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A tiny island nation just launched major effort to win back control of its ccTLD (businessinsider.com.au)
141 points by markdown 6 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 73 comments

I found this article from 2011 with some more backstory:

> In 1997 IANA, without the approval of the Niuean Government, delegated the ccTLD for Niue to a businessman, William Semich, who lives in the United States. The advisor to the Government at that time was an ex-peace corp volunteer named Richard Saint Clair. Mr Saint Clair told the Government that the name meant nothing, that it was of no value or significance, and there was nothing that could be done. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Saint Clair then left his post as advisor and joined with Mr Semich in his organization – IUSN. The Government of Niue has been working every since to regain its ccTLD.


There were also a lawsuit by the same lawyer in 2018, maybe this is part of the same process.


I've always been hesitant of using other countries' TLDs like .nu, .tv, .ly, since I don't know what will happen with them in three years or where the money goes.

> I've always been hesitant of using other countries' TLDs like .nu, .tv, .ly, since I don't know what will happen with them in three years or where the money goes.

On that note, .co and .io are so widely used now, I can't even imagine what would happen if their governance changed...

.io is a particularly sad story. The residents of the British Indian Ocean Territory (which .io represents) were forced to leave the islands in the 1960s to make room for a naval base. The UK has subsequently established the islands as a marine reserve with the express intent of preventing the original inhabitants, or their descendants, from ever returning to the islands.

It's likely horribly polluted at this point (the base there is actually a US one as the UK leases it to the US) so if anyone ever does get to go live there is will be pretty horrible. Quite a reprehensible example of colonialism.

And the British base is essentially a wrapper around a US Air Force Base.

Main island and site of the USAF base is Diego Garcia, sometimes used to refer to the BIOT as a whole.

It wasn't until the Second Civil War in 2014 that all the cool internet kids realized bit.ly and others were financially subsidizing the Libyan government and that a likely change of government could make their startup disappear overnight.

“Financially subsidising” to the tune of a few hundred dollars a year? For a petro state that earned billions in revenue from oil and gas?

There’s no need for the subtle condescension here - “cool internet kids”.

From 2011 to 2020 anyone with a .ly domain was doing so in violation of federal law per Executive Order 13566: "...the Government of Libya, its agencies, instrumentalities, and controlled entities, and the Central Bank of Libya, [...] may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in pursuant to the order."

I hope this succeeds so that there's a case with background so that the Puerto Rio government can fight back for their .PR TLD.

There's a lot of drama behind this one too. As I understand it, it was started by the University of PR by a professor. Things started moving and a company, Gauss Research Laboratory, Inc, was established. He moved everything to it and they're the ones operating this now.

It's $1,000 dollars to register a .PR domain and $1,000 a year to renew the domain.

No one barely uses it in PR. If you want to register a domain in PR, you add pr to the domain and register a .com, example `examplepr.com`.

The whole thing has been in courts and being fought over for years.


I'm adding here a link to a blog in spanish from the ex CIO of the island about it and shows how things happened with links to web.archive.org, https://giangonz.com/cio-essays/pagarias-100-por-una-lata-de...

This is the google translated link, https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&u=https...

This has to be a contender for strangest country name origin story :

Subsequent settlers were surprised to find vegetation on the chunk of coral rising from the sea, calling the place Niue, which in the local language means, "Look, there's a coconut."

Douglas Adams must have written this. There's no other plausible explanation.

More like Pratchett.

Honestly people, I don't know what is so problematic about Pratchett. For the last day this comment is receiving almost equal amounts of up and down votes every now and then for reasons unobtainable to me. For those interested, check Fantastic Light and the geographic naming conventions described there. Adams is also fantastic humorist but he does not play with the names of places the same way and prefers to just make them long and convoluted.

It is probably spurious, just like so many folk etymologies of the names of towns based on something the founder supposedly said as he caught sight of the area.

The nation is Niue and their domain is .nu

Can someone update the title to reflect this?

