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Net Loss of Top-Level Domains

January 28th, 2006

Twomey makes a deal
ICANN President Paul Twomey makes a deal. From http://bert.secret-wg.org/Stars/

The Results: -1 TLD. Since ICANN was formed November 1998, a net of one top-level domain has been lost. Detailed results below.

While ICANN slowly allows new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) to come online, another countervailing trend works to decrease the number of TLDs, as country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs) go dark. I decided to keep score. For reference, here is the “official” list of ccTLDs from IANA.

The results are an exquisite testament to the slick hypocrisy of some governments, and more generally ICANN’s of Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), which insists loudly on the sovereign rights of governments to “their” TLD, because (they say) only governments can guarantee the public interest. Apparently they have decided that it’s in the best interests of the native residents of their colonial possessions to become invisible on the Internet.

They are also a testament to ICANN’s eager, and improper, acquiescence to the appalling GAC Principles, which set out the obligations of everyone connected with a ccTLD except those of the governments themselves, who are required to do nothing at all except petition ICANN for redelegations (readily granted), and fire people they don’t like.

Note: I’m grateful for corrections, please comment on any mistakes

New TLDs Added: 13
These TLDs have come online since ICANN took over in 1998 (these results include newly added gTLDs that may not yet be functioning):

  1. .AERO
  2. .BIZ
  3. .CAT
  4. .COOP
  5. .EU (Europe)
  6. .INFO
  7. .JOBS
  8. .MUSEUM
  9. .MOBI
  10. .NAME
  11. .PRO
  12. .PS (Palestine)
  13. .TRAVEL

Inactivated TLDs: 14
These are non-functional domains being held either directly by governments or by governmental ccTLD registries, with silence from ICANN. “Inactivated” means that there is no public method of registering a domain name there. I’m not including TLDs with very restrictive eligibility requirements, just those that don’t work at all — they are effectively closed off.

France is easily the worst offender, since its offline TLDs have substantial local populations. The attitude of AFNIC, the French registration authority, is like that of Valery Giscard d’Estaing, the former President of France. When the French were conducting atmospheric nuclear tests in Polynesia, a reporter asked him why if it was so safe he didn’t test it out in France. “Mais — c’est la France” (But — it is France), he replied.

So much for the much-vaunted principle of the “Local Internet Community.”

  • France
    1. .FX (France Metropolitaine, now completely removed from the official IANA list
    2. .MQ (Martinique, used to accept registrations, now offline)
    3. .PF (French Polynesia, has a tiny amount of registrations, not open to the public)
    4. .PM (St. Pierre + Miquelon, used to accept registrations, was taken over by AFNIC under still-unexplained circumstances, closed to registrations)
    5. .TF (French Southern Territories, used to accept registrations, redelegated by ICANN, now held directly by AFNIC, closed to registrations)
    6. .WF (Wallis and Futuna, never activated, held directly by AFNIC)
    7. .YT (Mayotte, never activated, held directly by AFNIC)
  • Finland
    1. .AX (Aland Islands, part of Finland, never activated)
  • New Zealand
    1. .PN (Pitcairn, redelegated to the NZ Gov’t by ICANN, closed to registrations)
  • Norway
    1. .BV (Bouvet Island, held by UNINETT, the Norwegian registration authority, never activated)
    2. .SJ (Svalbard and Jan Mayen Islands, held by UNINETT, never activated)
  • United Kingdom
    1. .GS (South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, used to work, taken over by the British Gov’t, no longer active)
  • United States
    1. .UM (U.S. Minor Outlying Islands, held by IANA/ICANN, never activated)

Neutral - TLD happenings that haven’t added or subtracted

  • TLDs that have never been delegated but it’s not anyone’s fault
    1. .KP (North Korea — can’t blame ICANN for this one!)
    2. .CS (Serbia & Montenegro — the Serbs aren’t ready to claim this dubious prize)
    3. .EH (Western Sahara — not a big technology push by anyone there)
  • Decomissioned TLDs due to countries changing their names:
    1. .ZR (Zaire, replaced by .CD)
  • TLDs with a new and an old designation:
    1. East Timor (the old .TP, the new .TL — registrants have names in both)

Update: I forgot .PRO and .JOBS, so I added them in and adjusted the figures accordingly. Still a net loss of 1.

