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NIC.IO -- .IO Domain Registry
TLD typeCountry code top-level domain
RegistryNIC.IO (run by Internet Computer Bureau)
SponsorIO Top Level Domain Registry (Cable and Wireless)
Intended useEntities connected with  British Indian Ocean Territory
Actual usePopular with startup companies; little of anything related to the territory itself.
Registration restrictionsNone for 2nd level registrations; 3rd level registrant must be resident of British Indian Ocean Territory
StructureRegistrations are taken directly at the second level or at third level beneath various 2nd-level labels
DocumentsTerms & Conditions; Rules
Dispute policiesDispute Resolution Policy

The Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) .io is assigned to the British Indian Ocean Territory.[1]

The .io domain is administered by the Internet Computer Bureau, a domain name registry company based in the United Kingdom.[2]

Google's ad targeting treats .io as a generic top-level domain (gTLD) because "users and webmasters frequently see [the domain] more generic than country-targeted."[3]

History[edit | edit source]

The .io domain extension has existed since 1997. The first .io domain was registered in 1998, when Levi Strauss & Co. registered the domain levi.io.[4]

Specifications[edit | edit source]

Labels for .io domains may only contain alphanumeric characters and hyphens, and must be between 3 and 63 characters long. Domain names cannot begin or end with a hyphen symbol, and may not contain two consecutive hyphens. The entire domain name may not contain more than 253 characters.[5]

Administration[edit | edit source]

The right to administer domain names is given to approved organisations by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). The Internet Computer Bureau (ICB) administers .io domains. This domain name registry is a British company, and operates for this purpose under the name NIC.IO. The company also holds the rights to sell the .sh and .ac domains, the top-level domains for the Island of Saint Helena and Ascension, respectively.[6]

Registration and restrictions[edit | edit source]

Individuals and organizations are allowed to register .io domains.

Applicants for the registration of .io domains do not need to be registered or established in the British Indian Ocean Territory. Third-level domains, such as "xyz.com.io", can only be registered by an inhabitant of the area. Any second-level domains used by NIC.IO and top-level domains can not be used as a third-level domain. For example, the domains "com.com.io", "org.com.io", and "biz.com.io" are all restricted.[7]

Domain names in .io may not be used, "for any purpose that is sexual or pornographic or that is against the statutory laws of any nation." Breaching this requirement, "NIC.IO reserves the right to immediately deactivate the offending registration."[8]

.io domains may be registered for a minimum of one year, and a maximum of 5 years.[9]

Domain names in .io are priced higher than those in other TLDs. Registering available .io-domains starts from around £30 ($33 USD) per year.[8]

Usage[edit | edit source]

The .io domain has considerable usage unrelated to the British Indian Ocean Territory.

IO is also commonly used in IT as an abbreviation for input/output, which makes the .io domain useful for domain hacks and services that want to be associated with technology.

The .io gTLD has become a popular alternative for startup companies.[10][11]

.io domains are often used for open source projects, APIs (such as put.io API and pen.io API) and online services.[12]

Rub.io is a shortened URL that was used for the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign of Marco Rubio. Likewise, hrc.io is a shortened URL used for Hillary Clinton's 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

Popularity in recent years[edit | edit source]

This domain has gained popularity among start-ups and online entertainment in the form of .IO games and sites collecting *All .IO Games. The first of which to gain wide popularity was Agar.io. Other such browser-based ".io games" include Slither.io and wings.io. itch.io, a video game distribution service, also uses the .io ccTLD.

The explanation for its popularity is that the .io domain stands out by being shorter than others, making it memorable. It is also easier to acquire certain desired domain names, and there are many words in several languages that end with "-io", like "scenario", which may be integrated with the domain itself (as "scenar.io").[13]

Another likely explanation for the domain's popularity with tech companies specifically is the significance of the letters "io" to computer programmers. I/O signifies "input/output", and is used in many programming languages and theory to signify a channel of communication between the program and the rest of the world. There is even a programming language called 'io'.[14]

In Italian, "io" means "I" as a subject, which may make the domain appealing for personal websites.

Controversy[edit | edit source]

According to a Gigaom interview with Paul Kane, chairman of the Internet Computer Bureau, the domain name registry is required to give some of its profits to the British government, for administration of the British Indian Ocean Territory.[15] As no indigenous Chagossians remain in the territory, the only residents being about 4,000 United States military personnel and contractors,[16] it is contended that the indigenous Chagossians do not receive any monetary benefit from the sale of the domain names.

After being questioned as a result of the interview, the British Government denied receiving any funds from the sale of .io domain names, and argued that consequently, the profits could not be shared with the Chagossians.[17][18]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. IDN Code Points Policy for the .IO Top Level Domain (PDF), NIC.IO 
  2. "IANA — .io Domain Delegation Data". iana.org. 
  3. "Geotargetable domains". Google. Retrieved 6 May 2013. 
  4. "NIC.IO - The Indian Ocean .IO Domain Registry and Network Information Centre - Whois Search". Retrieved 2014-12-29. 
  5. RFC 1035, Domain names--Implementation and specification, P. Mockapetris (Nov 1987)
  6. "Internet Computer Bureau". 
  7. "RULES for the .IO Domain and Sub-Domains". 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "NIC.IO - The Indian Ocean .IO Domain Registry and Network Information Centre". nic.io. 
  9. ".IO Domain Name Registration price list". www.nic.io. Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
  10. "Popularity with startups". 
  11. "IO Domains in Alexa Top 1 Million.". http://techslides.com/io-domains-in-alexa-top-1-million. Retrieved 27 May 2015. 
  12. Beattie, Russell (2013-02-12). "The rise of .io domains for well crafted web services". Retrieved 2014-04-24. There's lots of open source projects (Redis, Brackets, Launcher), a few mobile-app landing pages (Avocado, X-Ray), a ton of new web apps and services, several conference pages (Lightning, Renaissance, Resonate) and a few older companies or organizations who've changed their name to take advantage of a cleaner .io name. 
  13. "Why are startups turning to .IO?". Name.com Blog. Retrieved 2017-04-05. 
  14. "Io / about". iolanguage.org. 
  15. David Meyer. "The dark side of .io: How the U.K. is making web domain profits from a shady Cold War land deal". gigaom.com. 
  16. "CIA World Factbook - British Indian Ocean Territory", Central Intelligence Agency, 21 May 2014
  17. "House of Lords". parliament.uk. 
  18. David Meyer. "UK government denies receiving .io domain profits". gigaom.com. 

External links[edit | edit source]