Future of popular .io domains in question over British Empire row

May 31, 2019

The future of the .io top level domain (TLD) has been thrown into question following a vote at the UN general assembly.

The .io TLD has become popular amongst digital businesses because of its resemblance to I/O, the shorthand used to refer to communication between computer systems.

The TLD is in fact owned by the Chagos Islands, part of the British Indian Ocean Territory – one of the final remnants of the British Empire. It is administered through a registry based in London which, as The Register reports, was granted the right to administer the .io addresses by the UK government in the 1990s.

But this week the UN voted overwhelmingly to “demand that the United Kingdom unconditionally withdraw its colonial administration from the area within six months” and return control of the Islands to Mauritius, from which they were separated in 1965 when Mauritius remained a British colony.

The UN’s demand is not binding on the UK, and it is far from certain that the government will adhere to it. The Chagos Islands are strategically important thanks to their location, and in 1967 the British began forcibly relocating inhabitants of one of the Islands in order to clear land for a major US military base.

But the UK faces significant international pressure over the Islands, and in the event that they are returned, control over the .io TLD would likely pass to the Mauritian government.

It is thought that at this point a new administrator would be sought, potentially leading to substantial changes in the regulation and pricing of .io domains.