News / Blog

Why Tucows Doesn’t Take Down Domains for Website Content Issues

The answer to this question is long and complicated. Our goal in this statement is to try to be transparent about our reasoning and process. Fundamentally, Registrars are a key piece of the DNS, and part of the technical infrastructure of the Internet. Consequently, it is neither appropriate nor effective to resolve content issues at a Registrar.

Controversy tends to be focused on a single domain, but it is a mistake to consider domains in isolation. A free and open Internet hangs in the balance of how Registrars, ISPs, and other similar parties respond to takedown requests. Tucows controls about 10% of the total domains that exist today—the second-most of any single company in the world. This is an immense responsibility and our choices have extremely broad implications.

We do not see ourselves, or similar infrastructure companies, as the appropriate arbiters of what content belongs on the Internet. That power belongs to agencies of justice and should continue to be exercised via due process.

What is our role in relation to website content?

Tucows and its domain-related brands (OpenSRS, Enom, and Hover) are Registrars. It’s important to understand what a Registrar is, and what it can and cannot do. Registrars manage the technical infrastructure, which enables the buying and management of domain names. Domain names are not websites; they are strings of characters (such as ‘’) and act as a human-friendly layer that points to a website. Web-hosting companies, rather than Registrars, provide the services that allow website content to be available online, making that content accessible to Internet users.

Tucows cannot exercise control over the content of a website pointed to by a domain registered via our platform.

Because we’re not a web-hosting company, we cannot remove specific pages or content on a website. The tools available to a Registrar to address content issues are very blunt; we can only suspend a domain, or force the registrant (owner) to move it elsewhere.

We don’t consider forcing a registrant to transfer domains off our platform to be a compelling solution for multiple reasons:

1. It resolves nothing with transgressive website content. Forced transfers only push domains pointing to problematic website content elsewhere, which is both unfair to our competitors and devoid of actual resolution.

2. Multiple domains from multiple registrars may be pointed at a single website, limiting the efficacy of suspending any one single domain. If a domain is suspended, a replacement domain may be registered, pointed, propagated, and socialized in minutes, leading to an endless game of whack-a-mole.

To be clear, asking a Registrar to suspend a domain is an ineffective method of resolving content issues. The content can be relabeled, quickly and easily, with a new domain name, or accessed by use of an IP address.

Web-hosting companies are in a better position to address content issues. Web-hosts have the ability to provide a much more granular response and almost always have a direct relationship with their users and content.

Who has the right to decide what’s online?

We have Terms of Service that allows us broad capacity to cease providing services, as do most providers. The issue at hand is not what we could do, but what we should do. Tucows has always believed in a free and open Internet. It is imperative that those who operate as a fundamental piece of the Internet’s infrastructure, such as Registrars, Internet exchanges, and ISPs, remain content-neutral; their neutrality is essential in preserving the diversity of content on the Internet.

There are two scenarios in which we suspend domain names:

1. If there is evidence of due process

The reason due process is fundamental is that it represents the norms we’ve established as a society. When a court order arrives, dictating action, we can be confident that a domain has transgressed the law.

2. In “exigent circumstances”

This is where we are confronted with a situation that appears to represent an imminent threat of violence, injury, or significant crime. These are exceedingly rare. The judgement on exigent circumstances is always contextual and informed by as much information as we are able to gather at the time.

What should you do if you wish to remove content from the Internet?

Generally, the first step would be to approach the website owner, either via the contact information on the site itself, or through the contacts in Whois. Your second step would be to contact the web-host. Tucows is primarily a wholesale Registrar, and many of its resellers are web-hosts. You can identify the Tucows reseller responsible for a domain here. You can identify the reseller of a domain registered through Enom here.

Lastly, if you think the domain in question falls into one of the categories above, you can submit a ticket to our abuse team.

In conclusion

While, as an organization, we may vehemently disagree with the values and ideas a given website aims to disseminate, we feel the power to decide what types of content should and should not be online must rest with the people, rather than in the hands of a select group of corporations.

