Amazon's Fight With South American Countries Over Control of '.amazon' Domain Name Comes to a Head

An indigenous tribe member takes a photo of another tribe member on a phone following a protest march for indigenous territorial rights on November 11, 2015 in Angra dos Reis, Brazil.
Photo: Getty Images

Back in 2012, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced that it would vastly expand the number of top-level domains, allowing hundreds of new ones to flourish. You can now buy domains for .mango, .luxury, and .republican if you’re so inclined. But there’s one top-level domain that’s still engaged in a bitter 7-year fight. Amazon would like total control over every .amazon address. But eight countries in South America want to share in the domains. Why? They have the actual river that the tech giant is named for.

Amazon has spent years fighting with Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela, all countries near the 4,000 mile Amazon River and members of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO). According to a new report by the BBC, diplomats in those countries aren’t looking for total control of the domain, but would like to control specific domains like tourism.amazon, and give domains like books.amazon and kindle.amazon to the technology company. And a deadline to find a resolution to the dispute is looming.

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But Amazon has previously proposed a different solution. The tech giant would like to control every possible .amazon domain and give each of the eight countries specific extensions. Brazil would get .br.amazon, for example, similar to how the Brazilian government currently controls .gov.br. The ACTO says that’s a non-starter.

What makes this all the weirder is that ICANN originally approved Amazon’s desire to control all of .amazon before it was forced to dial things back after the ACTO protested. The funny twist to all of this? As the Register points out, Brazil didn’t oppose Amazon getting the domain back in 2012 when ICANN first handed out the name. But Brazil’s then-president, Dilma Rousseff, discovered that the U.S. intelligence community was spying on her phone, all thanks to whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations in the summer of 2013. Brazil was suddenly very concerned with making sure Amazon didn’t have total control over the domain after that.

As the battles drag on and things get increasingly desperate, officials at ICANN are clearly exhausted trying to mediate the dispute. A panel of judges named the Independent Review Process (IRP) found in favor of the tech company in July of 2017 but the ACTO objected and neither side has budged ever since. Meetings have been set up, only for the ACTO to cancel at the last minute, leaving Amazon frustrated that more hasn’t been accomplished. While the judgment should’ve theoretically been the end of the story, ICANN is merely an independent body that probably isn’t inclined to go around pissing off governments.

The tech company even tried to offer Peru and Brazil roughly $5 million worth of free hosting services and free Kindles stocked with content but the ACTO declined the offer. Amazon did not respond to a request for comment from Gizmodo this morning.

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Back on March 10, ICANN set a deadline of April 7 for the two sides to finally resolve this dispute once and for all. But that seems very unlikely. Only time will tell, but maybe Amazon could sweeten the pot by offering more than $5 million in Kindles. Jeff Bezos can probably afford it.

[BBC and ICANN]

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About the author

Matt Novak

Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog