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Sponsored Top level Domain (sTLD) is a special category of the top level domains (TLD)s in the Domain Name System (DNS) maintained by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). sTLDs have a sponsor for specific purposes. Top level domain sponsors may belong to a specific ethnic community, professional group, or geographical location. The sponsor of the TLD is responsible to develop policies, ensure transparency and accountability in its operations, and maintain the best interest of the sponsored internet community.


Between 1984 and 1985, the Domain Name System of the internet was deployed under the guidance of Jon Postel to replace the host.txt system. The DNS contains resource records that map easy-to-remember domain names to unique numeric addresses assigned to every computer. It also serves as a distributed database for information about resources on the Internet.[1]

The initial top level domain names was introduced through the Internet Working Group Domain Requirements (RFC 920) authored by Jon Postel and .Joyce Reynolds in 1984. The original top level domain names include: .arpa (intended to be transitional for the ARPA-Internet), .com (commercial), .edu (education), .gov (government), .mil (military), and .org (organization) as well as two-letter (alpha-2) names identifying countries based on the ISO 3166-1 (ISO Standard for Codes for the Representation of Names of Countries.[2] In 1985, when the TLDs were implemented .net was added and subsequently in 1988 the .int was added for international organizations.

In 2000, during the ICANN meeting in Yokohama the Domain Name Supporting Organization (DNSO) proposed the introduction of new TLDs under a new policy.[3] Seven new TLDs were implemented between 2001 to 2002.Four new unsponsored TLDs .biz, .info, .name, and .pro and the three other new TLDs, .aero, .coop, and .museum were sponsored.[4]

Types of TLD

  • Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLD) is composed of two-letters such as .us, .ca, .de, .jp and many others. There are 250 established ccTLDs, which represent countries and territories around the world and they are operated by designated managers based on the country policies adopted to meet the economic, cultural, linguistic, and legal circumstances of the country or territory involved.
  • Generic Top Level Domain (gTLD)is composed of three or more characters such as .com, .jobs, .info, .aero etc. The gLTD has two categories:
  1. Sponsored Top Level Domain (sTLD)
  2. Unsponsored Top Level Domains (uTLD),
  • The .arpa TLD is a special domain used for technical infrastructure purposes which is administered by ICANN in collaboration with the internet technical community under the Internet Architecture Board's supervision.[5]

List of Sponsored Top Level Domains

Manwin Lawsuit

Manwin, one of the most prominent adult content producers on the Internet, filed an Anti-Trust suit against both ICM Registry and ICANN over the creation and implementation of the .xxx sTLD. This legal action took place in November, 2011, well after the TLD's approval and just before its general availability.[6] It also filed an Independent Review Panel (IRP) Request with ICANN, making it only the second company ever to do so (the first being ICM Registry itself). Manwin felt that ICANN did not "adequately address issues including competition, consumer protection, malicious abuse and rights protection prior to approving the .xxx TLD."[7]

In January, 2012, ICANN and ICM both filed motions to dismiss the case. ICANN argued that since it is a not-for-profit organization and it is not engaged in "trade or commerce," the US anti-trust laws are not applicable; additionally, both ICM and ICANN argued that Manwin's filing was essentially complaining about the possible increase in competition. ICM cited that Manwin had approached the company earlier with a supposed mutually-beneficial agreement, in which Manwin would acquire various premium .xxx domains for free, in exchange for sharing the profits of these domains with ICM. When ICM turned down the agreement, Manwin Managing Partner Fabian Thylmann said that he would do whatever he could to stop .xxx.[8] ICANN's and ICM's motions to dismiss can be found here and here respectively.

In mid-February, Manwin, ICANN and ICM Registry announced that they were in talks and hoping to resolve some or all of the outstanding complaints. The motions to dismiss the case filed by ICANN and ICM were temporarily put on hold.[9] On February 17, the company amended its anti-trust lawsuit against ICANN and ICM Registy. According to Manwin's counsel Kevin E. Gaut, two related state law claims were dropped to avoid potential risks of trial delays.[10]

In August 2012, a mixed ruling by the Central District of California District Court accepted only 2 out of ICANN and ICM's 7 motions to dismiss. The court ruled that ICANN would be subject to anti-trust law, as ICM pays fees to them in order to be permitted to run the .xxx domain space, and that the trial would proceed with focus on the "defensive registrations" market.[11]