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Welsh factions clash over .cymru and .wales bids

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A grassroots move to create .cymru as a new top-level internet domain has hit a roadblock after the Welsh government backed a .wales bid managed by an English company.

Oxford-based Nominet, which runs the .uk registry, has been mulling a new Welsh extension for the last few months, according to director of finance Glenn Hayward.

But dotCYM, a small Wales-based organisation that has been campaigning for a Welsh internet extension with government backing, says ministers are now refusing to return its calls.

Compounding dotCYM's frustration, First Minister Carwyn Jones has publicly indicated that he prefers ".wales" to ".cymru", in order to appeal to businesses internationally.

The dispute emerged after global domain name overseer ICANN said in June that it will allow any organisation to apply for a new generic top-level domain (gTLD) early next year.

Many cities and regions have said they plan to bid. Nominet has already said it wants to apply for .london, for example, though it faces competition from other companies.

dotCYM has been campaigning for a Welsh gTLD for about five years, according to its technical director Maredudd ap Gwyndaf. The group originally intended to apply for .cym, but had to change its plans after realising that the string "CYM" was on one of ICANN's reserved names lists.

Because it would have been pronounced "dot cum", it also risked failing ICANN's confusing similarity test, due to the prevalence of existing .com domains.

But now it seems more likely that the Welsh government will throw its backing behind a .wales bid managed by Nominet from England, due to the high cost of applying.

ICANN's application fees start at $185,000, and earlier this month business minister Edwina Hart (Labour) said that the government would not fund a new Welsh gTLD bid.

It will, however, provide ICANN with the letter of support or non-objection that is required before the domain overseer will consider approving a geographic domain extension.

Nominet has confirmed it will self-fund its gTLD bid, and will donate excess profits to Wales-based community projects in much the same way as its Nominet Trust does with profits from .uk sales.

This may be the final nail in the coffin of the dotCYM initiative.

David versus Goliath

"As you can imagine it would be impossible for us to compete against a large, rich, well-connected company such as Nominet when there's no political will in Wales to ensure that the Welsh TLD is owned and run by the Welsh," dotCYM's ap Gwyndaf told El Reg.

Hart's predecessor, former Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones (Plaid Cymru) had supported .cymru and granted dotCYM £20,000 in government seed funding in 2008.

"It's another embarrassing example of Wales lacking the confidence and understanding to run things themselves and running over the border for help," ap Gwyndaf said.

"We're a membership organisation," Nominet's Hayward said. "Within that membership we have over 100 members based in Wales and 300,000 .uk domains registered in Wales."

He said that Nominet does not know whether it will apply for .cymru or .wales.

"We don't see it as a decision for Nominet," he said. "It's something the Welsh government very much needs to take the lead on."

During First Minister's Questions on 8 November, Carwyn Jones was asked (in Welsh) if he would confirm his support for .cymru as opposed to .wales.

"No," Jones replied, according to the Welsh Assembly record. "It is exceptionally important that we secure the domain name that will give the best economic boost to Wales."

ICANN's application window is open between 12 January and 12 April next year. It could be many years before it starts a second application round.

Nominet currently has no plans to apply for a Scottish gTLD, according to Hayward, though there are other moves afoot to create a .scot space. ®

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