Libya Internet Curfew Could Affect .ly Domains, Possibly

As strife-torn Libya interrupts Internet access, users worry about the fate of their URL shortening service

As the violence escalated in Libya, following the mass wave of demonstrations that has swept the Middle East region in the past few weeks, the government took the all-predictable step of restricting access to the Internet. This has triggered a debate about the fate of false Libyan (,ly) domains – such as, the shortened URL service. CEO John Borthwick wrote on Quora, a Q&A site: “Should Libya block Internet traffic, as Egypt did, it will not affect or any .ly domain,” he wrote.

For .ly domains to be irresolvable, all five .ly root servers have to be offline, or replying with empty responses, Borthwick wrote. Of the five, only two are in Libya with another two in Oregon and a fifth one in the Netherlands, he said.

A Voice Of Dissent

However, Kim Davies, manager for root zone services at ICANN, working on Internet governance and core infrastructure,disagreed and replied to Borthwick’s posting. He pointed out that it is a “sense of false confidence” to say that country-code domains are “impervious” to government-mandated shutdowns. The domains will keep running, but the authoritative servers rely on regular updates from the .ly registry inside Libya. If the servers cannot get regular updates, they will consider the data “stale” and stop providing information, which will cause the sites to become inaccessible, he claimed.

The maximum time for registry updates is configured for 28 days but some domains may have a shorter expiration date, requiring more frequent updates. If the servers cannot communicate with the registry in a timely manner, those domains will eventually be “compromised”, Davies said.

Another site,, claimed that it would definitely be unaffected because the service does not wholly rely on the .ly domain, according to Joshua Strebel, founder of “The only possible effect is on our own Website branding/position. We, of course, control and can at any moment direct all Web requests for to However we will only do this as a last resort when given no other options.,” he wrote.

Whether that will happen is unlikely at this point, as the Internet service keeps going up and down in Libya. Though protesters are still calling for an end to its dictatorial rule, Colonel Moammar Gadhafi’s government seems to be replacing its block on Internet access with an “Internet curfew”, cutting the country off late at night and resuming services shortly after dawn, according to traffic monitoring data.

Renesys reported that 13 globally routed Libyan network prefixes were withdrawn early Saturday morning, local time. The routers came back online nine hours later, and full connectivity was restored, Renesys said. The Internet shut down again for nine hours early Sunday, suggesting the Internet curfew was in force, Renesys said. Data from Arbor Networks’ ATLAS service corroborated this.

It appears that most of Internet service is locked down, or heavily restricted, from about 1 AM to 8 AM local time, according to the monitoring data. The Google Transparency Report provides information about traffic to Google services such as News, Gmail, Blogger, and Search. The tool shows regular cycles of no activity from Libya in the early hours of February 19 and February 20, and sharp dips on February 21 and February 22. Traffic levels appear to have been severely reduced beginning February 17.

YouTube has been nearly inaccessible since early February 17, according to the Transparency Report. The Al-Jazeera news service has reported that its site is still unavailable from within the country.

It is still unclear as to why the Libyan government has decided to confine the blackout to only a few hours each night. There is some speculation that the regime is trying to avoid the international outcry or economic loss Egypt faced for its nine-day shutdown earlier this month.

As in Egypt, a number of workarounds have emerged on Twitter with information on getting online in Libya despite the blackout. There are a number of Twitter posts claiming that XS4ALL, a “hacker-friendly” internet service provider based in the Netherlands is offering all its modem lines for free to Libyans, with a phone number (international call), username and password.

However, eWEEK could not confirm the information on either XS4ALL’s Web site or on its Twitter feed and the company has not confirmed the validity of the phone number.

Other Twitter messages provide IP addresses for getting onto Facebook, Twitter and Google.

Libya’s internet and mobile services are tightly controlled by the state, as Libya Telecom & Technology’s chairman is Muhammad Gadhafi, the eldest son of Moammar Gadhafi.

Colonel Gadhafi has controlled Libya for more than 40 years, since 1969. This is longer than both Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian president Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak, who both resigned after demonstrations called for an end to their rules.