Friday 19 October 2018

'A bad idea' - Man who created Ireland's first website slams upcoming changes to .ie domain

The .ie domain name turns 30 today and is set for the biggest change in its history later this year

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Sean Nolan

The man who created Ireland's first website has slammed an upcoming change to how people can get a .ie domain a "bad idea".

UCC's Peter Flynn, who created the first Irish website back in 1991, has said the decision to remove the 'claim to the name' clause to access a .ie domain will damage it.

"It is a bad idea," he told Independent.ie. "It will pollute the name space. Ireland has a lower than average number of .ie names for our size because it is expensive and difficult to get one."

The regulations for acquiring a .ie name are set to be liberalised in March and it will see the biggest change in the history of the .ie domain.

Currently, to get a .ie name you must apply to the IE Domain Registry (IEDR) and show that you have a connection to the island of Ireland, you must be able to prove your identity and you must have a 'claim to the name'.

From March, the need for a 'claim to the name' will be removed, meaning anyone can register any name.

For example, of the top five people in the betting to be the next President of Ireland after Michael D Higgins according to Paddy Power, only www.maireadmcguinness.ie has been taken and it is registered to the MEP Mairead McGuinness herself.

Web names ending in .ie for Fergus Finlay, Ruairi Quinn, Emily O'Reilly and Miriam O'Callaghan are all available and could be taken by anyone who wants them in just a few weeks.

CEO of IEDR David Curtin told Independent.ie that there was nothing to stop anyone with a connection to Ireland registering those web names once the change comes in.

Mr Curtin added: "The reason for the change is to make registration easier and faster, especially for small or micro businesses, clubs or individuals."

Mr Curtin disagreed with Mr Flynn's assertion that the change was bad.

"We thought long and hard about this change. Our unique selling point is that we are Irish and identifiable. To register a .ie  after this change people will still need to prove a connection to Ireland and that grounds us.

"In the early days of online there were fears about 'cyber squatters' but those fears have eased," he added.

In a submission to Techarchives, a collection of Ireland's online history, Dennis Jennings, the Director of UCD Computing Services from 1977 to 1999 and the man in charge of .ie ffrom 1991 until 2000 said: "All the IEDR policies are rooted in the decisions that I made in the 1990s. These decisions were driven by the idea that the .ie ccTLD is a valuable asset for the economy and that names in .ie should be restricted to entities that have a real and substantial connection to Ireland rather than made available to anyone.

"While it took a long time to get the price of an .ie domain name down to reasonable levels and to get the systems right, I believe that that policy has served Ireland well. It is one of the few top-level domains in the world where you can be pretty sure that there is a real and genuine entity behind a name."

The country code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD) for Ireland, .ie, was created 30 years ago today, on January 27 1988, making Ireland the 23rd country in the world to have its own ccTLD. Austria's country code, .at, was created a week before and Spain's, .es, was created shortly afterwards.

The two-letter addition to web site names has become a part of everyday life online for Irish people and at the time of writing there are 238,785 websites registered with the .ie domain, with the number increasing at a rate of more than 100 a day.

The very first ccTLDs, for the United States of America (.us), United Kingdom (.uk) and Israel (.il) were all created in 1985 and by the mid 1990s, virtually every country, even in parts of the world that had, at that stage, little or no internet access, had their own ccTLD.

Created by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), the body that created the structure of web domains, the job of managing registrations of .ie names was initially in the hands of academia, with the UCD Computing Services running the administration of it from 1991 until the year 2000 when the IE Domain Registry (IEDR) was established.

By the time the IEDR was established there were still only 15,506 .ie domains in existence.

Mr Flynn, of University College Cork's computer centre and now Head of Academic and Collaborative Technologies Unit at UCC, set up curia.ucc.ie in 1991 as an archive of ancient Irish manuscripts after seeing the inventor of the World Wide Web Tim Berners Lee in 1991.

The original homepage has been preserved and is visible below. It ran under that address until 2009 and the site continues under the new URL celt.ucc.ie.

Curia.jpg
What the homepage of Ireland's very first website, curia.ucc.ie, looked like when it was created in 1991

Mr Flynn told Independent.ie this week that as the .ie domain was administered by UCD at that time all the Universities in Ireland had been given .ie domains, the first ever issued in the country.

He then used that to set up Ireland's first site to run on Berners Lee's WWW format.

"The original server is sitting on my desk as I speak to you," he tells us, before adding that it stopped working in 2011 and to fix it would involve a hacksaw so he has decided to keep it as a memento.

However, from mid-March (the exact date has yet to be confirmed) access to a .ie domain name will be easier than.

Mr Curtin said: "We have to reject a lot of requests from people about to start companies or set up new businesses who look to register a name but can't as the business doesn't yet exist so they have no 'claim to the name'. This change will end that problem."

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