'Diagnosing the state of Iraq: The web view'

Within the project ‘Diagnosing the Condition of Iraq: The web view’, we tried to diagnose the social conditions of Iraq via a web analysis. The Iraqi websphere consists largely out of news, blogs and commercial and governmental sites. In an early stage of our analysis it became clear to us that there is no evident interlinkage between these different Iraqi sites, and that they form isolated webspheres. This is a result of the history of the Iraqi web, which has been formed within three periods.
The first pre-war period can be situated in the late 1990s, when the internet started operating in Iraq. In this period the UN imposed trade sanctions that made it very hard for Iraq to get the technical equipment it needed. Also, all the media, including the Iraqi websphere were under strict control of Saddam Hussein, who denied Iraqi citizens internet access points in their homes. Furthermore, the sole internet provider was Uruklink.net, which was owned by the Ministry of Culture and Information (and thus under strict supervision). In this period Saddam Hussein waged a war not only physically but also digitally, opposing not only freedom of speech, but also blocking access to the internet and implementing strict censorship policies.[1]
The second phase of the Iraqi web can be indicated through the mid-war expansion of the Iraqi internet to international servers, official sites to .org's and .com's and the cleansing of Uruklink.net. The well known Baghdad based blogger Salam Pax is an offspring of this period. But even though Iraqis obtained more ways for practicing their freedom of speech, the Iraqi government still practiced censorship in case content was “contradictory to Iraqi law”.[2] After the collapse of the former Iraqi regime, partial traces of these websites can be found on the Internet Archive, and in nostalgic recollections of former Iraqi forums. But still, both before and during the war, the small number of Iraqi Websites is striking.[3]
The third and current period started on the 5th of August 2005, when ICANN appointed Iraq’s National Communication and Media Commission (NCMC) as the new controller of the country coded Top Level Domain .iq, which had been frozen for years.[4] While the NCMC now has sole responsibility for the licensing and regulation the Internet in all of Iraq, the commission still falls under the supervision of Parliament.[5]
This new development was welcomed very positively by Iraqi officials:
“In today's online era, the two-letter code at the end of a Web address is as important as a flag in lending a sense of legitimacy and pride”.[6]
A sentiment that can be easily recognized within the .iq websphere, since the majority of the sites host the national colors, symbol or flag on their index page.
Nevertheless, 2 years later it is evident that almost the whole of the .iq domain can be adequately caught within only one simple Google and Yahoo query (site:.iq). This could be a result of the lack of criteria for obtaining a license for .iq domain, which are rarely issued. With the help of the Whois database we were able to make a database of the .iq web. It is striking that of the 18 indexed .iq sites non are actually registered in Iraq. The fast majority (16 out of 18) are registered in the US, on 8 different addresses, while one url is registered in the UK and the final one in Turkey. Apparently still only a little percentage of the Iraqi websphere is hosted within the .iq domain. One could argue that the real domain of Iraq is not based within its country code Domain, but in any url that contains either iraq or iq, anywhere in its string.