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The story of the Slovak national top-level domain (medium.com)
124 points by thomasdd on July 4, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 30 comments



Unfortunately this story is archetypal for a post communist country like Slovakia. The state is essentially captured by mafia-like groups and oligarchs and many public services are irreversibly lost to rogue private companies with ties to politicians.


It's not as bad as this comment sounds.


no it's shame. btw i'am Slovakian


I'm not saying it's perfect, but it's not as corrupt as, let's say, Africa, or even Eastern Europe is. I'm Czech. :-)


I don't understand why the government got a judicial decision, from it's own legal system, stating that the original company (non-profit) couldn't have changed its ICANN records when they changed to be a for-profit company. Have done that back at that time, and everything would be ok.


In 90s, law was totally unprepared to handle this kind of issues or anything related to data or internet. And Slovak court system is very slow and avoids dealing with many known corruption cases, even today.


Also there is some sort of system here where you can pay for a expert witness who will confirm your story. As a foreigner living here I can't get anyone to explain it to me with any sense.


I suddenly felt the urge to visit http://astalavista.box.sk again. Next up: zombo.com


Until your comment I never realized that .sk in the end was Slovak. Back in time when I first visit that site, I thought sk was south korea


Just checked. So glad Zombo.com is still there.


html5zombo.com also exists, for when your device doesn't support Flash, but you still need to do anything.


Don't be limited by browser plugins. The only limit is yourself.


Or http://zom.bo if you want infinite possibilities but have a finite amount of time to type.


I'm gladly surprised on how well the brazilian TLD registrar works in comparison of some private players in other countries like Godaddy, although lacking some features. It is simple, straightforward, just works.

It is managed by a non-profit with a very diverse board: http://www.nic.br/pagina/for-an-increasingly-better-internet...

I would enjoy to learn about the history of its creation


internet in Brazil started early with universities.

the br domain was introduced in 89 and handled by the same organization that handle out government research grants (FAPESP).

even though most universities only got tcp pipes by 91, domain was used for things like uucp and such before.

in late 90s, when Brazil got a president who privatized the country, it left fapesp and become a political thing but still with heavy ties to academia, which in Brazil is also very political to begin with, given that almost all the top ones are state run.

Google understood that and now they have a big state university in their pockets (by hiring top professor and keeping them on campus), which is the alma mater of the current person in charge of the br domain now.


This is not limited to Slovakia. Mauritius and South Africa also struggled for years before getting back control of their TLD (but they eventually did). And quite a few African countries have the same problem, it seems.


The story sounds so bizarre that I imagine there might be bit more behind it. Like the fact that it apparently took 5 years from the takeover to the government to even begin negotiations, during which the .com-bubble both grew and burst, so I imagine that the matter of a TLD wouldn't have been completely obscure at the time. Also I'm not sure why the government couldn't have just unilaterally taken over the TLD and charged the people behind the takeover with fraud or something?


Well, .com-bubble came and went, but mind the settings.

Yes, nowadays, new buildings in every larger city come with gigabit ethernet wiring and several ISPs' fiber connected to the basement switches as standard. Older flats (pre-revolution era, before 1989) have FTTH GPON from two or three providers. Really historical buildings have at least DOCSIS 3.0 or VDSL. That's the physical layer. You can get 100 mbps/300 mbps internet (depending on where you are and how lucky you are) for about 20 eur/month, no data limit.

But that came for the price of very slow starts. After the fall of the socialist ("communist") government in 1989, there was:

a) chaos everywhere, many large companies (in the "common domain" beforehand) and employers of many workers were fraudulently privatized to the hands of few con-masters only to be turned into quick cash through sellouts, or just to be defrauded primitively (literally: 1. have a political friend, 2. privatize for one crown, 3. withdraw cash [millions to billions of crowns] from all bank accounts, 4. let it go bankrupt). You could buy and carry firearms no questions asked (nowadays we still have more reasonable firearm laws than the rest of the Europe, even some form of Castle Doctrine - in Europe!! - but now you at least have to go through psychological and firearm test and you cannot be a convict -> didn't matter in 1990's and even worse, there were global amnesties, even applied to serious criminals, because "communist" judges must be wrong, so let's release everyone from the prisons - and those few not released revolted so hard, army had to be called in). One day you could be a common Joe, the next day you are a multimillionaire via privatization through a friend in politics. Or you may be a common Joe going about your common life and while returning home from work, a car or phone booth next to you explodes, because one mafia group was paying debts to another...

b) high demand for foreign goods and low wages relative to foreign currencies. Imagine buying a 486 computer for 100.000 crowns, whereas your monthly wage is 4000 crowns... Would you pay your two years income for a computer?

c) missing voice/data infrastructure (power, water, gas was fine, it was fine well enough to be defrauded without any investment for many many years ;) ). Well into 1990's, you still had to be on a waiting list for... a phone line.

----

So, in 1999, we had a high school field trip to the offices of telephone company, to be shown a 56k dial-up internet shared across 10 or so computers there. A year later, the whole school (20 old computers in one room) was wired through one 56k and we were loading, line by line, new screenshots from the upcoming Red Alert 2: Yuri's Revenge.

Well, you could get dial-up at home, for around 1% of your monthly wage PER HOUR... Many of us, the luckiest ones, actually got the dial-up after 2000 and were given the limit (by parents already strapped for cash) of 1 hour internet a day.

