Businesses hit by removal of domain

A dispute between the Colombian government, the .co registrar and the University of the Andes has resulted in the domain being removed

Many organisations were left high and dry yesterday following the disappearance of the domain from the Web.

Neither the owner of the top level .co domain, the University of the Andes in Bogota, Colombia, nor the administrator of the sub-domain, Net Registrar, is accepting blame for the move -- which was in effect triggered by the Colombian government.

The tale begins last July, when the government was granted permission by the country's Council of State to wrest control of the .co domain from the University. The government is able do this at any time before 31 December, 2003 -- although has not yet done so.

However, the fact that it has the right to step in clearly changed the relationship between Net Registrar and the University of the Andes, and it's the nature of those changes which is at the heart of Tuesday's disappearance of all URLs ending in

According to a statement posted on by the University, Net Registrar was informed of the new arrangement several months ago, but refused to agree to it. "This means that as a result of our agreement with Net Registrar having terminated," the statement says, "Net Registrar is no longer entitled to operate sub-domains and therefore Net Registrar is not entitled to permit you to use the domain names that you had registered with them."

But Net Registrar itself was caught on the hop by yesterday's move. It responded, saying: "Since we received notice from the Registrar that it may cease to have responsibility for the .co domain we have been trying to obtain assurances on the maintenance of the subdomain. To date we have received no such assurances. In order to prevent the possible termination of the service we have been obliged to issue proceedings in the High Court of Colombia."

That legal action may have led to the suspension of the domain on Tuesday. It's also rumoured that the University wasn't entirely happy with the government's decision to take over the running of the domain, presumably for financial reasons.

Whatever the rights or wrongs of the case, many UK organisations have been left in the lurch. One reader, Bill Stevenson, production manager of Caring for Children, said: "We had spent more than three years building up our not-for-profit childcare Web site '' when it disappeared without warning. Fortunately we had another site which we were preparing and have transferred to"

Nevertheless, some people may not have been so well organised. It's understood that around 8,000 businesses and individuals used the domain, including Amazon and Priceline.

For everything Internet-related, from the latest legal and policy-related news, to domain name updates, see ZDNet UK's Internet News Section.

Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom.