I am often asked how to get a ccTLD by folks just coming in to the domain industry.
I defer them to IANA, who defers to ICANN, who in turn defers to ISO and the ISO3166-1 list being the definitive list, and then you have to factor in some of the "reserved code elements" from their decoding table to normalize 3166 against the list of IANA Country Codes for ccTLD delegations like .EU.
How does one get their ccTLD into the ISO list? The ISO in turn (likely due to the masses that contact them hoping to list their country) defer the criteria for what it is to be a 'country' for being on the 3166-1 list, and partially defer to the United Nations.
If the person who inquired with me has not drowned in the sea of background material and still has questions, these lean towards understanding things like why the United Kingdom has both UK and GB assigned, or why Western Sahara or the Aland Islands have no admin.
I don't have answers to those questions, but I respect the brilliant thinkers who make it far enough in their research to ask them. Here's what I tell them at this point.
The list is pretty static; it changes very infrequently, but the ISO3166 maintainers do housekeeping occasionally, either to add, rename, or remove items from the list, and IANA uses 3166 as a guideline for implementation of these revisions. In the most recent change, three CC codes were updated and one was retired.
There were three of the Channel Islands that evolved from the exceptionally reserved status to fully listed in this past revision. Guernsey (GG), the Isle of Man (IM), and Jersey (JE) all were delegated as ccTLDs in the mid to late 1990s.
GB has been removed from ISO3166, which means it will be exceptionally reserved at the ISO for another 5 years and then released. It is not clear that this would be followed by a release of .GB in the IANA delegation.
I still don't have a great answer for folks seeking a ccTLD to obtain, but if they've not decided to find a softer wall to beat their head against after attempting to rationalize the whole process, I encourage them to attend ICANN meetings, talk to the ccNSO, and to get involved with CENTR and other groups to meet current stakeholders and decide if it is still a desired course of action.
Quite frequently it is more of a custodial role than one of profit or prestige. ccTLD operators are more focused upon servicing their users than on profiting from the process.
I think this is why I stay involved in the ccTLD community.
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