CcNSO Policy Development Process - Retirement

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CcNSO Policy Development Process - Retirement
Status: Final Report
Issue Areas: Retirement of ccTLDs
Date Established: April 10, 2017
Charter: WG Charter
Workspace: Community Wiki

The ccNSO's Policy Development Process (PDP) regarding retirement of country code TLDs was initiated to fill a gap in ICANN's policy processes. When world events cause an Alpha-2 code to be removed from the ISO 3166-1 list of country codes, there has been previously been no consistent or programmatic response from ICANN regarding the retirement of the associated ccTLD. The PDP seeks to provide consistent and predictable outcomes for ccTLDs that are no longer associated with an Alpha-2 country code on the ISO list.


The ISO 3166 list of country codes is a standard developed and maintained by the International Organization for Standardization.[1] Among other codes, the list contains two-letter codes for each sovereign entity in the world.[1] In the early days of the Internet, Jon Postel utilized the ISO 3166 list to assign two-letter top-level domains to each country. RFC 1591 lays out the rationale for using the list:

The IANA is not in the business of deciding what is and what is not a country. The selection of the ISO 3166 list as a basis for country code top-level domain names was made with the knowledge that ISO has a procedure for determining which entities should be and should not be on that list.[2]

Exceptions and Anomalies

This policy has remained consistent since RFC 1591.[3] ISO 3166 remains the canonical resource for all two-letter, top-level codes. However, certain exceptions exist within the DNS:

ICANN Board-Approved Exceptions

  • EU, which is "exceptionally reserved" by the ISO 3166 Maintenance Agency as representative of the European Union. In 2000, the ICANN Board authorized the delegation of exceptionally reserved codes as TLDs under specific conditions.[4]
  • UK and AC, which were grandfathered into the DNS under the same board resolution. (JE and GG were also originally grandfathered, but have since moved onto the list of country codes.)[3]


The .su ccTLD was delegated to the Soviet Union in 1990.[5] The country code was removed from the ISO 3166 list in 1992 following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.[6] At the time, no consistent policy for retirement of ccTLDs associated with removed two-letter codes existed. Due to a variety of circumstances, no action was taken regarding the retirement of .su.[5] As Kim Davies, then the VP of IANA Services at ICANN, explained in 2007:

Traditionally when country codes have been retired, it has been left to their local Internet communities to determine the most appropriate way to arrange for a transition. This is in line with the general principle that country code domains are operated within countries for their local Internet community, in the way that best serves them...To retain .SU, under current policy [registry operators] would need to successfully apply for the code to be re-instated into the ISO 3166-1 standard, either as a regular two-letter country code, or as an “exceptionally reserved” code like UK and EU.[7]

However, registration of .su domains continued, and continues to the present day.[8] The SU code was added to the "exceptionally reserved" list in 2010 at the urging of the registry operator.[9]

PDP History

The origin of the push to review and/or implement retirement procedures dates to the .su situation, when ICANN issued a call for comments regarding its retirement procedures for ccTLDs.[10] The responses were varied, but a common theme was that ICANN's action to date had been inconsistent.[11]

The ccNSO's Delegation & Redelegation Working Group issued a final report on the retirement of ccTLDs as part of its work in 2011.[12] The report again identified the lack of policy as a pressing concern, and recommended a policy development process to establish a consistent and transparent policy.[12] In 2014, the Framework of Interpretation working group regarding the delegation and redelegation of ccTLDs provided interpretive guidance to RFC 1591 and ICANN's policy standing as it related to IANA functions around ccTLDs.[13] The report did not propose policy; rather, the working group's goal was "to give IANA and the ICANN Board clear guidance on the meaning and intent of RFC1591, in order to clarify existing policy and to facilitate consistent and predictable application of this policy."[13]

In 2017, the ccNSO convened a drafting team to develop charters for a Retirement PDP Working Group and a Review Mechanism PDP Working Group.[14] The group issued a final draft charter for the Retirement PDP on February 27, 2017.[15]

The Working Group was established in April 2017, under a finalized charter[16] and accompanying issue report.[17] At ICANN 59, Kim Davies presented a historical look back at delegation, redelegation, and retirement decisions in the ccTLD space.[9] The presentation also described IANA's current policy and process.

After deliberation, drafting, and public comment, the Working Group issued its final report in February 2021.[18]

All proposals were adopted by both the ccNSO Council and the ccNSO membership in August 2021. On September 28, 2021, the ccNSO Council transmitted the policy recommendation pertaining to the retirement of ccTLDs to the ICANN Board for consideration and approval.[19]

During the ICANN 75 ICANN Annual General Meeting in September 2022, the ICANN Board adopted the ccNSO policy recommendation pertaining to the retirement of the delegated Top Level Domains associated with the country codes. The next step is the implementation of the policy.[20]


The Working Group developed a five- to ten-year phase-out plan for ccTLDs upon specific triggering events:

  1. for ccTLDs whose codes are on the ISO-3166-1 list, when that code is removed from the list by ISO;
  2. for ccTLDs whose codes do not appear on the ISO-3166-1 list, when the ISO 3166 Maintenance Agency makes any change to that code; and
  3. for IDN ccTLDs, the triggering event will be separately established by the PDP on selection and deselection of IDN ccTLDs (launched May 2020).[18]

