Doing business with Libya is a risky affair due to its radical dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi. al-Gaddafi's government has recently shuttered ".ly" websites for hosting adult content. Libya reportedly has also been seizing desirable domain names and giving them to local business allies of al-Gaddafi.  (Source: CNN)

Still, "ly" sites, like the url shortening service, remain quite popular and widely used.

Blame English language for the domain's popularity -- "ly" is one of the most commonly used suffixes in the English language.   (Source: School House Rock)
Ethical and reliability concerns loom for popular domain used by and others

In the English language the ending "ly"is a broadly used adverbial/adjectival suffix.  Really?  Exactly.

Considering English speakers’ love of "ly", it should not be much of a surprise that interest in using the domain name .ly heated up over the last 10 years.  Sites like the URL shortening service "" grew in businesses valuated at ten million dollars or more.

But this year the rush to .ly has received a major blow due to one minor fact -- .ly is short for Libya. But does the popular domain name actually have anything to do with Libya?

Sort of.

Formally all of the domain names are the property of General Post and Telecommunications Co., a Libyan firm whose chairmen is Col. al-Qaddafi's eldest son, Mohammed al-Qaddafi.  The nationalized business rents 10,000 or so domains to customers in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world.

When it comes to registering the "rented" domains and properly directing customers, there's five bottom-level .ly root servers.  Libya only has partial control of these.  Two of the servers are in the U.S.  One is in Europe.  And two are in Libya.

Libyan internet traffic ground to a halt several times in recent months as Col. al-Qaddafi tried to choke the insurgent movement by denying them the ability to communicate over the internet.  Google noted this disruption with its Transparency Project.

But even as the traffic itself was cut off, the root servers continue to respond and properly route traffic to the rest of the world.  In short, the ".ly" sites were safe.

This Monday Libyan Spider LLC, one of Libya's domain registrars reportedly the servers had gone dead for some time, before being restored.  Writes the site:
Dear (Site Owner)

The .ly registry server is now back online. Our system can now communicate with the registry server. This means you can update your WhoIs and DNS using your Libyan Spider account.

New orders will still require creating a ticket listing the domain you wish to register. We will then place your order for you. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Thank you for choosing Libyan spider.

Best regards

Hadi Naser

Libyan Spider, LLC
The outage may have just been a minor glitch and not a sign of a more dire situation.  But it certainly didn't help growing scrutiny to the domain name.

Aside from the unsavory side of funding Col. al-Qaddafi and concerns about service outages, issues have been raised recently with Libya arbitrarily killing .ly sites it feels are immoral.

Ben Metcalfe, a tech blogger, writes:
I would like to warn current and future owners of .ly domains of a concerning incident regarding the deletion of one of our prime domains ‘’ by domain registry and controlling body for the Libyan domain space ‘.ly’).
Our domain ‘’ (which was joint owned by myself and my partner  Violet Blue) was deleted by without warning or notice on or around September 23rd 2010. We were subsequently told that our domain has been removed to us being “in clear violation of NIC rules and regulations” relating to “text referring to adult content and offensive imagery from [our] main page”.


Again, while we contest that there was NO pornography or adult material on, I would suggest that there is a far more concerning issue here if domain registries can decide on the validity of a domain registration based on the content of the website that uses it. I would argue that the two are extricably decoupled and separate entities.

An additional concern is that the clause being used here pertains to Libyan Islamic Law which appears impossible to find listed in English.


Libyan Islamic/Sharia Law is being used to consider the validity of domains, which is unclear and obscure in terms of being able to know what is allowed and what isn’t.

More troublingly, Mr. Metcalfe reports that Libya is seizing domain names of less than four characters (though some high profile ones like "" may be spared).  It is seeking to redistribute these desirable domains to local business associates of Col. al-Qaddaffi.

Writes Mr. Metcalfe: have suddenly decided that <4 letter .ly domains should only be available to local Libyans and this appears to create motivation to recover what premium domains they can to go back into this new local-only pot of domains.

The claims date back to October, well before the recent conflict -- and interest in all things Libyan -- peaked.  

Looking back with this information in hand a rather disturbing picture emerges.  Libya appears to be actively policing the registered .ly sites for adult content and censoring sites accordingly.  It also appears to be seizing domains.  And last but not least, it appears to be having some serious service disruptions of late -- intentional or unintentional.

It won't be easy for English speakers to kick their .ly domain habit.  High profile .ly registrants include House Speaker John Boehner (R- Ohio), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D- Calif.), Stanford University, Charlie Sheen, the White House, Kim Kardashian, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Paul McCartney, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and -- most ironically -- the nonprofit Human Rights Watch.

Battered by recent events, the allure of Libya's $75 USD domain names and the ".ly" suffix appears to be fading.  Rep. Pelosi's office reacted with surprise to a Fox News report on her use of the domain.  They said they were severing their connection with it, immediately.  

Others may follow in suit.

Thus, at a time when Libya has a higher profile in the U.S. than perhaps ever before, its internet domain is sinking.  Its future today is far murkier than the bright outlook it once held during its nation's years of wealthy obscurity.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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