Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Web Masters Split over Using Top Level Domains for so-called Rogue Nations

US Web Masters strongly against using ccTLD from Libya, Iran and other unfriendly regimes.

Web masters around the world are split on whether to purchase Top Level Domains (TLDs) from countries considered rogue or dangerous by the US government. International web masters were split evenly over using these “rogue country domains” for their internet projects. When the group was divided into US based web masters versus those outside the US, the numbers changed dramatically. While 75% of international web masters would use these domains, 75% of US based web masters would not. The data set for this review was gathered via a survey and discussion forum for web affiliates, small businesses that promote products and services for a commission, and the companies whose products and services they promote. The following countries were listed as part of the survey question: Afghanistan, Algeria, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

While the data set is a small, a non-scientific sample, it does illustrate the difference in thinking between American web masters and their foreign counterparts. In this case, dozens read the forum, with about 20 people voting or posting a comment. These participants provided an insight to feelings on the topic. Much of the discussion of those posting focused on whether there is any marketing value to using a country TLD if that site isn't targeting the country with that TLD. Most of the remaining discussion focused on questioning the value of declaring any country rogue and various statements expressing a dislike of US foreign policy. This difference in views may in fact indicate that international web masters lack a fundamental understanding of American attitudes regarding national and personal security. Strangely, this passion does not seem to have infected the US internet user community as of yet. This can be seen by the lack of reaction from millions of twitter users to a number of articles focused on the use of Libyan domains for tools such as bit.ly and ow.ly.

The most surprising aspect of this research is the disconnect between American web masters and American web users. Millions of web users, mainly social media participants, are using bit.ly, ow.ly and other “URL shorteners” to send out links to bookmarked content. Few, if any, of bit.ly and ow.ly users in the USA even know that the .ly domain is that of Libya, the country held responsible for the blowing up a Pan Am 747 over Lockerbie Scotland in December 1988. The second part of our research tried to determine if anybody in cyberspace was aware of the “Libyan connection”. We sought to determine whether this disconnect resulted from a lack of available information on the .ly TLD, or if this information has been made public, but has not been effective in sparking a debate.

A literature search indicates that this very topic has been addressed a number of times since March 2009 and as recently as December 15th, 2009 in the LA Times and by Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch on January 8th, 2010. Despite at least a dozen similar articles on various blogs, the only traditional media outlet to discuss this has been the LA Times, which placed the story on their blog. We assume the blog articles aren't in the printed paper but we didn't have access to a copy of that paper. The amount of coverage of the topic seems to indicate that either the average Twitter user doesn't care or that they still haven't learned about this situation.

As a marketing consultant, WebByFred.com strongly advises businesses to consider possible controversy that may arise from using a particular image, written term, or in this case using a country domain that may be found distasteful to your audience. Whether or not the Libyan connection will harm bit.ly and others in the .ly TLD is not yet clear. but our advice remains the same. Don't let what seems a clever idea lead you into a publicity nightmare. In this case someone should have asked “Do we really want a Libyan domain?” Make sure you do.

WebByFred.com was founded in June, 2009 by Fred Weiss to provide online marketing services to local businesses in the Detroit, Michigan/Windsor Ontario metro area. We specialize in Search Engine Marketing, content creation and high-level market research.

This may be republished in its entirety with a link and credit to http://WebByFred.com

Here is a list of URLs of sites addressing the issue of Libyan domains. Note, indented URLs represent sites, republishing the original aricle.