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Yugoslavia Fades, USSR Keeps on Ticking

Yugoslavia Fades, USSR Keeps on Ticking

The International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has always existed at a strange intersection of technology, culture, and politics. While dancing a fine line between international credibility and being controlled by the U.S. Department of Commerce, ICANN continually deals with issues regarding the languages, cultures, and nations of the world. And even the seemingly simple stuff is never easy.

Take, for instance, Yugoslavia. Four years ago, the nation of Yugoslavia ceased to exist, splitting into the nations of Serbia and Montenegro. Both new countries received their own top-level Internet domains—.rs and .me respectively—however, entities in both nations have continued to operate (and register new domains) in the .yu domain formerly assigned to the defunct Yugoslavia. After considerably internal debate, consultations with parties in both countries as well as other international organizations, ICANN has now approved a three-year plan to transition .yu domains to the proper countries, and delegate management of each country’s top-level domain to appropriate parties. The government of Montenegro will manage .me, while .rs will be managed by a new non-profit, the Serbian National Register of Internet Domain Names, formed for the task; that group will also manage the decommissioning of the .yu domain, taking over from a group of volunteers at the University of Belgrade.

Confused yet? It gets weirder. Back when Yugoslavia collapsed, the Federation of Serbia and Montenegro was formed in its wake. That federation had been assigned the top-level country code of .cs, a move which created unwelcome confusion because that code had previously been used by the former Czechoslovakia. Serbia and Montenegro split into their own countries before that top-level domain got into any widespread use, though.

In the wake of the .cs confusion, the group which maintains the ISO 3166-1 list of country codes has established a new policy under which country codes will not be re-used for 50 years.

Decommissioning of other national top-level domains have been smoother, such as East Germany’s .dd. Zaire’s .zr also transitioned effectively to .cd when the nation became the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

However, one defunct top-level domain seems to be gaining in popularity: .su, the top-level domain formerly assigned to the USSR. The Soviet Union dissolved over 15 years ago, but reportedly over 10,000 Internet sites are now using the top-level domain, and it has gained a certain hip following amounts Russian businesses, clubs, and associations. ICANN would like to purge deprecated country codes from the the list of active top-level domains, but the organization’s overall goal is the stability of the Internet: moving tens of thousands of domains out of .su and into appropriate top-level domains for states or other organizations isn’t something they will undertake lightly—or quickly.

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