September 19, 2007 / 2:28 PM / 10 years ago

USSR still alive on Internet and won't go quietly

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Internet enthusiasts are locked in a tussle with an international body over a relic of the Soviet past -- the .su domain name assigned to the country just before the Soviet Union collapsed.

The U.S.-based body that oversees the World Wide Web’s structure, ICANN, says the name is out of date and wants to kill it off.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 and Russian lobbyists on Wednesday said they had started negotiations with ICANN to keep it.

“We want to try and save it,” Alexei Platonov, director of the independent Russian Institute of Public Networks, which promotes technology use, said at a news briefing.

“First there is the community and secondly there is also the history of the domain name ... It’s original and offers Web site names that other domains don’t have any more,” Platonov said.

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 people continue to register the .su the domain name.

Figures released by the .su lobbyists show there are nearly 10,000 registered Web sites with the domain name and around 1,500 new ones have been added this year.

ICANN, or Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, say it is tackling the .su name as part of its drive to clean the internet of seemingly outdated domain names.

Countries’ domain names are designated according to an international list called ISO 3166-1 which holds two letter codes for every nation.

As the Soviet Union is no longer on the list, the .su domain should be scrapped just as .cs died after Czechoslovakia split into the Czech republic and Slovakia in 1993, ICANN has 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 told Reuters in a telephone interview from Los Angeles earlier this year.

“Our primary aim is to maintain the stability of the internet.”

Russian .su lobbyists, who are independent from the government, pointed out though that other two letter country domain names not on the ISO 3166-1 list are being used.

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

But the Russian campaigners say there is 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 non-governmental group.

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