What's in your name?

How complex was the process of selecting and securing your domain name? Was the name of your choice available? SITA's .aero office and .aero registrars alike are often asked why this or that name is not available.

In this article we explain some of the basic rules of domain name registration within .aero – as well as some of the developments taking place in the .aero name space.

Point number one: domain names are your digital identifier

Confused? Don't be, its simple. Most people who use the Internet today rely on the Domain Name System (DNS), in layman's terms the "Web address", and navigation tools provided to find the resources they seek. As many as half of all users locate a Web site for the first time simply by typing the "relevant" name directly into the browser's address bar. So ownership of a simple and memorable domain name, which the user is likely to remember, is essential for anyone whose products and services can be reached on the Web.

Originally, it was not so easy. DNS was introduced in the 1980s as a more memorable and more permanent alternative to using numeric IP addresses (try remembering instead of www.easyjet.com).

With the increasing importance of domain names – and the relatively low cost of obtaining names within the generic top-level structure – some less desirable effects, such as domain name speculation, came into play. As a result, across generic top-level structures such as .com, .net and country domains, the naming space has become very patchy. The reliability of "guessing" the names has become less sure. Companies may have to pay speculators amounts well above the cost of registration to get hold of the name they want to use.

These issues cannot be avoided completely. But a community specific domain, such as .aero, can do a great deal to limit the effect of such activities. It will improve the predictability and reliability of the name space - and so the experience of both registrants and users.  Domain registration policies, which guide the availability of names and associated verification processes, are designed to do exactly that.

So, what are the .aero –naming– rules – and why have them?

From experience, three basic rules have emerged, focused around the community's needs.

1. Important aviation-specific names – such as widely used and recognized airline and airport designators – need to be protected and restricted for use by their respective code holders. So all 2 and most 3 character codes are reserved in their favour: anyone else trying to register a name based on these would be denied registration.

Why? The aviation community has been using codes for communications since the early 1950s, when ICAO, IATA and SITA agreed on the need for industry standards for both message content and protocols. The result was agreement over designator systems for the industry – still a key element of the industry's infrastructure.

Today, short memorable and often intuitive codes are known and used by people within the industry as well as the public. So "BA" is widely known as the code for British Airways; "KLM" is both an established airline brand and that airline's code; LAX is widely used as shorthand for Los Angeles International Airport. These are all aspects of a good domain name. The use of the domain .aero offers a unique opportunity to airlines and airports to connect with travellers and those within the industry in a simple and straightforward way. Hence operational domains such as ba.aero, nw.aero, lcy.aero or jfk.aero.

The evolving system by which industry codes are reserved means that some domain names, based on codes that have been registered in the past, are now colliding with newly reserved codes. This happens in any system where rules and policies evolve over time. In this case, typically, new rules are applied to newly registered names and ownership transfers, but not retrospectively to current registrants. When a name is deleted and registered again or subject to ownership transfer, it is subject to new rules. 

Some airline codes are shared by more airlines or overlap with airport codes. While it is impossible to guarantee 100 percent reliability of such names for automated applications, such intuitive shortcut system can work well for needs of many passengers and industry professionals. So much so that, at the request of a number of US airports, the Dot Aero Council is now considering extension of the reservation to include FAA airport codes. See separate article "FAA airport codes in .aero under review"

2. Second level (anyname.aero) domain names should be available to all members of the community on an equitable first-come first-served basis.

Why? We believe that second level domain names spaces will remain predominantly for all other domain names except codes such as company and service names. The space is an area which must serve the community as a whole and since most names on the second level (anyname.aero) will continue to be used for branding of aviation products and services, the first-come first-served basis is the most appropriate. Unfortunately predictability on this level cannot be achieved, because different interests will always compete for the same name space to get short memorable names for user convenience and comfort.

Domain names are an essential means of establishing a company's brand identity on the internet - and the registration process used at .aero helps eliminate speculators and cybersquatters by ensuring that registrants are genuine. Generic top-level domains (such as .com and .net) do not identify your industry focus and do not easily increase your visibility. However, the .aero suffix guarantees an identity as being within the aviation community.

3. Structured and fully predictable domain names, important for use by computer applications or for highly professional purposes, will gradually move to regulated use-specific sub-domains. 

Why? Complicated coding structures with very specific allocations, which will have increasing importance for addressing industry applications and services, will shift to dedicated sub-domains. For example, this may be the case for messaging addressing structures that accompany new XML standards, identifiers needed for international baggage processing systems, VoIP telephony, or identifiers needed to locate airport systems and applications.

Put simply, the sub-domains may well evolve into strict coding structures for individual segments of the air transport community and form the backbone for industry applications. To ensure interoperability, .aero policies may need to include other industry standards and policies as a reference point. This is the essence of a community domain. 

Setting the policies

These three domain rules constitute a core element of the policies that have been agreed by the Dot Aero Council (DAC) in response to the needs of the .aero community, and that are implemented by SITA, as custodian of .aero on behalf of the aviation community.

The DAC provides the community with a forum for the effective exchange of information, to ensure that the future development of .aero meets the growing needs of the community as a whole. DAC members are drawn from the key aviation associations, each member representing a Registrant Group. DAC members contribute to the development of .aero by expressing recommendations on rules and mechanisms of determining eligibility, domain applicability, and overall development of .aero. In particular they contribute to definition of the naming convention and the .aero domain name allocation rules within the Registrant Group they represent.

To share your views, contact us or your sector representative as listed on the DAC page of .aero website.