Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Controversy over .ly

Unique domain names such as .ly, .fm or .co have been gaining in popularity over recent years as brands seek to differentiate themselves from the competition. However, one popular domain name has come under fire for its association with political unrest.

The .ly URL belongs to the country of Libya, and is used by many popular services, including link-shortener bit.ly. However, as tensions between the United States and the Libyan government have increased, political figures have come under fire for using it. In October of 2010, Republican Mitt Romney's presidential campaign announced that they would stop using the URL Mitt.ly and would instead use Mi.tt. Recently, after a reporter pointed the issue out to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, her office announced that it would find an alternative.

I first explored unique domain names in our August 2010 Perspectives issue (page 3). Although I encouraged brands to consider and even purchase unique URLs, the article cautioned about actually deploying these URLs because of consumer associations and possible legal implications.

Libya's ownership of the .ly domain presents ethical and practical concerns. Some are concerned that using the domain name signifies support for the Libyan government, although sources deny that that is the case. And theoretically, the Libyan government could shut off the URL and render all links invalid. However, experts claim that currently active domains would not be shut down because servers are located in the US and Europe.

 For more information, or to read more, check out this Washington Post article.

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