Further reading:

If you are interested in further reading regarding the relationship between Registrars and content, you could start with the following links:


Clarifying the Daily Stormer issue

Tucows (which owns the Enom, OpenSRS, and Hover brands) finds racism and its proponents detestable. We are proud to be a diverse company based in the most diverse city in the world. As well, Charlottesville, Virginia is home to a Tucows office and many of our employees there. We have all been shaken and deeply saddened by recent events.

In regards to the current issue around the Daily Stormer website, Tucows was never the webhost nor the registrar for the domain. Tucows provides a domain privacy service for millions of domains belonging to our wholesale domain resellers and to other registrars. The domain in question was transferred to one of our registrar partners and the privacy service was automatically applied.

Like Google, and GoDaddy before them, we felt this domain clearly violated our privacy service terms of service by inciting violence, and removed the privacy protection from the domain.

We are also monitoring our systems for incoming transfer requests for the Daily Stormer domain so that we can give our resellers the opportunity to deny those requests.

Domain names are gateways to speech and we take our responsibilities towards free speech and expression extremely seriously. Incitement to violence is not protected speech and the Daily Stormer regularly conducts such incitement, which is why we no longer provide it with any service.

The process of balancing free speech and the ugly opinions that people share is neither easy nor pleasant. Every day we receive many, many complaints about the content on any number of the 24 million domains on our platform. Let us be exceptionally clear: we find the content of many of these pages patently abhorrent and evidence of the worst that humanity can stoop to. Nevertheless, there are legal mechanisms and processes in place for dealing with issues of free speech and we consider it our responsibility to follow them.

We have and will act in what we call “exigent circumstances” where there is an imminent threat of violence or crime. GoDaddy responded to the Daily Stormer appropriately under these circumstances. However, these circumstances aside, we have found that the clearest path forward, to protect freedom of speech and expression, is to act where we have evidence that due-process has been observed. When such is provided to us, we act on it.

Telcos want control of the Internet. Together we can still stop them.

Time is running out to protect the Internet as we know it.

Today is a day to rally. A day to talk, to reach out and especially to act.

It’s the last chance to fight to keep fair and equal access to the Internet. The day we exercise our freedom of speech to maintain the same right online. The day we hold high the principle of common carriage; the principal that service providers must serve the general public without discrimination. A principle that started with blacksmiths, innkeepers and ship owners and is today part of our social contracts with public airlines, railroads, buses, taxicabs, freight and phone companies and yes, Internet service providers. The latter, because as Public Knowledge said so succinctly:

“Networks are so vital to the functioning of society that the maintenance of such networks cannot be left to the market solely.”

The Internet is the world’s principal source of information. We deserve access to all lawful content unedited, unfiltered, uncensored, unfettered. We want real journalism, not an echo chamber. We want to hear all voices, not only the ones who’ve paid to speak.

We don’t want a two-tiered system controlling online communication.

We are not alone.

At Tucows, we believe the Internet is the greatest agent for positive change the world has even seen. We are thrilled and humbled by what can be achieved when billions of people have access to information and a vehicle to communicate, collaborate and co-create. We are increasingly wary of large corporations that are willing to compromise customer experiences and impede progress to protect market share. We are similarly concerned about politicians that legislate on the Internet without truly understanding the world they are affecting.

So today we ask you to join our voice to protect the open Internet, by asking the FCC to preserve net neutrality. It’s easy. We promise.

Tucows Cuts the Crap

TORONTO, May 3, 2016After successful forays into fiber Internet, cell phone service and domain names, Tucows (NASDAQ: TCX, TSX: TC) removes the yoke from

There was a time when offering software and shareware for people to download was good, honest work.

But then. Then, things got ugly. Then came the dark days where software download sites needed to wring every possible cent out of their wares. Even Tucows downloads, the seminal software download site, was not immune.

Those days made finding a download button in among the various masquerading ads more like tiptoeing through a minefield. Downloading software became a high stakes mission: Double check the pop-up blocker to ensure it’s working. Fire up AdBlock. Deep breath. Swoop in, grab the software in question and run. Oh yeah, and be exceedingly careful what you agree to in the installation process of said software.

