1992-2004: 7,000 names registered
January 21, 2005: 9,000 names registered
February 21, 2005: 50,000 names registered
April 2005: 100,000 names registered
This is one of the most rapid starts of any domain worldwide. In my conversations with senior officials of the Indian Government and the National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) which manages the .IN Registry, they credited three key decisions that proved critical to the success of the domain's re-launch:
Historically, .IN domain names were available only to a restricted few. In 2004 the Department of Information Technology (DIT) greatly liberalized the policies and procedures for the registration of .IN names, sparking national and worldwide demand. It was fascinating to participate in the process that led to this country-code domain (ccTLD) to expand its online presence on the Domain Name System.
Proliferation of the dot-in domain is part of the IT Minister's 10-point agenda for Indian IT and executed by the Ministry for Communication and Information Technology.
India is one of the world's fastest growing economies, the global leader in outsourcing and the service computing, and home to over a billion people. But when I first met officials from the Indian government to discuss their plans for .IN, India had a total of just about 7,000 .IN registrations, fewer than most small countries have. India's Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) managed the domain based on rigid rules and restrictions. In one case, a request to register a primary color (such as 'green.in') was denied because the name was deemed "too generic." Companies that wanted to register their names had to submit paper forms, and wait as much as three months before they learned the status of their applications.
How To Liberalize
India did a lot of things right when it went about liberalizing its ccTLD. I list them here in no particular order:
Competitive, Attractive Landscape Here to Stay
India's liberalization of its .IN domain name offers many lessons. In many areas, no real codified standards or best practices were available in a well-defined and structured format. The building and running of a registry local to the country, teaching smart but inexperienced engineers about Resource Records, Anycast, BGP and Add Storms are part of a critical knowledge gap that many ccTLDs seem to have. Folks have approached me and a couple others involved in the .IN re-launch to write a book on this experience (tempus fugit).
A key element in NIXI's strategy was to outsource the operational aspects to an experienced provider. This enabled .IN to launch quickly on a fully developed platform that was fast, stable and secure — without the expense, time commitment and limitations inherent in internal development. More importantly, it allowed the scarce resources at NIXI to focus on policy and oversight rather than the nuts and bolts of registry operations. The partnership between the ccTLD authority and an experienced registry services provider achieved the best of both: a world class technical capability completely under the control of the ccTLD.
.IN's broad appeal to organizations and individuals both inside India and all over the world augurs well. The potential to establish or enhance a uniquely Indian online identity resonates with the country's citizens and wealthy expatriates. The ability to create an "Indian" feel for global brands focused on India attracts international exposure and demand. The magic is in converting this to reality.
Achieving the promise of ccTLD growth is more elusive than it seems.
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