[AfrICANN-discuss] URL shorteners, domain hacks and quasi-gTLDs: what are ccTLDs really about?

Anne-Rachel Inné annerachel at gmail.com
Fri Oct 15 13:23:02 SAST 2010


URL shorteners, domain hacks and quasi-gTLDs: what are ccTLDs really
about? Published
on October 15th, 2010

*By Jon Lawrence*

The Twitterverse is awash with catchy URL shortening services, which allow
what would otherwise be long URLs to fit within the strict character limit
of individual Tweets. Before the Twitter phenomenon really took hold,
tinyurl.com was one of the more popular services; now much shorter options
are available, using various ccTLDs which have the significant advantage of
being only two characters after the dot.

Some of the more high-profile recent examples include Twitter’s t.co,
Google’s goo.gl, Facebook’s fb.me and US National Public Radio’s n.pr. For
the ccTLDs concerned, these domain names represent invaluable exposure to a
global audience and are probably one of the single most effective marketing
initiatives they will undertake.

Similarly, the popularity of domain hacks, one form of which involves
ignoring the dot to spell out a brand or word – examples include del.icio.usand
blo.gs – offer another opportunity for showcasing a ccTLD to a potentially
global audience.

The promotional opportunity is particularly attractive for smaller
ccTLDs. Greenland’s
.gl <http://www.nic.gl/> and South Georgia & the South Sandwich
Islands’ .gs<http://nic.gs/>are not ccTLDs that receive much, if any,
attention from outsiders, except
perhaps from the most diligent Trademark attorneys at some of the world’s
largest corporations.

Chasing the promotional benefits of URL-shortening services and domain hacks
is not without its risks however, as Libya has recently discovered. The
bit.ly URL service is one of the most popular in use within the
Twitterverse, and has given Libya’s .ly ccTLD a significant global profile.
Other URL shortening services have followed bit.ly’s lead, including vb.ly,
which was pitched with the following tag line:

*The Internet’s first and only sex-positive link shortener service, meaning
links are not filtered or groomed, and we’ll never pull your links because
we decided to become “family friendly” .

It was rather naive to expect that a socially conservative country such as
Libya would not have an issue with a website that portrays itself in these
terms, and it was therefore unsurprising that NIC.LY <http://nic.ly/> last
month revoked the vb.ly domain name, citing concerns that the service was
not in keeping with Sharia Law. They have also revised the registration
policy for .ly to restrict registrations of less than four characters to
locally-registered entities, thereby effectively preventing any new URL
shortening services from using the .ly ccTLD.

It is of course NIC.LY’s right to manage their ccTLD in a way that suits the
specific legal and cultural realities of contemporary Libyan society, as it
is for all other ccTLD Managers. Those that wish to take advantage of the
combination of short domain names at relatively low cost for use with URL
shorteners should therefore consider carefully which ccTLD they choose to
utilise for this purpose.

There are of course many countries that have chosen to leverage their luck
in the ccTLD lottery by re-purposing their ccTLD as quasi-gTLDs and offering
them on an unrestricted basis to the global market. These include Tuvalu’s
.tv <http://www.verisign.tv/>, American Samoa’s .as <http://nic.as/> (AS is
an abbreviation of a common company type in some European countries), Niue’s
.nu <http://nic.nu/> (Nu means ‘now’ in Dutch, Danish and Swedish), and more
recently, Montenegro’s .me <http://domen.me/> and Colombia’s

The attractions of such a move are obvious for countries with a memorable
ccTLD, a very small population and few other sources of income, as the
re-purposing of their ccTLD represents an opportunity to earn valuable
export income.

The number of ccTLDs that are in a position to follow suit is however very
limited, particularly with the spectre of hundreds of new gTLDs on the

Somalia is about to launch their .so ccTLD to the global market, and while I
expect that it will be moderately successful, it is unlikely to achieve the
hundreds of thousands of registrations seen in some other re-purposed
ccTLDs, at least for the foreseeable future. The publicity generated by the
Libyan registry’s recent crackdown is also likely to give many potential
registrants pause for thought about the longer-term prospects for a ccTLD
governed by a country that suffers from endemic political instability.

Even one of the most successful re-purposed ccTLDs, Tuvalu’s .tv – operated
by Verisign since 2000 under a long-term arrangement with the Tuvalu
Government – is failing to live up to some expectations within Tuvalu,
despite accounting for close to 10% of the Government’s total revenue (see
the Australia Network’s article: Threat to Tuvalu’s proud

Governments and national regulators that are considering the future of their
ccTLDs should therefore be careful to avoid being dazzled by the windfall
revenue gains that going after the global market may appear to offer. It is
highly unlikely that we will again see a ccTLD achieve the success of the
recent launch of second-level registrations under .co, which has reached
over half a million names in a few short months. For the vast majority of
ccTLDs, focusing on the needs of their local market will instead be the most
appropriate course of action, particularly over the longer term.

The benefits to be gained from the development of local ccTLD
infrastructure, and the skills and expertise required to operate it, will be
significant in capacity-building terms and should form the basis for
nurturing a sustainable local internet industry. A dynamic local internet
industry will help to bridge the digital divide and promote the myriad of
social and economic opportunities that the internet has to offer.

Similarly, implementing policies developed in conjunction with local
stakeholders and appropriate to the local legal, cultural and economic
situation, along with effective awareness campaigns and marketing activities
should help to ensure that the local ccTLD becomes the TLD of choice for
local businesses and organisations.

ICANN’s new gTLD program however has the potential to overwhelm many ccTLDs
that are yet to establish themselves as the TLD of choice in their local
market, with hundreds of new TLDs expected to be introduced, likely from
around early 2012.

The already highly competitive global market is therefore about to become
even more so. Those considering the future of their ccTLD should be mindful
of this in their planning activities and should ensure they focus on
sustainable, local outcomes.
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: https://lists.afrinic.net/pipermail/africann/attachments/20101015/dbad8b2a/attachment.htm

More information about the AfrICANN mailing list