You could also read the first word of the article.

That’s the definition of clickbait.

I miss the old days of RTFA.

Is it? I don't read articles to learn about the goings on in the .nu world, it's because the story may or may not be interesting.

Ignoring that it's supposed to be against the rules, moaning about the title and article is really dull and often seems to correlate with people not actually clicking through at all.

They could literally just say 'Niue ....' instead of small island nation

IMO headlines should have as much information as possible, "The tiny island nation of Niue [...] ccTLD, .nu" is more informative than the current headline.

It'd be like the heading "Prominent lawyer is now in hospital after contracting a disease" is less informative than "Rudy Giuliani, lawyer to President Trump, is in hospital after contracting Covid-19".

But the difference is I have heard of Giuliani, but not .nu

If in 100 years time, we had an article like "Prominent Lawyer was ill during the pandemic of 2020, [insert anecdote here]", it would be the same kind of article as this one.

Then you would have been informed that .nu exists by the end of my headline. If that piqued your curiousity, you can then read the article.

I think the point is that the newsworthiness here is that a nation is fighting for control of their TLD. It doesn't really matter what nation it is, and most people have probably never heard of it. The issue is that there exists a nation at all that has this problem. I think most would assume that all ccTLDs are well under the control of their respective nations.

IOW, I don't think headlines aim or should aim for information density, but rather focusing on the points that makes the story newsworthy to the target audience. Aiming for information density causes distraction from the point of the story and consequently maybe disinterest the specific potential readers the author is aiming for.

Saying "a tiny island nation" rather than specifying the nation is also better because it focuses on the fact that its problem is probably due to being a tiny island nation, i.e. a nation that is largely unknown and ignored. Putting it like that might invoke sympathy. Saying "Niue" instead might cause the target audience to think the news is not really relevant to them since they don't know "Niue".

So you wrote 3 paragraphs to describe.. clickbait.

Yeah it's obvious the headline was written the way it was to generate a page view. IMO the addition of the "spoilers" don't detract that there's a poor tiny nation suffering. If they didn't know Niue, they would know after the headline that it's a small island country, and look at that, without needing to read the article (but oh no, what about their ad view!).

No, clickbait is using tactics to attract even people that wouldn't be interested in the story otherwise. Clickbait many times doesn't even summarize the content. It's just sensational and enticing nonsense.

I specifically said to focus on the points of interest of the target audience, just the people that would be interested in the story. Doing otherwise wouldn't make for a good summary, which is what a title ultimately is.

As an aside,

> So you wrote 3 paragraphs...

that type of language is really dismissive and rude. I wish you wouldn't use it.

you need to click to do that (and take the risk of downloading software from unknown sources)

A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.

A ship is build to withstand heavy weather yet you'd still try to navigate around a storm.

It was more to illustrate how ridiculous such a fear seems compared to some actual adventure

"nu" in Swedish and Danish means "now", so .nu has been used for catchy domain names in those countries for a while now.

Which makes me wonder about ipv4 spaces... Should they not be owned by each country's proportional part of the global population rather being allocated to corporates who first got their hands on them?

For English speakers "nu" in Swedish means "now", so it was a really popular TLD here in the early Internet. I'm guessing it still kinda is but I don't see those domains as much anymore. I don't know much about its history though so someone maybe can correct me if the meaning of nu isn't the reason the TLD ended up in Sweden.

It also means "naked" in french. For example, https :// homme. nu/ which directly translates to "man dot naked" (and reads as "naked.man").

(Broken the URL on purpose, don't go there. It's a risky site likely filled with malware.)

In Dutch nu also means now.

Along the same lines, for a time the Cameroonian TLD ".cm" was used where any mistyping of the TLD, like "ycombinator.cm" would go to a link farm.

Somebody paid some money to the local domain authority for that to happen.

I believe the country's authority ended that; now a holder must be a Cameroonian entity to get a domain.