Second update Jan 31 2006: Added the unassigned .EH (Western Sahara) to the “neutral” list because I suspect its non-assignment is due to political turmoil in the region — in other words, IANA can’t figure out which government to obey. I could easily have added it to the other side, though, inasmuch as it’s closed off and the local internet community (such as it is) has no say in its delegation or operation. I also corrected Zaire’s code to .ZR.

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18 Comments

  1. Hi Antony-

    .GS is just changing homes. I believe it was being coordinated by Adamsnames.

    I suspect that .GS will be joining the COCCA group which operates multiple other ccTLDs. (url: http://www.cocca.cx).

    -Jothan

    Jothan | January 30th, 2006 at 3:14 am

  2. Good work, Tony. Some notes:

    A) I think you should further distinguish between ISO-3166 codes that never had become TLDs and inactive TLDs. .kn, .cs and .eh (Western Sahara, missing from your list) fit into this first category. I think it is also the case for .ax (undelegated ISO 3166-1 codes)

    B) Then you have those ISO 3166 codes that never became a TLD, and have been deleted for some (obscure) reason. Here neither ICANN nor IANA had anyhting to do: .fx, but also .nt (Neutral Zone). And I think that Antartica used to have two diferent codes at some time… But these ones should*not* be counted as “TLD loss”, except for *potential* TLD, if you want (not sure when .nt was deleted from the ISO list, anyway).

    C) Timor Leste is not a “neutral” situation, is a net addition of one: .tl. .tp is not in the ISO-3166 list anymore, and will probably go one day the way of .su, .yu, or (already in ICANN days) .zr. But as of today is a net addition of one TLD (in fact, along with .ps and .eu, it forms the Holy Trinity of ICANN-created ccTLDs ;-)

    Amadeu | January 30th, 2006 at 3:55 am

  3. How can a domain that has never been used be “lost”?

    Whilst it is a shame many of these are not used, you can hardly with a straight face claim that when ISO-3166 MA added “AX” recently, that the fact that it wasn’t delegated and available for registration immediately that its a domain name that has been somehow snatched from the community.

    qba | January 30th, 2006 at 4:01 am

  4. I was hoping someone would point out errors/discrepancies, and it didn’t take long. Obviously you can count in different ways. Jothan suggests that I should add .GS, because it’s in transition — but as of now it’s not working. “qba” suggests that .AX shouldn’t be counted, but I’d note that it’s been available for delegation since April 2004 — almost two years. Amadeu suggests that I make a separate category for domain names that have never been delegated, and not count .nt and .fx. All these comments are fair enough.

    Count it as you will, and you may come up with a slightly different net gain or loss. But the point remains that while ICANN drags its heels on new TLDs, existing TLDs are being taken out of commission or never being allowed to see the light of day, and the agencies that are behind it are other government-controlled GAC-Principles-compliant registries. And even the one-sided GAC Principles make a nod to RFC 1591. They say:

    “…the manager of a ccTLD performs a public service on behalf of the relevant local community and as such the designated manager has a duty to serve this community. The designated manager also has a responsibility to the global Internet community. By ‘global Internet community’ we do not mean any specific legal or international entity, but rather we interpret the term to refer to all of those who are affected by, now or in the future, the operation of the relevant TLD, because such operation may impinge on more than one jurisdiction and affect the interests of individuals and entities from both within the relevant country or territory and elsewhere. ”

    The “designated manager” of a ccTLD is one designated by the government, insists the GAC Principles. But when the government appoints nobody at all, how does this accord with the interests of the local and global Internet communities?

