Libyan Unrest Raises Uncertainty Over .LY Domains

The growing popularity of .LY domain names, the Libyan ccTLD, as an internet address shortener has led some to worry about whether the domain names will continue to operate.

Popular sites such as bit.ly has raised questions about what happens when governments shut down parts of their internet, especially to foreign access, in time of unrest or repression.

The answer was discussed by John Borthwick, CEO of bit.ly, who said on the Quora forum that “Should Libya block Internet traffic, as Egypt did, it will not affect http://bit.ly or any .ly domain.”

“For .LY domains to be unresolvable the five .LY root servers that are authoritative *all* have to be offline, or responding with empty responses. Of the five root nameservers for the .LY TLD: two are based in Oregon, one is in the Netherlands and two are in Libya.”

However responding to Borthwick’s comment, Kim Davies from the IANA wrote “It gives a sense of false confidence to state that country-code domains are impervious to these kinds of government-mandated Internet shutdowns. If a country like Libya decides to shut down the Internet affecting the registry operations of .LY, while it is unlikely to have an immediate effect unless they explicitly empty the registry data, it can have a devastating effect in short order.”

“John Borthwick in his original answer stated that because the authoritative servers (they are not root servers) for .LY are located outside the country it is safe, but the authoritative servers outside the country are reliant on being capable of obtaining updates from the .LY registry inside the country. If they are unable to succeed in getting updates, at some point they will consider the data they have stale and stop providing information on the .LY domain.”

Writing on the Washington Post Faster Forward blog, Rob Pegaro notes that “Yes, bit.ly is safe, because it has plenty of backups, but an Internet shutdown is not the only consideration for sites looking to foreign TLDs.”