Domain names under .SO, the Somalian country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD), have for many years been unavailable for registration due to the civil war in Somalia and the general confusion concerning who should be responsible for running the Registry.  

The initial delegation of the .SO TLD was performed in 1997 to World Class Domains, a US company. As of 2002, the URL to the Sponsoring Organisation’s website intermittently contained the following message:  

“As Somalia has no internationally recognized government, this domain is not currently used. We simply have parked this top level domain till an official government is implemented.  

If you are looking for information about Somalia, please visit Yahoo’s Somalia category or the United Nations Somalia page.  

No .SO domains are available and we are not looking for any registrar partners”.

In 2008 the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia made an application to run .SO which was reviewed by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), the organisation responsible for the global co-ordination of the internet. An objection was received by a Mr Aveek Datta, who stated that he was “holding this top-level domain in trust for the people of Somalia as their government is currently in disarray. I do have a contact of Somalia origins that has agreed with this course of action.”  

However, despite asking for clarification and issuing several reminders, IANA received no further response and so recommended to the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) that .SO be redelegated as requested, and this course of action was approved by the board in February 2009.  

The new Registry will therefore launch registrations on 1 November 2010 according to the following phased schedule:  

Sunrise period (1 November - 30 November 2010): Registered trade mark holders (from any country) may apply to register .SO domain names corresponding to their trade marks. Trade marks must have been registered on or before 1 January 2010. No local presence will be required. If identical applications are received this will be resolved by auction (see below).  

Sunrise auction period (1 December - 15 December 2010):  

Auction for domain names with more than one credible Sunrise application.  

Landrush period (16 December 2010 - 9 February 2011):  

Available domain names may be registered, although if identical applications are received this will be resolved by auction (see below).  

Landrush auction period (10 February - 28 February 2011):  

Auction for domain names with more than one credible Landrush application.  

General availability (1 March 2011):  

Available domain names may be registered on a first come, first served basis.  

Interestingly .SO was one of the few remaining ccTLDs to remain unused. The remaining ones look unlikely to open up in the near future as, for the most part, they represent dependent territories where the ccTLD of the country in question is used in preference. Examples include .BV (Bouvet Island) and .SJ (Svalbard and Jan Mayen), both of which fall under the administration of Norway, which prefers to use .NO. Similarly, .PM (Saint Pierre and Miquelon) and .YT (Mayotte) are run by the French Registry, AFNIC, but are currently suspended, presumably in favour of .FR.  

The fact that there will be a Sunrise period for .SO represents good news for brand owners.