Open Use ccTLD

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An Open Use ccTLD is a ccTLD whose manager has reduced or eliminated restrictions to registration, or in some cases leased or otherwise licensed use of the TLD to a third party. The term is broader than, but incorporates, the ccTLDs traditionally referred to as "open."


Open ccTLD Pioneers

Early examples of fully "open" TLDs include: .tv, Tuvalu's ccTLD; .cc, the ccTLD of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands; and Samoa's .ws. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development noted the trend of certain ccTLDs to act as alternatives to the existing gTLDs in 2006:

Some ccTLDs, usually small countries or islands, actively seek global registrants to generate revenue and function commercially like gTLDs. They do not have technical autonomy on the global Internet but may have relative autonomy as, although they are subject to national regulations of the country or the region in which they are based, they are not subject to the rules that the ICANN community develops for commercial gTLDs. Often referred to as “open ccTLDs” or “quasi-generics”, TLD registries that decided to open their name spaces to all interested registrants, regardless of country, include by way of example, .cc (Cocos Islands), .tv (Tuvalu), or .ws (Samoa).[1]

The success of these enterprises inspired other "useful suffix" ccTLDs to decrease restrictions on registration or otherwise participate in a broader market for domains. In 2001, the Universidad de los Andes, the manager of Colombia's .co ccTLD, briefly investigated the possibility of using .co as a "generic equivalent" for the .com gTLD.[2] At the time, the commercialization of the domain was forestalled by litigation and pressure from the Colombian government. However, after protracted discussions between a variety of stakeholders and ICANN, the domain was redelegated to .CO Internet SAS, with the intention of opening the ccTLD to all interested consumers.[2] In July 2010, after an initial preemptive registration period for trademark holders, the .co domain was opened fully to consumers.[3]

Recent Developments

As distributed computing, machine learning, and Software as a Service/Platform as a Service businesses continue to grow and expand in commercial consciousness, the demand for complementary domain hack suffixes has created new business opportunities for Anguilla (.ai) and the British Indian Ocean Territory (.io).

Argentina has a strong history of registrations within its borders, but in September 2019 they became one of the latest LAC countries to open its ccTLD, .ar, to the world.[4]

Defensive Registration & Intellectual Property

In 2002, Ben Edelman, an analyst at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, conducted a statistical analysis of registrations in the three early adopter ccTLDs, .cc, .tv. and .ws. Although the research represented only a snapshot of the TLD population at the time of his analysis, he nonetheless identified two findings that continue to be relevant to Open Use ccTLDs:

These results support the following claims:

  • Substantial defensive registrations. Approximately one third of famous name .CC and .TV domains are found to be held by the same entities that registered the corresponding .COMs. When such domains are not actively used, one likely inference is that the goal of each such registration was to prevent others from registering, using, or attempting to sell these domains; in other words, such registrations are likely to be defensive. Indeed, among sampled .CC, .TV, and .WS famous name domains registered to registrants of the corresponding .COM, not a single such ccTLD domain was put to active unique use in distributing content not otherwise available, and the majority were not used at all (showing only error messages or placeholders).
  • Substantial cybersquatting. Of the registered .CC and .TV famous name domains, many are registered to entities other than the respective .COM firms. Some such registrants may have legitimate rights in the respective names. However, certain registrants have registered a large numbers of such domains, suggesting bad faith in registration; for example, one .WS registrant registered a total of 48 distinct domain names each used in .COM by a Fortune, Forbes, or Interbrand firm. Other open ccTLD domain registrations (including .COM famous names) include "for sale" or similar text in WHOIS data or on default web pages.[5]

WIPO case records reveal that both .tv and .cc are among the top ten sources of WIPO cases in the ccTLD space that were not otherwise governed by arbitration provisions.[6] The .ws domain has seen substantially fewer disputes, but many of those involved high-profile brands such as Nokia.[7] Other open use ccTLDs are in the top ten: .mx, which has no restrictions on registrations at the top level; .nl, which reserves the right to place restrictions on registrants outside the EU; and .se, which has no restrictions.[6]