While I cannot comment about the accuracy of the takeovers from the OP's article (I was in the high school after all and was offline fiddling with the expensive LPT scanner, not watching politics), and there always are hidden agendas and components to the story; just to summarize, in those days:

a) nobody cared about the .com-bubble, the internets were a very expensive gimmick to download as many Pascal tutorials and early-media (game reviews mostly) content as fast as you can on a time-metered connection, typically not originating from the .sk TLD,

b) many large companies, say machine industries or water mains, with all their assets were privatized and brought to insolvency on monthly basis (from that era, "privatization" is still used as a curse word with negative connotation).

----

The answer to the question why government didn't take over the TLD by force unilaterally - simply, the first governments cared about defrauding as much as they could, and the next governments cared about being viewed as the "right" alternative to the previous ones, while trying to defraud all what was the left with less media exposure.

And finally, when some wise heads finally came to the realization what the internet has become worldwide and will become nation-wide, we were already in the middle of accession negotiations to become an EU member, implementing required laws. That may be the final answer to your question:

- the defraudation was done in the "wild west" years of 1990's after the revolution,

- while the "repair" had to be done under the strict international-grade laws and you simply can't take it unilaterally back...

----

I don't want this to sound overly negative, it was fun years. For example, I, being born in the 80's era still experienced in my late 90's teens: 8-bit era, 16-bits and finally 32-bits, as they got to us belatedly in 90's. People, being fed up with slow, time-metered and monopolised 56k even in 2000s, started popping up amateur 2.4 GHz networks everywhere, even on remote villages, and that in turn, with "real" ISPs seeing they would get nowhere with lesser service offering no advantages over a next-door high school students' wifis, has lead us to the FTTH/FTTB paradise we have nowadays. We also skipped the ISDN entirely (although it was available). There was time-metered 56k, flash, flat-rate 56k and wifis everywhere, flash, ADSL, flash, fiber. The fast 8-bit/16-bit/32-bit transformation experienced in one's youth lead us to many world-grade startups and companies for the country with the population count of one larger capital.

Just wanted to say that 90's were dark in Central Europe and things more life-important than a TLD had changed hands then...


I'am from Slovakia and this one of many examples, how greedy guys tooked opportunity after fallen communist regime and state laws didn't covered this kind of situation. It's big shame this is not resolved yet. But there is initiative to change that and give back national registrator back to public hands. I hope it will happen soon. The only other country that gave it's top level domain to private hands is Laos. Their .la is mostly used by biznisses from Los Angeles. But that's Laos, not country in EU.


Hey slow down young commie. Do you realize that almost all gTLDs and most of ccTLDs in the first world are managed by private commercial entities (source: CENTR stats on ccTLD management)? Even .CZ, coveted by the author is managed by private association (association members are registrars).


> Also, the domain is still not open to foreigners.

Why should it be?


Well, with background in the darker parts of the internets, I'm still against all forms of domain squatting, typosquatting, etc. Others would also describe me as a heavy EU-skeptic.

But! If you are a company registered in whatever EU country, and, by law, you can do business in all remaining states and in some cases (taxes, consumer protection) you are even bound to adhere to their local laws - then, why you couldn't have a local TLD? And what if you even hold an EU-wide recognized trademark?

Say I am Spanish company AcmeRoadunnner, with EU-wide trademark on AcmeRoadrunner, I cannot get acmeroadrunner.sk, because I don't have a Slovak entity? What for? I am already bound by harmonized EU legislation and when I sell to Slovakia, I must behave in relation to my customers (when they are consumers and not business entities) and file VAT according to Slovakia laws.

Say I am Slovak self business AcmeCoyote. Should I really need to create 27 other business entities in 27 other states to register other domains and prevent domain squatting, when I'm already bound by the 27 states' laws when I sell there?

Ridiculous! And a nice job for proxy registrars...

PS: In an interesting turn of events, fairly recently, a proxy registrar was found guilty for breaking gambling laws, where the page hosted on domain registered by him for his client was showing gambling ads not conforming to Slovakia legislation... So it is about having a local scapegoat to punish.

PS2: Imagine you cannot send goods to any country, unless you create a business entity there. In SK-NIC's case, it's the vice versa case, you can sell here, you MUST charge our VAT here, you MUST obey our consumer laws here, but hey, sorry, you cannot get ours TLD, f* you...


You know there's a thing called organisational unit, right? If the .eu and .com domains aren't enough for you, you're most likely required to have one and when you have one, you can register .sk domain. Check the laws.


A possible argument is that foreigners are also allowed to live, offer services and products, ... in Slovakia. (at least that has been the deciding factor when similar rules for other TLDs of EU countries have been challenged)


Personally I feel like limiting ccTLDs to only legal entities (ie natural persons or registered organizations) of that country seems perfectly natural and even desirable. It doesn't (generally) limit you from offering services in any country, but it does require you to be at least a tiny bit more honest about the origin of the service.


Not all sites are "services". I'm glad I could register a personal domain in one of the countries of origin of my family, even I don't personally qualify as a citizen.


It would put a halt to some good domain hacks though.


Now that ICANN has ruined DNS though, there's not much point. Don't need to register endlesshor.se in Sweden when you can just get http://endless.horse.


I think the point is that you need $185,000 USD to get endless.horse and only €29 EUR for endlesshor.se.


Well, they are definitely hacky to begin with, so I'm not sure if thats such a loss.




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