 1990s, long before this policy, and even ICANN itself, existed.

Second, the .su manager, ROSNIIROS, is not a member of the ccNSO and its debatable whether ICANN policies even apply to it.

In both of these policy stress tests, the ccNSO deferred to ICANN, arguably giving it substantial leeway on whether and how to apply the policy to .su.

I think it would be a damn shame if the Org didn’t at least try.

While it’s widely accepted that ICANN made the correct call by declining to remove Russia’s .ru from the root, allowing .su to continue to exist when it is acknowledged to no longer be eligible for ccTLD status, and the policy tools exist to remove it, could increasingly look like an embarrassing endorsement in light of Russian hostilities in former Soviet states.

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Comments (9)

  1. YouKnowWho says:

    Relax, Soviets dont need icann, icann needs Soviets.

  2. Maxim Alzoba says:

    SU, like UK are both still in the exceptionally reserved status in ISO 3166, check

    P.s: maybe it is time for UK to use GB , since it is exceptionally reserved too?

    • Dan says:

      UK is slightly different though, it is in use and there is a government connected to it.

      Additionally, GB and UK are not direct equivalent geographically as UK refers to all countries of the UK, GB is the main landmass.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      Being on the exceptionally reserved list doesn’t mean you’re eligible for a ccTLD.

      • Maxim Alzoba says:

        It is considered to be a part of the national infrastructure, and messing with it will have unpleasant consequences. Who will need ICANN in the separated post-internet word? (fiduciary duties of the ICANN board seem so be in favor of keeping things working) . If it is done, the doers will be known as a killers of the internet (quite an achievement for the persons from the industry).

  3. Maxim Alzoba says:

    It is not a threat of any sort, just pure logic. Such a decision will lead to alternative roots at least , most probably more than a couple. The situation where a non for profit organization from California (from the legal perspective) damages ability of a large country to properly use it’s infrastructure does not seem like a start of something nice, does it? P.s: try to check what is written in the doctrine of the ICANN’s jurisdiction as a potential response for similar actions.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      Which large country? The one that stopped existing 30 years ago or the one Putin is trying to create today? Russia has two ccTLDs already, it doesn’t need to annex one from a place that doesn’t exist.

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