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

Kevin Murphy, March 11, 2022, 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.

UN ruling may put .io domains at risk

Kevin Murphy, February 25, 2019, Domain Policy

The future of .io domains may have been cast into doubt, following a ruling from the UN’s highest court.
The International Court of Justice this afternoon ruled (pdf) by a 13-1 majority that “the United Kingdom is under an obligation to bring to an end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible”.
The Chagos Archipelago is a cluster of islands that the UK calls the British Indian Ocean Territory.
It was originally part of Mauritius, but was retained by the UK shortly before Mauritius gained independence in 1968, so a strategic US military base could be built on Diego Garcia, one of the islands.
The native Chagossians were all forcibly relocated to Mauritius and the Seychelles over the next several years. Today, most everyone who lives there are British or American military.
But the ICJ ruled today, after decades of Mauritian outrage, that “the process of decolonization of Mauritius was not lawfully completed when that country acceded to independence in 1968, following the separation of the Chagos Archipelago”.
So BIOT, if the UK government follows the ruling, may cease to exist in the not-too-distant future.
BIOT’s ccTLD is .io, which has become popular with tech startups over the last few years and has over 270,000 domains.
It’s run by London-based Internet Computer Bureau Ltd, which Afilias bought for $70 million almost two years ago.
Could it soon become a ccTLD without a territory, leaving it open to retirement and removal from the DNS root?
It’s not impossible, but I’ll freely admit that I’m getting into heavy, early speculation here.
There are a lot of moving parts to consider, and at time of writing the UK government has not even stated how it will respond to the non-binding ICJ ruling.
Should the UK abide by the ruling and wind down BIOT, its IO reservation on the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 list could then be removed by the International Standards Organisation.
That would mean .io no longer fits the ICANN criteria for being a ccTLD, leaving it subject to forced retirement.
Retired TLDs are removed from the DNS root, meaning all the second-level domains under them stop working, obviously.
It’s not entirely clear how this would happen. ICANN’s Country Code Names Supporting Organization has not finished work on its policy for the retirement of ccTLDs.
TLDs are certainly not retired overnight, without the chance of an orderly winding-down.
Judging by the current state of ccNSO discussions, it appears that ccTLDs could in future be retired with or without the consent of their registry, with a five-to-10-year clock starting from the string’s removal from the ISO 3166-1 list.
Under existing ICANN procedures, I’m aware of at least two ccTLDs that have been retired in recent years.
Timor-Leste was given .tl a few years after it rebranded from Portuguese Timor, and .tp was removed from the DNS a decade later. It took five years for .an to be retired after the Netherlands Antilles’ split into several distinct territories in 2010.
But there are also weird hangers-on, such as the Soviet Union’s .su, which has an “exceptional reservation” on the ISO list and is still active (and inexplicably popular) as a ccTLD.
As I say, I’m in heavy speculative territory when it comes to .io, but it strikes me that not many registrants will consider when buying their names that the territory their TLD represents may one day simple poof out of existence at the stroke of a pen.
Afilias declined to comment for this article.

First new gTLD deleted from the net

Kevin Murphy, February 25, 2016, Domain Registries

.doosan today became the first new gTLD to be removed from the domain name system.
It’s no longer showing up in the DNS root zone file, and IANA’s record lists it as “retired”.
.doosan was a dot-brand managed by Korean conglomerate Doosan Group. The company never did anything with it before deciding to kill the TLD off last September.
A month ago, ICANN used the pending deletion to test its Emergency Back-End Registry Operator safety net.
If memory serves, it’s the only gTLD to be ever be removed from the root zone, excluding test internationalized TLDs previously operated by ICANN.
ccTLDs are removed somewhat regularly, when international borders are redrawn.