The .ly domain space to be considered awesome22 Mar 2014
The domain vb.ly was very publicly confiscated a few years ago by nic.ly for breaking their terms of service. Specifically, vb.ly was a url shortener for porn, and pornography is against the law in Libya, and therefore against the terms of service:
"3.5 The Applicant certifies that, to the best of his/her knowledge the domain name is not being registered for any activities/purpose not permitted under Libyan law."
It began with a blog post by Ben Metcalfe entitled "The .ly domain space to be considered unsafe". The Hacker News discussion is here - even Paul Graham commented to say that he does not recommend .ly domains to Y Combinator companies:
I think what really happened here is that someone at the Libyan domain authority decided they wanted the name and made up a story in order to seize it. I've heard of other cases of .ly names being confiscated, and for this reason we advise YC startups not to depend on them.
It seems as if this suggestion by pg was incorrect, since years later still no one owns vb.ly and it appears excluded from registration:
$ whois vb.ly Domain Name: vb.ly Status: REG-EXCLUDED
An unfair warning
This public warning against .ly domains has greatly hurt the perception of .ly domains. I checked the top one million sites (according to Alexa) and there are only 148 .ly domains on the list (as compared to 676 .io domains and 2886 .me domains).
I think it is an unfair negative perception because vb.ly is the only .ly domain that has ever been confiscated, and it was confiscated because they broke the terms of service. Further, before the domain was shuttered, Hadi himself tried multiple times to contact the registrants by email and phone, but they did not return any messages.
Joshua Strebel had a .ly domain which had accidentally broken the terms of service by posting pornography from a flickr feed, but Hadi got in touch with him and they were able to resolve the issue without shutting down the domain - you can read Josh's blog post about it here: "Feigned outrage – .ly domains are fine, just respect the TOS."
Not allowing pornography is not only restricted to .ly domains. For example, nic.io also does not allow porn (although I don't think any .io domains have been seized because of this):
"No .IO domain may be used, directly or indirectly, for any purpose that is sexual or pornographic or that is against the statutory laws of any Nation. In the event of NIC.IO being advised by any party that a specific site breaches this condition then NIC.IO reserves the right to immediately deactivate the offending registration."
And how many thousands of domains have been seized by the US government?
All ccTLDs are protected by ICAAN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). The agreement for .ly can be seen here - it is a contract for the stability and continuous support and management of service to the community. If GPTC violates the agreement, ICANN can give it to a different entity that can manage .ly in a proper way that follows and respects the agreement.
The Libyan seizure you didn't hear about
Coincidentally, during the Libyan Revolution, the Libyan Spider registrar was shut down by Softlayer by order from the US government, because some of Libyan Spider's clients were government organizations in Libya and Libyan Spider hosted these sites on Softlayer's servers.
All of Libyan Spider's servers were shut down for three days without any warning. This included thousands of international clients, which had nothing to do with Libya. Further, Hadi could not get in touch with anyone at Softlayer and they refused to answer his requests.
I spoke with Hadi about this:
"It's hard for me to explain how those three days went for me. I had been working for 10 years and then someone comes and shuts down everything. Completely destroyed 10 years of work. And it's not a loss of Libyan Spider only, the disaster is more than my company (and by the way my company was 20 people, which have nothing to do with government, and they take the salary from these people).
"And I can handle that I lose everything in three days for Libyan Spider - but how about 5000 clients locally and more than 1000 internationally? How about their business and data? It's like destroying more than 5000 businesses. For 3 days I wasn't able to talk or act or move or think. It's like if I die it would be better than this thing happening to me."
Eventually he managed to get many of his clients to reach out to Softlayer, who finally restored their servers.
.ly domains are awesome
.ly domains are awesome because of the great domain hacks they can make. For example, this blog is hack.ly, I also started humb.ly, Infor bought local.ly for $100k, facebook acquired friend.ly, etc...
The domain name you choose for a project is extremely important - it is your very first impression. And as a hacker, I highly recommend building a project on a .ly domain (.io is also awesome), as long as you can get a good one.