Scotland Faces Fight for Domain Name

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

A pedestrian shelters from the rain beneath an umbrella as they pass 'YES' pro-independence campaign posters displayed in the window of a shop in Selkirk. A YouGov Plc poll for this week’s Sunday Times put the Yes campaign ahead for the first time, prompting the main U.K. parties to prepare a package of more powers for Scotland in a bid to persuade voters to reject independence. Close

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Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

A pedestrian shelters from the rain beneath an umbrella as they pass 'YES' pro-independence campaign posters displayed in the window of a shop in Selkirk. A YouGov Plc poll for this week’s Sunday Times put the Yes campaign ahead for the first time, prompting the main U.K. parties to prepare a package of more powers for Scotland in a bid to persuade voters to reject independence.

Scotland has plenty to sort out as its people vote on their future: about currency, the European Union, oil revenue and tax. Now there may be a different thorny problem -- from the world of technology.

The country decides on Sept. 18 on whether to stay part of the United Kingdom or declare independence. At present, Scotland has the right to use .UK as its top level domain, the same as users in Wales, England or Northern Ireland.

Scotland would surely want its own Country Code Top Level Domain (or ccTLD, to those in the know).

Here it gets complicated, says Stuart Fuller, director of commercial operations at NetNames, the online brand protection specialist.

"If Scotland decide to leave, it could start the wheels in motion to have its own two digit ccTLD," he said. "Still, 22 out of the possible 26 combinations for a .S something are already in use and only .SF, .SP, .SQ or .SW are left -- .SC is already assigned to the Seychelles."

Scotland trumped by the Seychelles? Well, .SCOT will soon be in the public domain name space as an alternative.

"The timing of the launch of the new domain, with general availability due to start just a few days after the referendum result, is no coincidence," says Fuller.

Some companies have already moved in on .SCOT names, while others may start the process of establishing Scotland's own ccTLD. Gavin McCutcheon, director of the Dot Scot Registry, says ".SCOT," which goes on general release on Sept. 23, had been in progress since 1996 and is recognized by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Countries don't have to use their assigned code, such as the U.K. using ".co.uk" rather than ".gb."

What's in a name over the vote? Forget questions of what will happen to names of companies such as "British Petroleum" and "Royal Bank of Scotland." The domain names issue will run and run whatever the outcome. Opinion polls suggest that the result may be close.

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