Web users have soft spot for Soviet suffix

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 September, 2007, 12:00am

Russian internet users are feuding with an international body over a relic of the past - the .su domain name assigned to the country just before the Soviet Union collapsed.

The US-based body that oversees the World Wide Web's structure, Icann, said the name was out of date and wants to kill it off. But thousands of internet users still use the suffix - in part for its nostalgia value - and are fighting to save it.

Though nearly 16 years have passed since the end of the Soviet Union, .su is increasingly popular with businesses, clubs and political groups. Russian lobbyists said they had started negotiations with Icann - the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers - to keep it.

'We want to try and save it,' Alexei Platonov, director of the independent Russian Institute of Public Networks, said.

'First, there is the community and secondly there is also the history of the domain name. It's original and offers website names that other domains don't have any more.'

The .su domain name was assigned to the Soviet Union as its country code on September 19, 1990 at the start of the internet revolution. The Soviet Union ceased to exist 15 months later.

The .ru domain assigned to Russia after the Soviet Union fell apart is by far the most popular domain name for Russians, but figures show there are nearly 10,000 registered websites with the old domain name and around 1,500 new ones have been added this year.

Icann said it was tackling the .su ending as part of its drive to clean the internet of seemingly outdated domain names.

Countries' domain names are designated according to a list called ISO 3166-1, which holds two-letter codes for every nation.

As the Soviet Union was no longer on the list, the .su domain should be scrapped, just as .cs died after Czechoslovakia split in 1993, Icann said.

After Zaire changed its name in 1997 to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the .zr domain name was also scrapped.

'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 said earlier this year. 'Our primary aim is to maintain the stability of the internet.'

But Russian .su lobbyists pointed out that other two-letter country domain names not on the ISO 3166-1 list were being used.

These include Britain's .uk for the United Kingdom, which gained prominence over the list's .gb for Great Britain.

The Russian campaigners said there was no danger of an internet cold war breaking out over the issue.

'I have to stress, relations are friendly,' said Alexei Soldatov, head of the Fund for the Development of the Internet, a Russian NGO.