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The Catalan Campaign to Win .Cat Top-Level Domain

In September 2005 ICANN approved the first top–level Internet domain to be dedicated to a particular human language and culture: ‘.cat’. A related paper was recently published in First Monday by Peter Gerrand, titled “The Catalan campaign to win the new .cat top level domain”. As explained in its abstract, the paper explains: “While ‘.cat’ creates a precedent for greater use on the Internet of ‘minority languages’, there are significant hurdles for other candidates for language–based top–level domains. The paper discusses the concomitant factors needed to support the greater use of any minority language on the Internet.”

The mastermind behind the campaign for ‘.cat’

The campaign to win ICANN approval for a top–level Internet domain (TLD) exclusive to Catalan language and culture was masterminded and led by an exceptional individual, Amadeu Abril i Abril. He is a law lecturer at the Ramon Llull University in Barcelona, an attorney–at–law in competition law, IT law and distribution contracts, and has worked for the European Commission’s Directorate General for Competition Policy in Brussels. Whereas most well–educated Catalans are noticeably fluent in four languages (Catalan, Spanish, French and English), Amadeu is also fluent in a fifth (Italian), the result of having carried out postgraduate research in Florence. He is the only Catalan and one of only two Spaniards to have been a member of ICANN’s Board of Directors (from 1999 to June 2003), and was active in establishing the Catalan domain name registrar Nominalia and the CORE consortium of international Internet registrars, both in 1997. He achieved all the above despite having spent most of his 44 years with only 10 percent vision—increased to 20 percent after surgery in 2000.

Beginnings of the campaign

According to Amadeu Abril, the campaign for “one TLD for our people” began in 1996, after Jon Postel, the co–ordinator of the Internet’s numbering and addressing allocations prior to ICANN, issued a discussion paper (Postel, 1996) on the future of the Internet domain name system, opening up the possibility of additional TLDs.

A campaign was launched in 1996 to seek a TLD for Catalonia, with Abril one of the participants. The Catalan autonomous (regional) parliament was persuaded to consider a motion to seek .ct as the TLD for Catalonia, and voted unanimously in favour—with the explicit support of all the political parties represented there.

As a consequence, a civil servant from the Catalonian Autonomous Government wrote formally to the Maintenance Agency for the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard 3166 (Country Codes) requesting allocation of .ct, but the request was rebuffed, as Catalonia does not qualify as an independent country, being a region of Spain. The .ct protagonists realized that it would be impossible to get official support from the Government of Spain for a separate country code, as that would be tantamount to accepting Catalonia as being a separate nation state—an exceptionally sensitive issue in Spanish politics over the past 300 years.

Abril remembers that the protagonists then split into two camps: those who would prefer to lose, rather than give up their vision of a separate Catalan nation–state, and “were used to reinforcing their sense of national identity through having someone as the enemy, whether that be Madrid or whoever” and those “who look for a way around the wall.” Abril belonged to the second camp.

From “The Catalan campaign to win the new .cat top level domain” by Peter Gerrand

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Jothan Frakes  –  Jan 24, 2006 7:44 AM

I applaud Amadeu Abril for not giving up, and seeing this through.  Him and certainly many, many others.

Enrique Saggese  –  May 8, 2006 5:12 AM

I applaud Abril for not giving up (though I don’t know enough about the subject to have a strong opinion on his people’s cause).
Still, I don’t think assigning a TLD for a language is a good step. There are thousands of languages in the world (in the area under tthe control of the Spanish government alone there are at least ten different languages actively used and pushed for official recognition by a large group of people), and if every group starts requesting TLDs for their languages we will have more TLDs than can be easily handled. While I don’t want to imply that every network administrator should remember all TLDs for normal operations, TLDs have their uses for filtering, analysis and other network management tasks. Having a thousand TLDs in use would reduce the useability of TLDs to effectively zero for these tasks, and it would become confusing for users. And assigning a TLD for a specific language and denying it to others would be clearly unfair.
A single .LANG TLD would be more useful as a root for other language specific sites.
As for countries or regions in conflict such as Catalonia, there could be a specific TLD (like .REGION, .PEOPLE, .CONFLICT or something more politically acceptable) to act as a root for freely available subdomains, instead of having an Internet organization to have to take part in a political fight (and it would ease systematically moving domains in case of a political recognition status change for one of those regions).

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