How .uk came to be (and why it's not .gb)

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By the late 80s the IANA [the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, set up in 1988 to manage global IP address allocations] was trying to get all those countries that were trying to join the internet to use the ISO 3166 standard for country codes. It was used for all sorts of things — you see it on cars, “GB” for the UK.

Surely the time to complain about GB was during the formalization of ISO 3166, not when domain names were being assigned, which logically should follow standards. If the issue of “GB” was such a hassle for domain names, why wasn’t it a big deal for cars? You’d think that would be a more pressing concern among non-geeks, at least.

Not really. After all it took years for the UK to start issuing number plates with country codes, a lot longer than the rest of Europe, total non-issue for most people. We would just stick a GB sticker on the back on the rare occasions we travelled abroad.

My passport states that I am a citizen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (plus various small islands). A .gb top level domain would only cover the main island of the country, while .uk covers the whole country. Therefore .uk is the logical choice.

For those willing to overlook the primitive connotations of monarchy!

Well, if it breaks up and/or overthrows the monarch, there can be new domains added. There is a precedent for this as there is a “.su” domain (still in use for some sites) that was created for the Soviet Union, but now there are domains like .ru (for Russia). In fact, Scotland and Wales already have their own domains (even if they aren’t used much).

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Ireland’s a geographical expression, not a country? Yeah, I can see that going down well in Dublin.

About as well as calling it part of the British Isles does, I’d imagine. I think that Brits calling the country Éire is considered insulting too.

I do know someone from Northern Ireland who thinks the island of Ireland should be called Lesser Britain, or something like that. Along with the opinions of both Catholics and Protestants he’s happy to express loudly I think he likes to bring attention to himself. :smile:

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For something that’s supposed to be “United” the UK sure spends a great deal of time finding ways to split up.

But there is already a “Lesser Britain” – namely the French region of Bretagne. That’s what “Great Britain” is “greater” than. Or as David Mitchell puts it: “Great Britain is named that because it is larger than part of France, while still being considerably smaller than the whole of France”


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