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ICANN dukes it out with the USSR in cold war rematch smackdown

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The Internet Corporation for the Assignment of Names and Numbers - that's ICANN to you, Boris - has had enough, and decided to stick it to those godless pinko commie automatons once and for all, nukes be damned.

For those readers who thought the cold war had vanished in rhetorical smoke years ago, Reuters has news for you. ICANN, the group that manages the technical underpinnings of the internet, has decided to jettison once and for all the .su country code domain originally assigned to the Soviet Union. ISO 3166-1 - it only sounds like a poisonous radioactive isotope - is the master list of of country- level codes compiled back in 1990, when the net was being run by the Information Sciences Institute (ISI) at the University of Southern California.

Unfortunately for the master list, historical events rather quickly rendered the .su top level domain superfluous. But the virtual Soviets soldiered on, unmoved by the events on the ground (the most committed of all, no doubt) and the already irrelevant little code persisted, like one of those laws that gets passed and just stays on the books through sheer legislative indifference. Anyway, it's a pain to change a domain.

"In 1992 it (.su) was taken off the ISO list and since that day it has been at odds with the ISO standard," Kim Davies from ICANN told Reuters. "Our primary aim is to maintain the stability of the internet."

Ah, but once again, events on the ground failed the master plan. Those who had their .su domains saw no reason to give them up, and merrily went about their business. Right now there are about 10,000 web addresses registered to .su, and 1,500 were added this year as the domain has developed something of a cult following in the old country.

Of course, it wouldn't be the first time that a chunk of the internet has gotten the boot. Yugoslavia (.yu) only recently got chucked off the island, much as Czechoslavakia (.cs) and Zaire (.zr) did years ago. The UK has always been a troublemaker for the ISO 3166-1, what with the Brits thumbing their noses at the officially approved .gb for the sake of .uk and all. Take that, ICANN, and like it. And yet, somehow, the net rolls on.

It's all enough to make one wonder if Karl Auerbach doesn't have a point about ICANN restricting itself to a very narrow mandate, like a plumber fixing an occasional leak and then courteously exiting the house.

Why not just make sure all the domains work together, rather than trying to organize everything in ways that make sense to ICANN? One of ICANN's more recent obsessions is organizing top level domains by subject area, which is all well and good for those that want to be a part of those domains, but what's wrong with people holding on to .su, even if only for sentimental reasons? Is it the fact that it only has two letters, like the other country codes, but no longer is? So what? What about the inconvenience to those that already paid into ICANN's previously approved system and bought .su domains, only to find out a year later that it's no longer the preferred code and they need to go shop somewhere else?

Let the godless commie holdouts have their little scrap of the internet. For old time's sake.®

Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office

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