Thomas Vollrath, MD of leading domain registrar 123-reg, explores the impact international domain extensions are having on national businesses and advises on domain registration best practice
Domain extensions historically belong to the country of reference, for example .tv to Tuvalu, .eg to Egypt and .ly to Libya. The popularity of these domain extensions is encouraging businesses to purchase these domains without first considering the potential long term political implications. For many the implications are small or non-existent, but in some circumstances the impact could be extremely detrimental to their business and brand.
Recently, a number of .ly domains were deleted by the Libyan registry for perceived breaches of decency rules. Vb.ly, a URL shortening service, was the most notable casualty, after it was reprimanded for the actions of an adult entertainment company that utilised its service. It is therefore important to be aware that registries controlled by countries are subject to local laws and or even, the whims of local governments.
Libya and .ly
This is particularly relevant in places like Libya, where there is currently civil unrest and as such potential changes in leadership that could impact its registry management. In fact, in February, in response to rising anti-Government protests in Libya, leaders began ‘cutting’ local people off from the internet that raised many concerns over whether businesses using the .ly suffix would be affected. Similarly when the Egyptian Government took action to stop Egyptians from using the internet at the start of 2011, the Government ordered ISPs to stop resolving all domains ending in .eg.
Could the sinking South Pacific islands of Tuvalu be a concern for people who have purchased the popular .tv extensions? Thankfully, the management of the registrations is outsourced by a reputable third party who also manages the registry for .com and .net. In fact, a large number of domains with country-specific codes that are being used for more generic purposes are handled by bodies outside the country in question.
Choose the right provider
When it comes to the physical registration of a domain, businesses should choose a supplier they trust. For example, as an established brand within the sector, my company 123-reg can offer our customers a safe pair of hands and a promise that when they come to renew, their URL will still be in operation.
That may sound like an odd reason to choose a registrar, but using less established businesses could make even the simplest of tasks, such as the renewal of a URL, a costly, risky and painful exercise. One of the main advantages of using a reputable registrar such as ourselves is that we have many years of experience and can handle problems across the board from technical and payment complaints to ownership issues.
Read the small print
Before choosing a company to register with I would also recommend giving the terms and conditions a thorough read. It may sound obvious, but hidden charges can be found within them. For example, if a brand chooses to transfer its domain, it can sometimes incur substantial costs. Or, in some cases, your company may find it is not listed as the domain owner, and that the registrar owns it, such that by transferring you are financially penalised. It is critical to ensure that the basic services that you need for the domain, such as DNS, are free, working effectively and don’t suffer from frequent problems.
You should ensure you understand the renewal prices and terms too. It’s not uncommon for companies to charge late fees above and beyond those associated with the domain; some registries may even charge a redemption fee.
To conclude, my advice is simple. Be prepared and don’t rush the registration. Use a reputable provider. Always read the T&Cs. Register at least two domains so you always have a back-up. And investigate who manages the extension to negate any potential future issues.