Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

Why Libya can't shut down bit.ly

By David Goldman, staff writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Libya intermittently shut off some Internet access to its citizens over the weekend, leading some to believe that link-shortening sites like bit.ly, which uses the Libyan ".ly" suffix, would be affected.

Link shortening services became popular in the past couple years as Twitter users needed a way to shorten long URLs so tweets with links could fit into 140 characters. Bit.ly is the largest such site, but many other link-shortening sites use the .ly suffix.

Despite having a Libyan top-level domain name and two so-called "root servers" located in the African nation, bit.ly and other link shortening sites were unaffected by the outage.

For those not fluent in geek, the "top-level domain" (TLD) name is the ".ly" portion of the site's address. In addition to the ones we're used to like .com, .org and .edu, top-level domains are also divided up by country codes, and .ly is the one assigned to Libya.

On its website, New York-based bit.ly said it picked the name not because of any ties with Libya, but "because it's short and it is evocative of small bits, loosely coupled." In other words, it simply liked how the site's name sounded.

The root servers connect a user to the server that the website is hosted on. But those servers don't always physically exist in the countries their TLDs are assigned to. Sites with the .ly TLD have five root servers, but only two are based in Libya: The other two are located in Oregon, and one is in the Netherlands.

For a site like bit.ly with a .ly TLD, all five of the root servers would need to go down at the same time for access to the site to be restricted. It's nerdy, but integral to understanding why bit.ly kept chugging along when the Libyan government killed the Internet.

Even if all five of the root servers were somehow taken offline, users could still access the site through the alternative j.mp or bitly.com, a bit.ly spokesman said. Every bit.ly short URL also exists as a separate bitly.com page. Since the company's .com and .mp sites use alternate TLDs, they would be unaffected by the fact that .ly sites were down.

The company said it paid $75 in March 2007 to an online registrar to purchase the domain from Libya Telecom and Technology, which serves as the registrar or the .ly domain. Other than that, the company has not done any business in Libya.

Meanwhile, Internet service in Libya appears to be restored, at least for the time being. Egypt also temporarily shut down its Internet service in January in an attempt to keep protesters from communicating to one another on social networks. To top of page

Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,773.64 -57.12 -0.32%
Nasdaq 4,775.36 -29.93 -0.62%
S&P 500 2,065.30 -10.51 -0.51%
Treasuries 1.82 -0.02 -1.03%
Data as of 6:57am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 14.56 -0.23 -1.56%
Freeport-McMoRan Inc... 14.00 1.34 10.58%
Ford Motor Co 13.56 -0.53 -3.76%
Apple Inc 93.74 -1.09 -1.15%
Microsoft Corp 49.87 -0.03 -0.06%
Data as of Apr 29
Sponsors

Sections

The Oracle of Omaha joked that the impact on Corporate America would not be the biggest problem of a Donald Trump presidency. More

The Dow is down 300 points over the past two days, leaving the index on track for its worst week since early February. Blame fumbled earnings reports from the likes of Apple and Google as well as concerns about the Bank of Japan. More

Now you can watch the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket land on a barge as if you were standing on the deck of the ship. More

Visa says new software will allow consumers to check out with chip cards as fast as swiping a card with magnetic strip. More