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GG, IM, and JE: Welcome (officially) to ISO3166, Good Bye GB

I am often asked how to get a ccTLD by folks just coming in to the domain industry.

There is RFC1591 as a start for reading material on the subject matter, and then there is ICP-1.

I defer them to IANA, who defers to ICANN, who in turn defers to ISO and the ISO3166-1 list being the definitive list, and then you have to factor in some of the “reserved code elements” from their decoding table to normalize 3166 against the list of IANA Country Codes for ccTLD delegations like .EU.

How does one get their ccTLD into the ISO list? The ISO in turn (likely due to the masses that contact them hoping to list their country) defer the criteria for what it is to be a ‘country’ for being on the 3166-1 list, and partially defer to the United Nations.

If the person who inquired with me has not drowned in the sea of background material and still has questions, these lean towards understanding things like why the United Kingdom has both UK and GB assigned, or why Western Sahara or the Aland Islands have no admin.

I don’t have answers to those questions, but I respect the brilliant thinkers who make it far enough in their research to ask them. Here’s what I tell them at this point.

The list is pretty static; it changes very infrequently, but the ISO3166 maintainers do housekeeping occasionally, either to add, rename, or remove items from the list, and IANA uses 3166 as a guideline for implementation of these revisions. In the most recent change, three CC codes were updated and one was retired.

There were three of the Channel Islands that evolved from the exceptionally reserved status to fully listed in this past revision. Guernsey (GG), the Isle of Man (IM), and Jersey (JE) all were delegated as ccTLDs in the mid to late 1990s.

GB has been removed from ISO3166, which means it will be exceptionally reserved at the ISO for another 5 years and then released. It is not clear that this would be followed by a release of .GB in the IANA delegation.

I still don’t have a great answer for folks seeking a ccTLD to obtain, but if they’ve not decided to find a softer wall to beat their head against after attempting to rationalize the whole process, I encourage them to attend ICANN meetings, talk to the ccNSO, and to get involved with CENTR and other groups to meet current stakeholders and decide if it is still a desired course of action.

Quite frequently it is more of a custodial role than one of profit or prestige. ccTLD operators are more focused upon servicing their users than on profiting from the process.

I think this is why I stay involved in the ccTLD community.

By Jothan Frakes, Domain Name Industry Consultant

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Jaap Akkerhuis  –  May 31, 2006 10:02 PM

The GB code is not removed from 3166. The last change
only states that a remark about GB has changed. To quote:

Delete the remark “Includes the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man” (p. 20). Delete the entry for the Channel Islands in Annex A (p. 51). Delete the entry for the Isle of Man in Annex A (p.51).

GB is still an Officially assigned code element in the decoding table.

There is a FAQ page about the code list. The FAQ also tells you the procedure for adding new country names and codes to ISO 3166-1 and why both UK and GB are assigned.

Jothan Frakes  –  May 31, 2006 10:26 PM


Thank you for the point of clarification.  I have received a few emails from folks making this point to me as well.

On a separate note, one conversation that I had by telephone about this topic mentioned to me that there was a bit of hesitance on the part of the ANSI to approve the official addition of the JE, GG, and IM to the ISO3166-1. 

Apparently there was a concern there about folks just adding these countries to 3166-1 for the sake of getting ccTLDs, but once it was pointed out to them that these had already been in existence for a decade, their resistance crumbled.


Edward Phillips  –  Jun 1, 2006 1:42 PM

Away from the world of domain names, GB is a widely used code still - there are plenty of British cars driving around Europe with GB stickers on.

McTim  –  Jun 7, 2006 5:58 PM

Ummmm, How often are you asked how to get a ccTLD??  Doesn’t seem like something that a lot of folks would be curious about ;-)

Jothan Frakes  –  Jun 16, 2006 6:16 PM

Humbly, I must state that I made a factual error in my initial posting with regard to the removal of GB. 

In hastily reading the ISO change order, I made a velocity error and I mis-read it.  GB is not slated to be removed (which I interpreted to be the case from the wording of the form’s small print at the bottom); rather, IM, JE, and GG are being created and moved from underneath GB, and GB’s record will be modified to no longer reflect those regions. 

So the three are out from under the nest, so to speak.

Edward Phillips> I picked up a couple of those GB stickers when I was in London last year. 

McTim> I get asked at least 4 times a year, typically by someone new to domain names or who recently registered a domain in a country code for the first time and finds out that they all function the same as gTLDs.

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