A country code top-level domain (ccTLD) registry operator manages or administers a country-specific top-level domain, such as .si or .eu. Not one ccTLD registry operator is like another. In Europe, registry operators vary considerably in business model, ownership, size and, correspondingly, relations with their governments. Most “ccTLDs” are not-for-profit: they are foundations, cooperatives, universities, research institutes or part of their government. They are funded through the proceeds from registrations that are then reinvested into maintaining their functioning, educational campaigns, research, etc. They are operated by as many as 100 or as few as 1 person. By nature, ccTLDs have strong links with their local internet communities (LIC), including the government. ccTLDs are mainly governed by national law, mostly like any other organisation of their kind. Only in few cases are there ccTLD-specific laws. Also EU policies and international standards play an important role.
The technical side
What does managing or administering a country-specific top-level domain mean? The registry operator provides domain name resolution services by running and maintaining the hardware, i.e. the name server infrastructure, needed to answer queries for its part of the hierarchy (its “domain”). It also provides registration services to registrars (and sometimes registrants). These services include operations on the records in that registry's database, such create or cancel a domain name, update of a name server, etc. A lot of resources go into maintaining the security of the network and processes (e.g. providing DNSSEC, ISO certification, etc.).
A ccTLD registry also manages the zone file, a subset of its database, which holds the domain names and their associated name server information. Information about the registrant and contacts for technical and administrative issues related to a domain name can be queried via WHOIS, a directory service maintained by the registry.
ccTLDs and online content
There is increasing pressure on ccTLD registries to help in the fight against illegal content online. However, as technical operators in the internet’s infrastructure, what can ccTLD registries actually do? You can find out more information about ccTLDs and their technical role in relation to content online by watching the video here.