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.EU: Lucy’s Football?

Those of you familiar with the American comic series “Peanuts” by the late Charles Schultz may be familiar with the recurring theme of Lucy’s football. Lucy holds a football on her toe for Charlie Brown to practice a field goal kick. Charlie Brown realizes that the last 25 times Lucy has held the ball for him to kick, she pulled the ball out of the way at the last minute, causing him to trip and fall. Charlie Brown knows full well that Lucy may not keep the ball in place for him to kick, yet his determination gets him running towards that unlikely opportunity each and every time.

Every time I hear .EU is being launched, and then subsequently delayed, I visualize that same scenario in my mind. How familiar is that situation for many of us hoping to make the most of our brand security, business expansion, or other goals by registering one of these coveted .EU domain names?

Some of us with enough time in the industry to know all the stages involved in introducing TLDs to the root are wondering if the elusive .EU will ever see the light of day. There is no clarity to the process used by ICANN—the organization in charge of adding TLDs to the root—to approve a new TLD. This is where I feel the “pulled football” aspect of the metaphor applies. The hype gets ahead of the actual reality of the situation, and then corrects itself when people realize that there is no football.

To further complicate matters, the European Union (EU) appears to have an ivory tower view of the process to add .EU to the root. They seem to believe they should be exempt from the hurdles that other countries or companies vying for a registry must endure, such as the recent round of sponsored TLD (sTLD) applications (ex .MOBI, .POST, etc.). The EU did not submit an application for a new sTLD in the recent submission process. So can the EU navigate around this by stating that .EU is a ccTLD?

IANA/ICANN claims the ISO3166-1 table is authoritatively used to define what is or is not a ccTLD to avoid accountability in determining what is or is not a country. However, since .EU is not on the ISO3166-1 list, it could be argued that it might get added for these purposes, but therein lays an additional perplexing conundrum.

The .EU domain is not really a ccTLD but is actually a restricted gTLD, which would require all registrars to be accredited by ICANN. Exceptions have been made in the past (as there are active ccTLDs that are not on the ISO two-letter country code list), but two-letter gTLDs are reserved exclusively for ccTLDs. Therefore, if .EU is not approved as a ccTLD, it could not be approved as a gTLD or a sTLD, and in the end ICANN may have to bow to political pressure, allowing the addition of .EU as a ccTLD without the ISO requirement. This could result in yet another delay, but will be an insignificant detail compared with many others in the complicated launch process.

Another significant factor affecting the timing of the .EU launch is the structure of the European Commission itself. All rules and documents must be approved by each member of the Commission before the .EU domain can move forward. Everything from the registrar agreements to the EURid Web site will have to be translated into the language of every Commission member—to date 20 different languages. With the addition of 10 more countries to the EU in May, makes this process all that more complex and time consuming.

By Jothan Frakes, Domain Name Industry Consultant

Filed Under


George Matrox  –  Sep 12, 2004 3:20 AM

In this case, ICANN has been quite clear that .eu is to be delegated following the ccTLD procedures, not gTLD procedures.  (Two-character codes like “eu”, of course, are reserved for ccTLDs; codes with three or more characters are used for gTLDs (i.e. sTLDs and uTLDs).)  Although “eu” is not directly included on the ISO3166-1 list it presents an unusual (perhaps unique) circumstance because the ISO3166 maintenance agency issued a separate document reserving “the code element EU to cover any application of ISO 3166-1 that needs a coded representation of the name European Union, including its being used as an Internet Top Level Domain.”  Almost four years ago, on 25 September 2000, the ICANN Board adopted resolution 00.74 advising the IANA staff that, because this is in all ways equivalent to being included on the ISO3166-1 list, .eu should be treated as a ccTLD:  “It is therefore RESOLVED that the IANA staff is advised that alpha-2 codes not on the ISO 3166-1 list are delegable as ccTLDs only in cases where the ISO 3166 Maintenance Agency, on its exceptional reservation list, has issued a reservation of the code that covers any application of ISO 3166-1 that needs a coded representation in the name of the country, territory, or area involved.”  Details are posted at <http://www.icann.org/minutes/minutes-25sep00.htm#DelegationofccTLDs>.

