ICANN the international domain name body, approved the .ir extension for Iran’s local country code top level domain in 2010. Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences, a nonprofit Iranian research institute was tasked with running the domain extension, which may explain why the research body was slow to publicize the ccTLD to the Iranian people for adoption. The domain was often viewed as a second tier alternative to the .com extension, however with the rapid rise of the Iranian tech startup boom and the lack of alternative domain extension for premium names, saw a shift to very slow adoption of .ir domain extension. To put the matter into perspective 10 years ago many government institutes and organization themselves used the .com extension as their primary domain and often email address.
Fast forward to 2017 and Donald Trump’s illogical maximum pressure drive against Iran which saw wide restrictions being adopted by tech giants such as Apple, Microsoft, Google, Slack, GitHub and many more against their Iranian users. Part of this harsh pressure tactic was to apply maximum pressure on Iranian media and digital outlets, which involved seizing domain names of Iranian news outlets by the US justice department, causing wide spread panic amongst Iranian tech firms and organizations wondering if they will be next in the domain seizure crosshairs of the DOJ. Western based domain name registrars were rattled by the move and proactively started Emailing Iranian customers asking them to move their domains, refusing further service to Iranians which caused further chaos for web hosting companies in Iran, moving masses of domain names to alternative often less reliable registrars.
To minimize market impact Iranian internet authorities were quick to promote the .ir extension as a safe haven for Iranian brands against US sanctions, seizures and service distributions. The tech community which felt the sharp pain and bruised by unexpected sanctions chose to comply which saw a huge shift of Iran’s biggest brands, media outlets, government organizations moving their brands to the .ir domain extensions. The Iranian public were quick to adapt to the shift and .ir quickly became the primary brand in people’s mind when entering a URL in to their browsers.
2018 saw the beginning of the golden years of .ir domain registration and mass internal adoption, such trends were hardly missed by the tech industry which saw the launch of nam.ir Iran’s first domain name auction site where users buy and sell their names.
Mohammad Esmaeili, head of media of Tehran.digital said “while sanctions damaged the Iranian economy and business in general it’s also had some positive impact, it’s driven ambitious entrepreneurs to innovate amidst this difficult situation and manage to thrive using digital business opportunities. Sites such as nam.ir are a prime example of seizing on golden opportunities within the Iranian market where appearance dominates society in general but specially in business, a director who owns the luxury car, property, prime mobile number is bound to want the ultimate domain also to match his stature which explains we see nam.ir auctions break domain auction records every few months.”
Alternative sites like sedofa.com have also emerged as alternatives to flippa.com to flip established websites to buyers who want alternative sources of income or projects. Mohammad Esmaeili went further to say “Iranians understand the value of assets, between 2018-2021 value of assets have only increased while wages often remain stagnant in the country, and buying assets such as domain names is seen as an alternative hedge against currency devaluation, I myself am a buyer and don’t plan to sell my portfolio anytime soon. Premium domains are becoming increasingly rare which shows I’m not the only one with this thought process. Having said that I also think Iran has a few years to go still, till companies and brands see the true value of domain names, perhaps once the sanctions are lifted and economy sees a full recovery there will be less penny pinching by corporates and we’ll real investment in brands, strategy and their future.”