This industry is complicated. Recently, we shed some light on how the domain channel operates, and the unique roles that ICANN, registrars, registries, resellers, and registrants play within this interconnected system. In the world of generic top-level domains, like .COM and .ORG, the channel structure is at least clearly defined, although registration policies and requirements vary among the different domain extensions. With country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) however, things get a bit more complicated.

What makes the ccTLD domain channel different?

1. Governments often set the technical and procedural policies

As their name would suggest, country code top-level domains are allocated to nations or states. In most cases, the government itself determines the policies for its ccTLD, and appoints a registry to enforce them. Depending on the history of a particular ccTLD, the Registry could be a number of different institutions, such as:

  • A government ministry, such as in Barbados (.BB), Finland (.FI), or Samoa (.WS);
  • A telecom, such as in Yemen (.YE), the United Arab Emirates (.AE), or San Marino (.SM);
  • A university, such as in Bosnia And Herzegovina (.BA), the Bahamas (.BS), or Chile (.CL);
  • A private company, such as in Austria (.AT), Greenland (.GS), or Puerto Rico (.PR);
  • A not-for-profit organization, such as in Armenia (.AM), Belgium (.BE), or New Zealand (.NZ).

2. There are three different ccTLD channel models

While gTLDs all operate within a standard channel structure (ICANN → Registry → Registrar → Reseller → Registrant), ccTLDs work a little differently.

Diagrams illustrating how different registry models work

Registry-Registrar Model

Some ccTLDs follow a Registry-Registrar model, which functions much like the gTLD model. The Registry only offers registrations and domain management through accredited Registrars. Sometimes these ccTLDs are open for anyone to register and sometimes they are restricted to local nationals. Still, many of these Registries offer the Registrar a formal registration portal and API so that domain management can be automated.

Registry-Registrant Model

Some ccTLDs do not accredit Registrars at all and instead work directly with Registrants. Registrars can still manage these domains, but must often log into an individual account and make changes to these domains manually. Registries with this model usually require the Registrant to be a local national or to supply documentation before they can register or manage their domain.

Mixed Registry-Registrar/Registrant Model

Though it’s rare, some ccTLD Registries work both with Registrars and directly with Registrants. Registrants pay much higher prices than Registrars do to manage their domains directly with the Registry. This model often leads to confusion for Registrants since management and registration processes may be different for Registrars than for Registrants.

Why is this important?

When any registry makes a significant policy or procedural change, there are often important consequences for us, our resellers, and their end-users. However, the ccTLD system is especially vulnerable to change. Since governments are often involved in the decision-making process, changes to requirements, process, and pricing can happen overnight. What’s more, many organizations that operate ccTLD Registries have very little knowledge of the domain industry, receive little funding, or operate the Registry as a public service. This means that processes can be complicated, prices high, and information scarce.

Hopefully, this leaves you with a better understanding of why ccTLD registration and management can be more cumbersome than that of gTLDs. While changes at the registry level may be out of our control, we’ll always adapt to them using a strategy that minimizes the impact on your business. Our goal is to make it easy for you to take advantage of our extensive ccTLD and gTLD selection.