There’s been a fair bit of commentary today after Ben Metcalfe’s post about the removal of vb.ly by its domain registrar.
As others have noted, the potential unreliability of Libya as a host for such domains was noticed a year or so ago. This is probably why bit.ly, probably the leading URL shortening service, now also uses j.mp and bitly.com (and supports the use of IDs from any of those on any of their other domain).
However, there are plenty of companies that rely on shorteners that don’t seem to have a non-.ly alternative domain. For example, National Rail enquiries in the UK use ht.ly from Hootsuite, who also use the ow.ly domain, for their short links on Twitter. There’s a chance that both of those could vanish.
Still, there are a couple of other points Metcalfe makes that I’d like to comment on. For example, when he writes
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.
he’s either being naïve or idealistic. While the .com, .net and .org domains might be effective free-for-alls, that’s not true worldwide. I accept that I’ll never be able to register a .nhs.uk or .police.uk domain, for example, and that .it requires that business have a connection with Italy. Meanwhile, there are some domains that never became available at all. The Perl Mongers tried for a while to get a domain from Saint Pierre and Miquelon before they realised that there was no way it was going to happen.
He also says
we contest that any adult content or offensive imagery exists on the site (vb.ly is a url shortener)
which seems disingenuous. A 301 or 302 redirect effectively serves adult content to the requesting user, even if it’s not hosted on the domain itself.
Still, although it’s a shame that Metcalfe had to learn this the hard way, the attention he’s garnered - including a BBC News story - might mean that others are prepared for the fact that domains aren’t forever.