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Russians Snub ICANN with IDN SU Registrations

As we reported back in February 2007, ICANN is still attempting to delete the obsolete SU (Soviet Union) extension but having little success. While they have managed to decommission the .YU (Yogoslavia) extension successfully they are finding rebellion among Russian webmasters, ISPs and the Registry itself.

To bring you up to date with the dispute so far, September saw ICANN release a statement urging “the current .SU operators to make it clear to the .SU registrants the issues surrounding the domain, as well as to freeze new registrations until its future is clear”.

In response the .SU operators announced an 80% price cut to their domain in the Russian press, bringing it into line with .RU pricing and the launch of IDN (international) version of the domain extension. Not exactly the reaction ICANN must have been hoping for.

ICANN soon dispatched a team to Russia to discuss the situation, happily reporting that the SU operators had seen reason and holding a letter from from Alexei Platonov and Alexei Soldatov on the .SU ccTLD RosNIIROS. The letter indicated a willingness to talk about the issue of decommissioning but saw this within a time frame of 10-15 years. However, first they would fully investigate the possibility of keeping the extension running and obtaining special “exceptionally reserved” status (like .EU which does not pertain to any one country).

The Russians were a little less candid on the point of freezing new registrations but did agree to inform the SU community about the talks and possibility of future migration.

It’s been hard to see that conversation in the Russian press. Article carry positive quotes from the PR department of RU-Center, talking of the future for the domain and of ICANN backing down over the issue. Rumors have been circulated about a possible third IDN extension, .RF (Russian Federation) in exchange for letting the .SU decommission. As promised though, on November 1st 2007, the price of SU was slashed. While there were only 10’000 subscribers at the beginning of that year, there are now over 45’000.

Today a new volley was fired, as SU opened the sunrise period for IDN registrations. Far from winding down the extension, they are actively promoting it and expect, according to their own figures, to see 30-40% new registrations over the coming months.

According to Andrei Vorobyov, Head of Public Relations for the Regional Network Information Center (RU-Center), who operate the domain, “In the future, we have plans to expand the number of languages used in the IDN .SU domain, including all the national languages of the people of Russia.”

Although RU-Center has made all the right noises to ICANN, their actions have pointed to a deliberate promotion of the domain. This has caused the number of their users to spiral, giving weight to their arguments to keep the domain. All eyes are on ICANN now to see how they deal with this latest snub to their authority. At the moment, it seems there is little the international organization can do to stop the Russians.

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Nick Wilsdon


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