Robert Rozicki  –  Sep 15, 2004 10:57 AM

The Lucy analogy is very interesting but consider the fact that once the ball is kicked it will probably be world record breaking distance.

Your statement on the accreditation of registrars is sadly incorrect.

As stated by the Commissions Regulations, registrars will be accredited to provide .eu domains by EURID the registry assigned to manage the .eu domain space and not by ICANN

Jothan Frakes  –  Sep 19, 2004 8:46 PM

I appreciate the comments and [ahem] corrections to this article, and I have a great deal of respect for everyone in the domain name industry, even where we may need to agree to disagree on some points.

Certainly, from a registry perspective, the creation of .EU is a completely unprecedented process of creating a ccTLD from a ‘reserved code element’ that is “Exceptionally Reserved” on the ISO-3166-1 list.  Not since the Internet society formed ICANN in 1998, has such an event occurred. 

The only ccTLD that has been created since the Internet society formed ICANN is .PS, which was officially added to the ISO-3166-1 list prior to doing so.

There are quite a few edge cases of with regard to the delegation a ccTLD in contrast to the ISO-3166-1 table, (which may be reviewed at [http://www.iso.org/iso/en/prods-services/iso3166ma/02iso-3166-code-lists/iso_3166-1_decoding_table.html] ? pay attention to the ‘yellow ones’):

Two character codes “Exceptionally Reserved” on ISO-3166-1:
Assigned as ccTLD: AC, GG, IM, JE, UK [.UK was delegated in lieu of .GB]
Unassigned as ccTLD: CP, DG, EA, EU, FX, IC, TA

There are some “Exceptionally Reserved” codes that found their way into the root in times that pre-date the formation of ICANN from the Internet society back in 1998.

.UK, (which was opted for use over .GB [assigned but unused]) (both 24-July-1985)
.AC, (19-December-1997),
.IM, (11-September-1996),
.JE, (08-August-1996),
.GG, (07-August-1996)

In general, the .EU situation is one where exceptional circumstances are being used to add a ccTLD that is not in the officially assigned, but rather is reserved within the ISO-3166-1 table.  .EU is one of seven of such exceptionally reserved codes.

[COMMENT: Special consideration that .EU has lobbied for most likely applies only to .EU.  I would not advise someone hoping to obtain a TLD to run out and apply to IANA for .EA or .TA or another unassigned “Exceptionally Reserved” code element thinking that the delegation of .EU creates a precedent ? you will waste both your and IANA/ICANN’s valuable time.]

The addition of .EU to the root as a ccTLD has been an interesting process.  .EU will no doubt be immensely popular.  The popularity of the TLD is certainly not in question.

In fact, many ‘at-large’ users of the Internet were provided opportunities to pay money for pre-registration rights to their .EU domain name.  Though this was addressed by ICANN, and most of the registrars subsequently removed their offerings, the hype surrounding the whole process is the intended focus of my article.

This initial article is a reprint of an article that I had written for a monthly newsletter at a large company that does Digital Brand Management, and as such the article had more of a registrant or intellectual property audience focus.

One could certainly see that the marketplace is there for .EU domains. The intended focus of the article was that confusion has resulted from misrepresented or missed timeline dates combined with the behavior of those that would cash in on pre-registration land rush.

Clearly, there are many people who are working hard against a variety of challenges to get .EU to see the light of day.  They are making headway, and we should acknowledge their progress to date.

I definitely do.

Jothan Frakes  –  Sep 19, 2004 10:08 PM

By the way, Jeff Williams, my name is Jothan, not Jonathan.

Who, exactly are you?  The only reference I can find is here

JonnoB  –  Nov 5, 2004 2:07 AM

Jothan is absolutely correct in his analogy.  Not only that, he is the bomb.

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