Good, I hope they get it. The fact that anyone other than the Niue people get to decide what to do with their domain is ludicrous. The claim of "neo-colonialism" is exactly right.

"Their" domain exists because the entire concept of the domain system was created out of thin air - the people of Niue didn't create it and in fact voluntarily ceded control of it, but of course because "they didn't recognize the financial benefit control". Well no kidding, few realized the potential of the web. The use of neo-colonialism is just expansive use of a term for marketing reasons.

It's not clear at all that they "voluntarily ceded control of it". The exact chain of events is disputed, but it appears quite possible that Niue never had control of their ccTLD at all -- that it was first delegated to someone outside the Niue government, without that government's approval, and that this error was never corrected.

> because "they didn't recognize the financial benefit control". Well no kidding, few realized the potential of the web.

They were assigned a TLD, and fed wrong advice by an advisor who breached his trust duty, then did a swinging door from government to industry

> The advisor to the Government at that time was an ex-peace corp volunteer named Richard Saint Clair. Mr Saint Clair told the Government that the name meant nothing, that it was of no value or significance, and there was nothing that could be done. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Saint Clair then left his post as advisor and joined with Mr Semich in his organization – IUSN

> The use of neo-colonialism is just expansive use of a term for marketing reasons.

No, it's more like palladium ore being discovered on your property, and you signing it away in exchange of free internet for life.

It's called swindling

No it's not like palladium ore being found in your property. It's like 100 years in the future in a different language then your own some arrangement of symbols which theoretically could be construed to refer to you is used in intellectual property by parties for purposes completely alien to you. But you realize that there is money to made and you say where is my rightful piece of a pie I didn't know existed and was baked by complete strangers

> Well no kidding, few realised the potential of the web.

Not just the web. This is how Africa was raped of its resources. Tribes being convinced to part with hundreds of thousands of hectares of "useless" land that they had no idea had mineral wealth under it.

NU is also stands for Northwestern University among many others.

Who to say the letters NU should belong to this small country and not to other people with equal emotional attachment to these letters?

Why not create a a new .niue TLD?

Because unlike other TLDs, the two-letter root domains are well-defined as ccTLDs way back in 1990 defining it as "following ISO 3166" two-letter code, and ISO has assigned Niue as NU. The only exception now is .UK and .SU (United Kingdom is technically GB but before ICANN it was assigned both UK and GB and Soviet Union is gone but it has became de facto ccTLD for CIS).

There's no requirement to follow 1990s rules.

There is definitely a requirement to following international treaties unless everyone agrees to withdraw it.

Every ccTLD is assigned based on the nation's ISO 3166-1 country code. Why should the citizens of Niue be forced to use a nonstandard ccTLD?


> There's no requirement to follow 1990s rules.

Which are still followed, and has actually a special status in international law (not just in ICANN) which unlike gTLDs (which .niue will be) means that these are literally untouchable even when, I don't know, a hostile country has hosted a command center on their ccTLD?

> Because it would circumvent this drama and make everyone happy.

That is your opinion. It's unlike .TV where Tuvalu has freely make the choice and still consents Verisign to manage .TV, it's literally Niue having no say on .NU

> ISO is not anything particularly special. There are a lot of silly ISOs out there. T Niue government was not even consulted when they were assigned NU.

The UK was not consulted either, and they want to have the code UK.

> It was just a bunch of white people assigning countries letters.

You know, a country can definitely request overhauling or overturning the ISO 3166 if they wanted to. You know why they didn't? Because they are at least ambivalent to it.

> It was just a bunch of white people assigning countries letters.

was? white people?


^ quite a few non 'white' people, as if that would be a valid discriminator anyway

edit: current ISO president is an african from kenya:


Back when I was a teenager I owned a .nu domain. Glad I don't anymore!

Well now I have to question why in the two geographic decks in my Anki Niue is not mentioned. (Realistically, I'm unlikely to learn to distinguish all those islands in Oceania, but still.)

