04 November 2020

Today’s blog post addresses a term that we talk about a lot: “ccTLD”, or “country code Top Level Domain”. Every country has its own ccTLD, for example .au for Australia, .nz for New Zealand, and .us for the United States. 

The idea for this blog post was inspired by an Asia Pacific Top Level Domain (APTLD) member meeting held on Wednesday October 28, “Revisiting the concept of a ccTLD”. APTLD represents the interests of regional TLDs in various international fora such as ICANN, and this session was led by General Manager Leonid Todorov. He claimed that the concept of ccTLD is a minefield in many aspects, and that there is so much to understand when it comes to a ccTLD’s management, including the legal and operational status, understanding who sets the rules and policies and areas to be cautious of within its operation.

The legal and operational status of a ccTLD

Leonid began his presentation by showing us how the DNS (Domain Name System) operates in a hierarchical structure with Top Level Domains (TLDs) of different classes, including restricted TLDs (e.g. .edu, .gov), Internationalised TLDs or IDNs (e.g. non ASCII script) new gTLDs (e.g. .hotel, .bank) and ccTLDs (e.g. .au, .nz, .us), among others. He explained that many ccTLDs are only available to residents of the country they represent, and that a designated manager for each ccTLD must be appointed. For .au that designated manager is .au Domain Administration (auDA), who by definition is “the administrator and self-regulatory policy body for the .au ccTLD”.

Who sets the rules and policies?

It is important to understand that the designated manager sets the overall rules and policies for a ccTLD’s management, such as eligibility and allocation. Most ccTLDs operate their DNS services consistent with international standards, which are developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), “the premier Internet standards body, developing open standards through open processes”. Leonid further explained how the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) work together to keep the internet running smoothly.

As demonstrated on their website, auDA has a clear method for developing the eligibility and allocation rules in .au using a multi-stakeholder process that is explained in their Process for Development and Review of auDA Published Policies, if you are interested in finding out more.

Areas of caution

Leonid acknowledged three areas of caution for ccTLD Managers, which are listed below:

  1. Delegation (this is the process for a TLD to be listed in the internet’s root directory, along with the contact details for the entity responsible for the TLD);
  2. Transfer (when delegation is transferred from one operator to another) and;
  3. Revocation (when the ccTLD is taken away from the manager).

We should point out that transfer and revocation are quite infrequent occurrences, and require extensive, time consuming consultation and documentation.

To close the session, Leonid discussed processes being developed for providing comprehensive advice and consultancy if, for example, a ccTLD is to be retired (e.g. the ccTLD for the former Soviet Union, .su). This type of decision would ideally be a consensus based decision that takes the internet’s interests into account. 

With this introduction we hope that you can begin to appreciate the complexities when it comes to ccTLDs that Leonid referred to. Within the .au ccTLD, there are over 3.2 million domain names, each with its own unique brand and extension, and we recognise the volume of work that goes into developing and adhering to strict policy requirements that auDA carries out. The ccTLD industry is a unique space, and it is useful for everyday internet users to be familiar with such concepts, particularly as more businesses move online and the internet becomes an even busier place.

Have a question, comment or idea for a future blog post? Email us at blog@afilias.com.au today.