In response to a triggering event, the IANA Naming Functions Operator (IFO) sends a Notice of Removal to the ccTLD manager, stating that the ccTLD will be removed from the root in five years' time. The ccTLD manager may submit a Retirement Plan that extends the retirement timeframe to up to ten years. In the case of triggering event #2, above, the manager may also appeal the decision to retire the TLD.[18] A ccTLD manager may also appeal an IFO decision to not grant an extension of the five-year timeline for retirement. No appeal is allowed for ccTLD managers whose country code is removed from the ISO 3166-1 list (triggering event #1).[18]

Submission and Board Action

The ICANN Board received the ccNSO's policy report in September 2021.[21] Patricio Poblete presented an update to the ccNSO Council on the board's process at ICANN 74.[21] He noted that the relative lack of ccNSO policy activity caused a need to develop some procedures for processing the policy recommendations on an ad hoc basis. He noted specific provisions of the ICANN Bylaws that required certain steps upon receipt of a policy proposal that would "substantially affect the operation of the Internet:"[22]

  1. A public comment period on the proposed policy is required;
  2. The opinion of the GAC must be requested; and
  3. Where practically feasible and consistent with the policy development process, a public forum should be held.[21]

Poblete stated in his presentation that, to his surprise, the public comment periods that occurred during the policy development process were not sufficient to satisfy the "notice and comment" requirement. As a result, upon receipt of the policy, a number of actions were taken. At its October 2021 board workshop, the board created an ad hoc group to shepherd the policy assessment process. The ad hoc group was comprised of Avri Doria, Becky Burr, Katrina Sataki, with Poblete chairing the group. The group worked with the Board Governance Committee to draft a charter for the group's work, and after BGC approval of the charter,[23] the ad hoc group began meeting in March 2022. In addition to addressing the retirement policy, the group charter also called for more formal procedures to receive and process ccNSO policy recommendations.[21]

As the group was working through the preliminaries, the retirement policy was published for public comment[24] and the GAC was invited to evaluate and provide advice on the policy.[25] There were only four responses to the public comment process, largely positive regarding the policy. The GAC responded in January, noting that they had paid close attention during the PDP and had no objections or concerns.[26]

ccNSO Reactions

Poblete's presentation was met with varying degrees of disappointment by the assembled council members. Chris Disspain requested more information regarding the delay between receipt of the policy and action on the policy. Poblete agreed that the the timeframe for establishing the charter was longer than he anticipated. Nick Wenban-Smith wondered if "it is just that ICANN is rubbish at everything, and five years is a reasonable time to do something quite simple..." Poblete agreed again, noting that he was part of the PDP process, and was surprised that "yet another" public comment period was needed. Stephen Deerhake asked Poblete not to take his comments personally, and then commented that

This grade of inaction, I think, is not only inexcusable, I think it's insulting to the volunteer community as Nick pointed out, has worked a long, long time on this policy. I don't understand why it appears the board got caught flat-footed when this policy was delivered to them. We've been working on it for years. The board's known that - the working group has been the butt of jokes within the board for taking so long, if I understand correctly. So it should not have been a surprise when this policy picked up...pitched up...It would be nice to have some semblance of communication from the board to the working group of any concerns or questions you might have. We've heard nothing.[21]

Implications for Open Use ccTLDs

The policy presents a risk for registrants who want to utilize an Open Use ccTLD on the web. In the event that a country code such as TV is removed from the ISO-3166 list, for example, many companies who presently use .tv as a signifier for streaming video content would have to transition to a new domain.


  1. 1.0 1.1 - ISO 3166
  2. - RFC 1591, page 5-6, March 1994
  3. 3.0 3.1 IANA - Eligible TLDs
  4. ICANN Board Resolution 00-74, September 25, 2000
  5. 5.0 5.1 Reuters - USSR is Still Alive on the Internet, September 19, 2007
  6. - SU
  7. - The Lives of Country Code Domains, September 19, 2007
  8. - The Bizarre Afterlife of .su, April 21, 2021
  9. 9.0 9.1 ICANN 59 Presentation - Background on the Implementation of the ccTLD Eligibility Lifecycle, June 29, 2017
  10. - Discussion Paper on Retiring ccTLDs, May 12, 2006
  11. Forum - Comments on ccTLD Sunset Procedures
  12. 12.0 12.1 DRD-WG - Final Report, March 7, 2011
  13. 13.0 13.1 ccNSO FOI-WG Final Paper, October 7, 2014
  14. Drafting Team Workspace, ccNSO
  15. Charter v. 4.0, Retirement Working Group, Feb. 27, 2017
  16. Retirement Working Group Charter, April 10 2017
  17. Retirement Issue Report, April 10, 2017
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 ccNSO Retirement Working Group - Final Report, February 9, 2021
  19. ccNSO Chair Reynoso to Board Chair Botterman, Correspondence, ICANN
  20. ICANN76 Session Highlights
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 21.4 ICANN 74 Archive - ccNSO Council Meeting, June 16, 2022 (Presentation of Patricio Poblete beginning at 56:00)
  22. ICANN Bylaws, Article 3.6, as amended June 2, 2022
  23. Minutes of the Meeting of the Board Governance Committee, February 15, 2022
  24. ICANN Public Comment Archive - ccNSO Proposed Policy on the Retirement of ccTLDs, initiated November 22, 2021
  25. ICANN Correspondence Archive - Maarten Botterman to Manal Ismail, December 6, 2021
  26. ICANN Correspondence Archive - Manal Ismail to Maarten Botterman, January 31, 2022