As Libya turns to Internet curfews instead of an outright Egyptian-style Internet lockdown, bit.ly users worry about the fate of their favorite URL shortening service.
As the violence escalated in Libya,
following the mass wave of demonstrations that has swept the Middle
East region in the past few weeks, the government took the
all-predictable step of restricting access to the Internet.
As protesters called for an end to dictatorial rule, Col. Moammar Gadhafi's
government seems to be issuing an "Internet curfew," cutting the
country off late at night and resuming services shortly after dawn, instead of
a complete shutdown, according to traffic monitoring data.
Bit.ly users don't have to worry about their favorite URL shortener, since
the service is expected to remain unaffected, Bit.ly CEO
John Borthwick wrote on Quora
a Q&A site.
block Internet traffic, as Egypt
did, it will not affect http://bit.ly or any .ly domain," he wrote.
For .ly domains to be unresolvable, all five .ly root servers have to be
offline, or replying with empty responses, Borthwick wrote. Of the five, only
two are in Libya.
Another two are based in Oregon
while the fifth one is in the Netherlands,
However, Kim Davies, a Los Angeles-based engineer who works on Internet
governance and core infrastructure, followed up Borthwick's posting on Feb. 19,
pointing out that it is a "sense of false confidence" to say that
country-code domains are "impervious" to government-mandated
shutdowns. The domains will keep running, but the authoritative servers rely on
regular updates from the .ly registry inside Libya,
Davies wrote. If the servers can't get regular updates, they will consider the
data "stale" and stop providing information, which will cause the
sites to become inaccessible, according to Davies.
The maximum time for registry updates is configured for 28 days, but some
domains may have a shorter expiration date, requiring more frequent updates. If
the servers can't communicate with the registry in a timely manner, those
domains will eventually be "compromised," Davies said.
Another site, page.ly, will be unaffected because the service "does not
utilize the page.ly domain at all," wrote Joshua Strebel, founder of page.ly
on Feb. 21. The "only possible effect is on our own website
branding/position," he wrote.
Whether that will happen is unclear at this point, as Internet service keeps
going up and down in Libya.
reported that 13 globally routed Libyan network prefixes were withdrawn early
Saturday morning, local time. The routers came back online nine hours later,
and full connectivity was restored, Renesys said. The Internet shut down again
for nine hours early Sunday, suggesting an "Internet curfew," Renesys
said. Data from Arbor Networks' ATLAS service corroborated Renesys' data.
It appears that most of Internet service is locked down, or heavily
restricted, from about 1 a.m. to 8 a.m. local time, according to monitoring data.
provides information about traffic to Google services
such as News, Gmail, Blogger and Search. The tool shows regular cycles of no
activity from Libya
in the early hours of Feb. 19 and Feb. 20, and sharp dips on Feb. 21 and Feb.
22. Traffic levels appear to have been severely reduced beginning Feb. 17.
YouTube has been nearly inaccessible since early Feb. 17, according to the
Transparency Report. The Al-Jazeera news service has reported that its site is
still unavailable from within the country.
It's still unclear as to why the Libyan government has decided to confine
the blackout to only a few hours each night. There is some speculation that the
regime is trying to avoid the international outcry or economic loss Egypt
faced for its nine-day shutdown earlier this month.
As in Egypt,
a number of workarounds have emerged on Twitter, with information on getting
online in Libya
despite the blackout. There are a number of Twitter posts claiming that XS4ALL,
a "hacker-friendly" Internet service provider based in the Netherlands,
is offering all its modem lines for free to Libyans, with a phone number
(international call), username and password.
However, eWEEK could not confirm the information on either XS4ALL's
Website or on its Twitter feed. XS4ALL has
not confirmed the validity of the phone number.
Other Twitter messages provide IP addresses for getting onto Facebook,
Twitter and Google.
and mobile services are tightly controlled by the state, as Libya Telecom &
Technology's chairman is Muhammad Gadhafi, the eldest son of Col. Gadhafi.
Gadhafi has controlled Libya
for more than 40 years, since 1969. This is longer than both Tunisian President
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian President Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak,
who resigned after demonstrations called for an end to their rule.