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Palestine Net names gain independence

The country may still be battling for international recognition as an independent state, but today it acquired autonomy in cyberspace.

Palestine may still be battling for international recognition as an independent state, but today it acquired autonomy in cyberspace.

The Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which regulates Net addresses, has granted the Palestinian National Authority its own two-letter suffix for online real estate.

As with other so-called country codes, such as ".fr" for France and ".it" for Italy, the Palestinian group will be able to register addresses under its own domain, ".ps."

"This is another step forward for the Palestinian Internet community to become a more active and recognized global entity on the Web," said Andrew McLaughlin, senior policy adviser at ICANN.

The Net designation for the volatile region drew little criticism and few comments from other countries in the Middle East, such as Israel, McLaughlin said. Palestine gained its Net status after it was added to the United Nations' standards list recognizing countries and other territories with geographical distinction.

Internet founding father Jonathan Postel, the original administrator of Net names and numbers, used the U.N. list to determine which regions should receive country-code domains. Palestinian authorities had applied for a domain in 1997 but were rejected until recently, when they were included on the list.

Administrators of the ".ps" domain are Ghassan Qadah, the supervisor-general of the Government Computer Center in Palestine, and Yaser Dolah, a computer scientist who lives in New York.

Improving the process
ICANN has been working on a method to better assign country code domains, McLaughlin said.

The need for better guidance became critical in February, when residents of a tiny South Pacific island rebelled against the administrator of the domain name for its region.

Pitcairn Island, a British territory, has 50 inhabitants--all descendants of the legendary Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian wives. The domain suffix ".pn" has been the responsibility of Tom Christian, the great-great-great-grandson of the Bounty's head mutineer, Fletcher Christian, ICANN reports state.

After Christian cut a deal with a British company to market ".pn" domains for profit, however, the other residents of the island protested. Each signed a petition asking ICANN to reclaim the two-letter address suffix. Only Christian and his wife declined to participate in the petition, reports show.

ICANN then re-delegated the ".pn" domain at the request of the Pitcairn Island Council and island residents.

"The basic idea is that the administrator has to have the support of the community," McLaughlin explained.