Art.sy and the peril of using international domains
For a longer time than I care to admit, I thought good.is was an Icelandic site. It made no sense since all their coverage was in English and focused on the United States (I suppose their design sense was vaguely Scandinavian). But I just assumed you had to be based in Iceland to use that country's top-level domains (.is). Same with Italy (.it) and Liechtenstein (.li)
But of course startups use other countries' domains all the time, either because they are cleverly integrated into the company's name like scoop.it (which is headquartered in San Francisco, not Italy) or because the .com version of the domain is harder to claim (like 500.co).
But using another country's domain can get complicated, something Art.sy discovered when it came time to renew its Syrian domain. For almost two years, Syria has been entrenched in a bloody civil war that has killed over 60,000 people according to the United Nations. Furthermore, the Syrian government has been accused of committing numerous human rights violations against its citizens. And leaving behind for a minute the undesirability of a website having a real or perceived association with a violent regime, some have suggested that a Syrian domain name might even violate US sanctions. And finally, the country's DNS servers aren't always reliable, as Art.sy learned when it experienced a 36-hour outage.
For all these reasons, Art.sy has changed its web address to Artsy.net. In a press release sent this morning, the company wrote, "As the conflict in Syria escalated, we realized it might not be possible to renew the domain again due to U.S. sanctions. We also did not want a domain that could be construed in any way as supporting the Syrian government."
This isn't the first time an international domain name has raised eyebrows. During the Libyan revolution, when the Muammar Qaddafi regime was put into the global spotlight, many discussed the ethical implications of using its popular .ly domain. (For its part, the URL shortener Bit.ly changed its domain to the less controversial bitly.com). And while US sanctions on Libya have been lifted, its relations with the US are still in a precarious position, particularly following the attack on the Benghazi consulate.
With all this in mind, we've built a map of some of the international domains used by US companies. Most of these countries have cordial relationships with the United States, but international politics can be unpredictable. This is far from a complete list and please tell us what countries we've missed in the comments section and we'll add them.