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 last year, they are finding rebellion among Russian webmasters, ISPs and the Registry itself.
To summerise 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 Registry announced an 80% price cut to the .SU domain, bringing it into line with .RU (Russia) pricing and the proposed launch of an IDN (international) version of the domain extension. Not exactly the reaction ICANN must have been hoping for.
ICANN immediately dispatched a team to Russia to discuss the crisis. After meetings which they described as “successful“, they returned, citing a letter from from Alexei Platonov and Alexei Soldatov of RosNIIROS. The letter indicated a willingness to talk about the issue of decommissioning but saw this within a timeframe of 10-15 years, not the 1-2 years ICANN envisioned. However, first they would fully investigate the possibility of keeping the extension running and obtaining special “exceptionally reserved” status for the 2-letter ISO code (similar to .EU which does not pertain to any one country).
This option has all but been ruled out by ICANN themselves, as unlike the European Union (.EU) the Soviet Union had ceased to exist in 1992. At that time it was removed from the United Nations SO 3166-1 list which holds two letter codes for every nation and forms the basis for ICANN’s designations. The Russian operators weren’t about to let a little semantic argument like that get in their way.
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.
That conversation has been curiously absent in the Russian press. However there have been many positive quotes from the PR department of the Russian Registry, talking of the future for the domain and of ICANN backing down over the issue. It was even proposed that Russia receive a third 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 currently over 45’000.
Now a new volley has been fired, as SU opened the sunrise period for IDN registrations today and made their proposition a reality. 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.”
Al the actions by the Russian Registry point to a deliberate promotion of the domain against the direct wishes of ICANN. This promotion has caused their user numbers to spike dramatically, giving weight to their arguments to keep the domain. SU now has by far the highest subscriber count of any extension queued for deletion. 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 US-based organization can do to stop the Russians.