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The Geography of the World Wide Web, Patagonia–Style

April 23, 2013

As we’ve mentioned before, it is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) that determines which top–level domain names exist (.com, .org, .edu, etc.), and who manages them. As reported on the website of The Atlantic magazine, ICANN now faces a thorny challenge in assigning the management of the top–level domain name “.patagonia.” The two potential claimants are Argentina, home of the region of Patagonia, and Patagonia, the retailer, presumably originally named after the region. On the one hand, Patagonia is a world–renowned region of Argentina, but is not a specific governmental unit of the country. Patagonia is not a state, county, or province. Based on ICANN guidelines, that would appear not to make Argentina a good candidate for managing “.patagonia.” Patagonia, the retailer, however, would appear to be a good candidate, because it has been a good custodian of the website. But ICANN procedure nonetheless allows Argentina (with an assist from Chile) to challenge the assignment of the domain name to the retailer. It will be fascinating to see how ICANN resolves this dispute, whether in favor of the claims of geography and history or the claims of a good commercial citizen.

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