The questions ICANN should reflect upon before considering any TLD removal
ICANN should carefully reflect upon any proposed TLD removal and answer the following very reasonable guiding questions:
1) How many current users would be affected by the removal of said TLD? If more than a certain number (somewhere in the range of 10-50 thousand would be reasonable), the domain name should not be removed.
2) What number of said domain's current users belong to academic and scientific communities? Unless the number is negligible, removal of the domain would be disruptive to their collaborators and correspondents in other countries, and the domain should not be removed as its removal would affect not merely private individuals and corporate entities but the very academic and research institutions that played a pivotal role in the creation of the Internet.
3) Are new users still joining the TLD in question in non-negligible numbers? Is domain-name registration in said TLD adequately managed? If yes, there is no need to remove it.
4) Most importantly, a "litmus test": IS THE PROPOSAL TO REMOVE A TLD MOTIVATED BY POLITICS? If yes, it must be immediately abandoned.
Of the TLDs currently considered for deletion, .SU most clearly fails all four above-listed removal criteria .YU, in my opinion, is a borderline case.
Indeed, the .SU top-level domain is very much alive. It is home to such internationally renowned organizations as the Moscow State University (msu.su), Novosibirsk Institute of Nuclear Physics (inp.nsk.su), St. Petersburg State University (uniphys.spb.su), Omsk University (univer.omsk.su), Protvino Institute for High Energy Physics (ihep.su), The Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (jinr.dubna.su), which is an international laboratory that is similar in its structure and mission to CERN, the birthplace of the WWW, and many others.
Moreover, the countries that used to be members of the Soviet Union continue to remain a single "cultural space," united by a common language, common cultural interests in literature, music and art, and by a massive amount of common, indivisible cultural heritage. In fact, in this particular respect - a common culture that they thrive to maintain - the nations of the former USSR are much closer to one another than the nations of the European Union or, say, Asia. At a time when TLDs such as .EU and .ASIA are being introduced, the idea to remove .SU as an "umbrella" TLD for the region that it covers has no merit.
Answers to your Guiding Questions:
1) No - unless the number of the TLD's users is negligible.
2) ICANN should gauge the potential negative impact of removing a particular TLD on the international Internet community. TLD removals that are guided primatiry by politics should be abandoned at this stage. Then, ICANN should seek comments from the existing users who will be affected; if the number of negative comments is sufficiently large, the TLD should be allowed to remain.
3) Once a decision to remove a TLD is made, it should be made public; however, second-tier domain name registration should be allowed to continue for more 5 years. After 5 years, the decision to close a TLD should be reviewed: if the use of the TLD slated for deletion has indeed declined over these 5 years, then second-tier domain-name registration should stop and the TLD should be removed after an additional 15 years of operation of existing domains, unless there is a substantial change in circumstances.
4) A test? This is funny. Almost like the idea of testing a switch to driving on the right side of the street in Great Britain by asking taxicabs to switch first, as a test case :-) No test.
5) Corporate lawyers would be best qualified to advise ICANN on this matter. My advice: stay away from opening a Pandora's box.
6) If a country changes its name, it should be able both to operate its old TLD (indefinitely) and to request a new one. Example: the United States is allowed both to operate its old TLDs (.gov, .mil, .edu, etc.) and its new TLD (.us).
Olga P. Senior Systems Engineer Sunnyvale, California