ICANN Approves Application for Cyrillic TLD .БЕЛ [.BEL] for Belarus

ICANN has approved the application for the Cyrillic top-level domain .БЕЛ [.BEL] for the Republic of Belarus — in addition to the Latin .BY.

Before the official launch of the new TLD, there are some procedures to complete, but .БЕЛ will be delegated as early as this year. Before the general registration, .БЕЛ will have several Limited Registration periods. All registrars are participating in the discussion of the launch plan for the new TLD.

According to Sergei Povalishev, the chief executive of hoster.by (the largest registrar for .BY domains and the Technical Administrator of the Belarusian ccTLD), the priority will be given to trademark owners — they will a few months to register domain names matching their trademarks. Additionally, some attractive domains like магазин.бел [shop.bel], поиск.бел [search.bel], or казино.бел [casino.bel] will be sold through charity auctions, with profits going to orphanages of Belarus. 

Registration will be available for domain names in Russian and Belarusian – in addition to standard Cyrillic characters “ў”, “і”, and apostrophes will be supported. Registration policy will be identical to the one for .BY.

Sergei Povalishev says that they’ve chosen .БЕЛ — and not some other letter combination — for a reason. Their application included a rationale for this combination, as well as letters of support from  Internet community and national authorities. “Бел” [“bel”] is clearly associated with Belarus and is used by many companies, such as Belaz, Beltelecom, or BELTA.

“Of course, experienced and Internet-savvy users may see this new domain as something redundant. But we believe that our national domain space should be offering more choice and shouldn’t go against global trends,” says Mr. Povalishev. He believes that, despite being global, the Internet is moving towards more fragmentation — both national and thematic, which is evidenced by the appearance of a large number of IDN TLDs and new gTLDs.

Mr. Povalishev cites Russian .РФ as an example of a successful IDN TLD – it has almost 1M registered names. Some IDNs are less successful: Ukrainian .УКР has only some 8K names registered in its first year. Cyrillic TLDs have also been launched by Serbia (.СРБ), Mongolia (.МОН), and Kazakhstan (.ҚАЗ). Bulgarian TLD .БГ was rejected by ICANN due to its resemblance of Brazilian .BR (.бг/.br). As of today, .BY has more than 108,000 domain names.