Libya has disappeared from the Internet and no one seems to be able to explain why.
Late on Friday, all .ly domains stopped working and they're still not up now. The administrative and technical contact for the country's Internet presence have not answered phone calls or emails at their Tripoli office.
However, one intriguing clue has come from company Lydomains.com - the company charged with selling all .ly domains and which, oddly enough, is based in Macclesfield in the UK. Lydomains.com put out an email on Friday which read: "It is with regret that we have to inform you, that due to unilateral action by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (http://www.iana.org), the Domain Name Servers that host the zone files for the ccTLD .ly have been disabled.
"The ccTLD .ly has made repeated official requests to the above authority to relocate the Name Servers to an independent environment, to ensure the continued operation of the .ly zone. Unfortunately, these requests, so far, have been declined by IANA.
"Despite our best efforts to maintain the continued operation of the .ly zone, its failure today is totally outside our control... Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience that may be caused. We will endeavour to keep you informed of any future developments."
This is backed up by a quick check over the Net. Libya's top-level domain doesn't appear to point anywhere at all. It should have primary and secondary name servers where all the details of .ly domains are contained. But nothing. In short, .ly has ceased to exist.
IANA is the California-based organisation that decides how Internet domains all over the world are allocated. Its role was, and is, supposed to still be, completely technical and non-political, although over the past few years, the Internet overseeing organisation ICANN has used the "IANA function" to move country domains or restrict changes being made to them in order to persuade people to sign up to a contract that would recognise ICANN as the ultimate authority in Internet matters.
Has IANA again be used to attempt to force people into behaving how it wants? If so, in this case, it has caused an entire country to be taken off the Internet - something that someone will surely have to explain. If that is the case, it has set an extremely dangerous precedent and would appear to confirm many people's fears over how an American organisation can hold the rest of the world to ransom.
Unfortunately, it has so far been impossible to verify what is going on. Lydomain.com is not answering its phone or email. IANA has failed to make any mention of any dispute with Libyan domains or, in fact, make any reference to it at all. ICANN equally has no suggestion as to what is going on. And the Libyans themselves are not answering their phones and, presumably, do not have any email.
Not a very nice way to treat what is apparently a friend of the West again. ®