    Antony | January 30th, 2006 at 9:57 am

  5. I have been keeping the ccTLD record for a while, originaly from the old Internic database in 1998, cf.
    http://www.ccwhois.org/ccwhois/cctld/ccTLDs-by-date.html

    The .BD Bangladesh have been added to the root on 20 May 1999.

    2004-02-13 ISO 3166-1 Newsletter V-9 “Åland Islands” published
    2003-07-23 CS and SCG for “Serbia and Montenegro”

    Do you think that each and every ISO3166-1 code MUST became a live ccTLD? Is that written anywhere?

    Elisabeth | January 30th, 2006 at 4:43 pm

  6. Elisabeth, it is good to hear from you about the ccwhois.org site. I had stopped following it in 2002 after it had appeared to not be getting updated. Am I mistaken? I don’t see AX or EU on the list.

    Jothan | January 31st, 2006 at 2:56 am

  7. I should resume updates on the ccwhois.org shortly.
    The 6th release of ISO3166-1 is coming soon, with some changes.

    Elisabeth | January 31st, 2006 at 5:09 am

  8. I am not sure if there is a misunderstanding of IANA’s role here, but, it is not to proactively find operators of TLDs.

    IANA (and by extension ICANN) is purely a reactive role - someone lodges an application to a TLD, and IANA will process and evaluate it. IANA does not seek out operators for a domain and give it to them.

    So if a TLD has either never been allocated, or the local Internet community feels it is not be administered in a way they would like by the current operator, it is fully within their power to develop an alternative and submit an application.

    Unless you are advocating that this situation change to IANA taking a more hands-on role, I am not sure what remedy you think is appropriate?

    Kim | January 31st, 2006 at 7:24 am

  9. Hi Kim,

    Thanks very much for your comment.

    A ccTLD framework that paid attention to service and accountability, instead of the “rights” of governments, is the remedy that I think is appropriate. I once took the trouble to write up and present a proposal for a ccTLD accountability and redelegation framework, from which I solicited and received commentary from CENTR and other ccTLDs and ccTLD bodies. I presented this to the GAC, and was told that it was “interesting.” It was then promptly ignored. It provided for, among other things, the involvement of the local Internet community. My draft could surely be improved on, but it embodied some principles of conduct that are surely missing from the current system.

    The GAC Principles do not provide for any complaint mechanism by actual users. The local Internet community has no say when it’s unhappy with how the current operator is administering a ccTLD — there are no procedures for complaint, except to write to the “local congressman” (ha ha).

    I’m know how the system worked in the past — I started the .TM, .PW, .BT domains, among others. But today there is no apparent procedure for delegating undelegated domains. People have been trying to register .UM and others for years; they are always turned down. It’s true that IANA doesn’t (and shouldn’t) initiate a delegation, but it’s also true that it should have published procedures for how it’s done.

    Right now there is no difference between an undelegated domain — in practice they are “reserved” for governmental authorities to make an application — and a domain such as .WF, which appears to be “owned” by AFNIC and the French government. The local internet community there doesn’t have anything to say about it.

    There are a number of credible people who have been saying for years — it was the main driver for the creation of ICANN in the first place — that we should have more top-level domains. It seems odd to me that some TLDs are being taken offline without the slightest notice or protest, even while people agitate for new ones.

    Antony | January 31st, 2006 at 10:36 am

  10. Antony, your answer to Kim “persiste et signe” your strong conviction that when an ISO3166-1 code exist it MUST became a live ccTLD, and ICANN/IANA MUST have a procedure on how to delegate un-delegated domains.

    I claim the freedom of decision belongs to related people, and related governments elected by these people. They may walk their own speed, they may not see any interest in making a ccTLD live, and they just need to be sure that ISO3166-1 code belongs to them.

    It is like a beautiful apartment in Paris or New York - empty does not mean one can rise a hand and get it delegated ;-)

    Still I do believe that everyone will need a lot of Internet identifiers for all kind of purposes and applications to come. Personally I am not sure I would be registering a domain name under my country ccTLD - a gTLD name is much more appealing to me, a global name in the global world. I do care very much on how policies are set for gTLDs, how is individual participation granted, and taken into account. How it set a demanding example.