It's in the Ultimate Geography pack. Coincidentally happened to be one of the first cards in my case.

ccTLDs were a mistake.

We should strive for neutral (as possible) and general-purpose technology.

Political relationships and problems should be dealed with using political means, not by making technology cater to specific types of human/political relationships (e.g. nationality).

Imagine if IP packets had "country of origin" and "country of destination" headers. Stupid, right? Well, the same principle applies for TLDs.

I'm not denying that there's some intrinsic political arbitrarity in assigning numbers/names to people and companies (and accepting the use of those numbers/names) but adding countries into the mix makes the problem much worse.

I thought it was going to be .ws

I own and use a .nu domain. I hope I don’t lose it.

If they're sensible they'll keep all current domains and just redirect the profits

That's right. If you keep paying, I'm sure someone will cash your check.

tl;dr: Years ago, Niue traded away their rights to the .nu TLD in exchange for free Internet access and Wi-Fi coverage for their entire country. Now that the value of .nu went up, they want to unilaterally revoke the deal and take it back.

I believe you are mistaken. They did not trade it away for WiFi and internet, this dispute is over 20 years old and isn’t because “now that the value of .nu went up”, and there is no deal to unilateral Revoke

> They did not trade it away for WiFi and internet

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-12-10/tiny-nation-of-niue-w... says "The IUSN took control of .nu in 2003, as part of a deal where its affiliates promised the tiny island of 1,600 people free wireless internet in exchange for managing the domain". Is that article mistaken too? Also, the parent article says "part of the profit he gained from controlling the .nu top-level domain was used to get the remote island connected to the internet, and his IUS-N Foundation said it continues to make significant contributions to maintain the island’s internet and telecommunication needs".

> there is no deal to unilateral Revoke

Yes there is. The parent article says "While Niue signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Semich around that time, it quickly backtracked" and "But Niue tore up the original deal".

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25445597 suggests a completely different story.

Sounds like someone trying to spin a narrative to make their case sound more like a human rights issue. I’m not biting. What they did made perfect sense. They traded something they couldn’t use for something they could. cCTLD for internet. The majority of the websites that host under the .nu name have nothing to do with the country. The country should not have a right to potentially interfere with the online stability of thousands of websites using that TLD just because they suddenly want it back. If they wanted it, they should never have given up control of it to begin with. In 2010 I had 4000 bitcoin but traded it for a new graphics card online. Should I be able to claim colonialism and say that I was swindled and I demand my rightful bitcoin back in full? No that would be ridiculous. So is asking for anything back you sold or traded after having received payment, especially when the price of the item you are asking for back has gone up thousands of times higher.

Just suggesting the aboriginal people of wherever have made a mistake gets downvoted to oblivion.

That's not what the article indicates at all.

Niue has a population of ~1600. That's a lot of tlds per capita. It's not obvious to me why dns should be a way of transferring money from populous countries to sparsely populated countries.

Many (not all) small islands also have a disproportionately large EEZ. Why should that depend on population anymore than domain names?

> transferring money from populous countries to sparsely populated countries.

If small countries have something large countries want then what is wrong with transferring money.

The thing is they don’t have it anymore. They are crying and asking for it back now that it became valuable.

That almost sounds like you think sparsely populated countries don't deserve money, even if it's rightfully theirs by international law.

It sounds like they signed away rights and are now trying to make a moral argument to claw them back. So it think it's totally fair to bring other moral arguments to the table.

Per the article they didn't even sign away, the .nu domain was just given to somebody.

Why would you say they didn’t sign it away when it’s clearly been quoted several times verbatim in the article and this thread that the country DID sign it away? Is this thread full of shills?

> While Niue signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Semich around that time, it quickly backtracked, claiming it did not understand what it was agreeing to or the financial benefit control of the webspace could confer.

Anyway I'm no longer sure I hold the opinion that kicked this thread off, but I want to include that quote to clear up the facts.

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