Is a .ae domain OK despite net censorship?
February 12, 2008 4:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm considering registering a .ae (United Arab Emirates) domain name for my business. I've got a couple concerns.

I'm aware of the UAE's record on Net censorship, which brings up two issues for me:

1. I'm a little worried that even though my business would not deal in anything prurient or critical of Middle Eastern governments (both against the rules for the domain), my website may be censored in some manner. I'm a professional blogger and the site would link to client work; who knows whether one of those sites might offend a UAE censor.

2. I worry that my using a .ae domain will imply that I endorse or condone the UAE's policies. For obvious reasons (see 1.) I wouldn't be able to protest these policies, even though I disapprove of them. Is this a big enough issue to preclude using the domain, or, can anyone think of a good way to demonstrate my disapproval without getting my site banned?

The domain itself bridges the dot, incorporating ae into a word, so using another TLD would not be an option for this particular name. I could probably come up with another domain name, but it wouldn't be as cool.
posted by me3dia to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
If it's not already a Latinate plural, maybe pluralize it and use .es, the domain name of the considerably more liberal Kingdom of Spain?
posted by Electrius at 4:22 PM on February 12, 2008

Response by poster: It is, indeed, a Latin plural. But good suggestion, I've considered a .es as well.
posted by me3dia at 4:27 PM on February 12, 2008

Response by poster: I've considered a .es as well.

Er, I mean for another domain name. It's not a solution for the question at hand.
posted by me3dia at 4:49 PM on February 12, 2008

You have to decide whether potential censorship and the possible suggestion of endorsing UAE policies is worth the name. The endorsing is probably less of a concern or at least dependent on context. Do people going to say "Hey, that's a .us domain. They must condone everything the US government does!" Probably, most people think nothing of it all all.

The censorship, maybe someone can chime in but my guess is you won't be able to find a lot of data on non-UAE citizens/residents using the domain for clever name purposes being censored. At least it seems like that's a pretty small market, to date. You probably won't ever have a problem but if you say something that ruffles the wrong feathers it's certainly possible. "Professional blogging" covers such a wide range but that's going to be a major factor. You could probably blog about literature or tech or film forever but if it's more political, particularly on polarizing international issues, and especially polarizing international issues relating to the middle-east, you're bound to get closer attention.

One possibility would be to register both and (redirecting to the first), if available, to at least partially cover yourself if you ever have to move.
posted by 6550 at 6:04 PM on February 12, 2008

I was in the ae recently and I think you have reason to be concerned. Basically there is one ISP in the country, Etisalat, and the blocking that happens countrywide is done through them. They, in turn blame it on the government who say it's the ISP. Etc. Can you get an .ae domain but host it someplace totally outside the country? With a registrar outside the country? I'm aware that the rules changed sort of recently but the Terms and Conditions that I'm looking at still seem to imply you need a local person to be a representative there. Then again you may have one.

The issue with the TLD domain being someplace that has some objectionable policies is mostly an issue to people who may be places where your objections, if noted and retaliated against, would then not have access to your content. While I was there I found an odd set of things unavailable. Flickr was obtainable via a Firefox addon, Twitter seemed completely blocked, and a random assortment of other stuff, not much stuff, to be honest. I suspect the UAE is moving more towards openness than away from it.

So, to me, I don't think I'd look at your TLD and say "m3dia likes indoor ski slopes and wretched capitalistic excess" or anything else. I think people realize that TLDs are fluid if they know enough to know what they are. If they don't know that, they're unlikely to know that ae maps to UAE. You could always have a little link on the front page "neat domain, where's ae" and manage to have a totally informative but also maybe a bit tongue in cheek explanation? I bet you could do that well.
posted by jessamyn at 6:39 PM on February 12, 2008

Read the terms of service carefully, as each TLD has it's own special rules. I had a .dk domain for a few years and when I tried to move to a new hosting company, the new company wasn't "approved" by the DK domain people. (Being "approved" is naturally just a cash-grab where the ISP has to pay $x/year to be allowed to be a technical contact and list DNS servers for DK domains.) So watch out for tricks like that.

Also, besides the creepy "Israel Boycott" provision in their TOS, if they don't like your site, by "censoring" they'll just delete your registration and keep your money.
posted by kamelhoecker at 7:48 PM on February 12, 2008

Response by poster: I've emailed the registrar to see if it's possible to host the site outside the UAE; hopefully I'll hear back on that, because I think it would be a dealbreaker if I can't. I pay enough for hosting as it is, I don't need to pay into a monopoly.

The suggestion to back up the domain with a similar .com is a great idea. I'll definitely do that if I go this route.

Thanks for the feedback, everybody. Keep it coming.
posted by me3dia at 9:45 PM on February 12, 2008

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