I recently joined the Estonian Internet Community , a non-profit entity created as a public reaction to the infamous Estonian Internet domain reform.
It’s probably already covered by other bloggers, but here’s a brief account about what has been brewing here. Earlier, the .ee domain was comparable to other countries around us – it was only available for residents and everyone (both persons and companies) was only entitled to own one domain name. While the latter probably did create some problems for business, I don’t see how it was that crucial – different domains were still awarded to separate projects etc, and the international domains (.com, .net, .org, .info etc) as well as the new .eu were readily available. Thus, one of the starting points of the reform was already pretty moot.
Up to now, the .ee was governed by the EENet, the Estonian Educational and Research Network and there have been no remarkable shortcomings in their work. To carry out the reform, the Estonian Internet Foundation was founded by Estonian Government and Estonian Association of Information Technology and Telecommunications. The latter has always served as a herald of the international big business (Microsoft and others) and is therefore a dubious partner to carry out such a public initiative with. And when the government added some party politics from their side, the concoction started to stink.
Then there is the cost issue. Estonian domains used to be free (as they were limited to one per owner, hoarding was not possible). The EENet has considered the real yearly cost associated with a domain to be around 4-5€. The end price for the Estonian user, according to the EIF, was to be around 30-40€ per year. This was accomplished by using a middle layer of registrars which are commercial entities and thus can use the lame ‘market sets the price’ excuse (hey, that’s the EAITT, what more can you expect?). The result: as seen from this table, .ee becomes absurdly expensive compared to the national domains of Estonia’s generally much wealthier neighbours.
Estonian private persons were earlier only entitled to .pri.ee third-level domain, only legal persons could obtain second-level ones. This limitation is supposed to be gone – only if people pay the exorbitant price, that is. There was a public petition with 1163 signatures to keep .pri.ee free – it was mostly used by bloggers and small home server runners (like myself with kakupesa.pri.ee). The result: out of the ~6000 owners, only ~120 re-registered the domain under the new rules. Most of the Estonian ‘ordinary people’s Internet’ will be gone (actually, most of them moved to .eu or other international domains which have much more sensible pricing). The EIF does not care.
Well, now they actually do – they spam non-registerers with e-mails and have swamped Tallinn with obnoxious advertisements (which are not cheap). But something has indeed hit the fan pretty seriously – their whole business seems to start sinking.
A personal side note: over the years, I have tended to vote for a party which unfortunately was largely behind this mess. In the upcoming elections, I will ignore them (OK, they have done some other blunders as well). I think I might not be the only one.