Unlike most other top-level domains, .gov and .edu are restricted to government and educational institutions. Who's in charge of these protected domains?
On the top level, there is an organization called, The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, (ICANN), which is a non-profit corporation that was formed to assume responsibility for many aspects of internet infrastructure, including domain name system management.
ICANN works with groups that are referred to as "sponsors" who are delegated a defined on-going policy-formulation authority regarding how a sponsored Top Level Domain (TLD) is administered. There are seven original top-level domains in the Internet Domain Name System (DNS).
These include the familiar .com, .net, and .org TLDs that are open to anyone, .mil (reserved for the U.S. Military), .int (for organizations established by international treaties between governments), as well as .edu and .gov.
The ICANN website includes a nice summary table of the TLDs and the sponsoring organizations. For example, the sponsoring organization for .edu is EDUCAUSE and the sponsoring organization for .gov is the U.S. General Services Administration.
EDUCAUSE received a contract from the U.S. Department of Commerce in October 2001 to manage the .edu domain. Their website lists the eligibility requirements for obtaining a .edu domain. Essentially the primary criteria for a .edu domain name is that the applying organization must be a post-secondary institution that is institutionally accredited by an agency on the U.S. Department of Education's list of Nationally Recognized Accrediting Agencies.
The U.S. General Services Administration has administered the .gov domain since 1997. In order to qualify for a .gov domain you must be a qualified U.S. government organization or program. Registrations that qualify for a .gov domain include:
- U.S. Governmental departments, programs, and agencies on the federal level
- Federally recognized Indian Tribes
- State governmental entities/programs
- Cities and townships represented by an elected body of officials
- Counties and parishes represented by an elected body of officials
- U.S. territories
For more information, see the report by the World Intellectual Property Organization, "Final Report of the WIPO Internet Domain Name Process." This report is 352 pages plus appendices!
Regarding enforcement, disputes are resolved via ICANN and their sponsoring organizations.
George R. Plosker is Principal of George Plosker & Associates, a consulting firm working with libraries, publishers and information industry companies on marketing, product development and electronic content deployment and access strategies. Previously, he was Vice President of Content Support for Thomson-Gale.
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