    Elisabeth | January 31st, 2006 at 12:40 pm

  11. Elisabeth, thanks for your passionate observations. I thought of you when I wrote this because I know your convictions lie in the opposite direction. You were always a worthy disputant.

    But I can’t really see that it’s true that the people of Mayotte elected either the French government or AFNIC. That would be stretching the definition of self-determination beyond credibility. The truth is that France, like the U.K. and the U.S., still has many colonial possessions, and mostly treats the inhabitants as if they were invisible.

    I’m much more interested in ICANN/IANA having a policy about already-delegated TLDs being required to actually set up fair procedures and to delegate names.

    Ooops! They already have one, more than one actually. RFC 1591 and ICP-1 (by inclusion) state that “[TLD] adminstrators are performing a service on behalf of the Internet community.” Further: “The designated manager must do a satisfactory job of operating the DNS service for the domain. That is, the actual management of the assigning of domain names….”

    Even the GAC principles (see the third paragraph of the preamble) support the point: “… the principle of RFC 1591 remains sound: the manager of a ccTLD performs a public service on behalf of the relevant local community and as such the designated manager has a duty to serve this community.”

    I still don’t see how you can do a “satisfactory job… of the assigning of domain names” or “perform a public service on behalf of the relevant local community” by closing off the TLD altogether.

    Antony | February 1st, 2006 at 2:59 am

  12. Elisabeth and Kim, I am glad that you both have stayed involved with ccTLDs and not gone off to find softer walls to beat your heads against after all of this time. :)

    Jothan | February 1st, 2006 at 3:38 am

  13. [...] ICANN is concerned about three things with regard to IDNs, according to Twomey: technical stability, language character sets, and the question of who is going to run them. Only one of these criteria (technical stability) was put forward as a concern for the introduction of regular TLDs, and since ICANN began we have had a near net loss of top-level domains. As Twomey says, “We are much closer to the end for the answer.” Um, right. Note to users of other alphabets: better start your own if you want one. [...]

    ICANN’s Pillow Principle » Names@Work » Blog Archive | March 18th, 2006 at 2:39 pm

  14. [...] There are only two undelegated top-level country-code domains, aside from those darkened by colonial diktat. One of them, .KP, the TLD of North Korea, is in the tender grip of the Dear Leader — enough said. [...]

    A Pre-Delegation Re-Delegation Fight at ICANN » Names@Work » Blog Archive | July 1st, 2007 at 12:14 am

  15. [...] There are only two undelegated top-level country-code domains, aside from those darkened by colonial diktat. One of them, .KP, the TLD of North Korea, is in the tender grip of the Dear Leader — enough said. [...]

    A Pre-Delegation Re-Delegation Fight at ICANN » Domain Name News | July 1st, 2007 at 7:51 am

  16. [...] There are only two undelegated top-level country-code domains, aside from those darkened by colonial diktat. One of them, .KP, the TLD of North Korea, is in the tender grip of the Dear Leader — enough said. [...]

    A Pre-Delegation Re-Delegation Fight at ICANN » Domain News | July 1st, 2007 at 8:11 am

  17. [...] are only two undelegated top-level country-code domains, aside from those darkened by colonial diktat. One of them, .KP, the TLD of North Korea, is in the tender grip of the Dear Leader — enough [...]

    A Pre-Delegation Re-Delegation Fight at ICANN | AdultDomainSelling | August 26th, 2007 at 9:47 am

  18. [...] There are some very good people at AFNIC, but I’m not a fan of French ccTLD policies, as I made clear as a panelist at the recent ICANN session on new TLDs, as well as in previous posts. [...]

    New ccTLDs to Be Added by France? » Names@Work » Blog Archive | June 27th, 2008 at 4:11 pm

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