Cold war web

Call it an example of the Long Tail principle in action: 16 years since the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and the battle to preserve the entity lives on, online.

A campaign has been launched in Russia to stop ICANN, the body that controls the Internet’s domain name system, from discontinuing the Soviet Union’s country code, .su.

Even though the Union broke up before most people knew what the Internet was, there are over 10,000 active websites that use the country-name domain – and the numbers are growing each year. This growth is not simply reliant on nostalgia for a Communist past; some of Russia’s leading enterprises use the suffix, including its leading B2B information trading platform,

One of Russia’s foremost Internet development organisations, the Russian Institute of Public Networks is supporting the cause. It says the domain name should be kept available for both cultural and businesses reasons. “It’s original and offers website names that other domains don’t have any more,” says the institute’s director Alexei Platonov.

The pen-pushers at ICANN remain stubbornly unimpressed by these arguments: the continued use of .su instead of the updated country codes “threatens the integrity of the Internet”.

Nevertheless critics point out that other countries use country codes that ICANN does not formally recognise, including the UK. The official ISO 3166-1 listed country code for Britain is .gb, not .uk, which was originally intended for the Ukraine.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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