No, I don’t want to run a scan on my computer.

Yes, I really do want to close this browser window.

Please. Please just let me go. You can have your software back. Please.

It felt like the digital equivalent of shoplifting, but with all the moral turpitude squarely on the purveyor’s side.

No more. is once again a bastion for the way software downloads should be.

With Tucows’ success in wholesale and retail domain names (OpenSRS and Hover, respectively) and more recently with mobile phone service (Ting) and fiber Internet (Ting Internet), has become less relevant when looking at the balance sheet.

“We don’t lightly walk away from opportunities or revenue,” said Elliot Noss, CEO of Tucows. “In the end, though, we’d rather have the Tucows name associated with good; with a belief in the power of the Internet to affect positive change. An ad-heavy site that packages browser toolbars along with every download isn’t something we want the Tucows name associated with,” he continued.

In other words, Tucows is in the enviable position of being able to walk away from easy money in favor of doing what feels right.

“On the Tucows downloads site today, you’ll find no flashing ads. No toolbars. No pop-ups,” said Noss. “You might see a few plugs for other Tucows services, but nothing too egregious… and certainly not anything that’s pretending to be a download button.”

In the end, the hope is that maybe, if you enjoy downloading software from the only ad-free downloads site on the Internet, you might consider registering your next domain name with Hover, ditching your current cell phone plan for Ting, moving to a Ting fiber Internet town and embarking on a new career as a domain name reseller on the OpenSRS platform.

The Tucows downloads library has been online since 1993 where it launched, suitably enough, in a public library in Flint, MI. There was a time when almost literally everyone on the nascent Internet touched the Tucows downloads site.

Keeping busy
In 1999, Tucows launched OpenSRS ( to challenge the wholesale domain tools and options of the day. OpenSRS today is a major wholesale domain registrar and contributor to the Tucows business with over 13 million domain names under management and 13,000 reseller partners.

Hover (, meanwhile, challenges the idea that domain names are necessarily complicated and that the path to finding the right online home for your idea is a process that’s littered with upsells and confusion.

Ting ( challenges the bloated, overpriced and intentionally confusing cell phone plans of the day. In so doing, it saves over 200,000 families and businesses a bunch of money on their monthly mobile phone bills.

Ting Internet ( challenges the idea that fiber Internet only makes sense in bigger cities. It brings gigabit fiber Internet access to cities and towns throughout America. Towns that would otherwise be passed over as big guys race to get major metros online with fiber.

Media Contact:
Andrew Moore-Crispin

Investor Contact:
Lawrence Chamberlain

Ting job fair: Join the Ting team in St. Catharines!

We’ve put together a beautiful office space in downtown St. Catharines at the corner of King and James (Map). It’s a great place to spend the working hours and we’ve got the whole third floor to ourselves.

We’ll be holding a career fair from 3pm to 8pm on Thursday, September 10 and Monday, September 14, 2015. Our management teams will be on site and ready to talk to you about a career at Ting and Tucows so please bring your resume.

If “mobile that makes sense” and “crazy fast fiber Internet” sound like the kind of mission you can get behind, we’d love to meet you. Maybe even hang out for nine hours a day, five days a week for the foreseeable future.

We’re specifically looking for people to join our Customer Experience team in the following positions.

• Customer Experience Manager
• Customer Advisors
• Network Operations Center (NOC) Analyst

Check the Careers section for more details.

We’re always looking for great people to join the team so come out and say hello.


Mass Surveillance – The Day We Fight Back

Hey, Let’s All Get Together to End Mass Surveillance

Being able to conduct our private online affairs privately is important.

If you don’t need any further convincing, jump down to find out why online privacy matters to us, what we’re doing to help protect it and how you can help.

Perhaps our opening statement seems weird and anachronistic, seeing as we live in a world where people are increasing both the amount of information they share, and the speed at which they share it.

Here’s why we think online privacy is important.

Privacy gives us the space as individuals to find and define our sense of self, and for organizations and companies to innovate and experiment.

Mass surveillance strips us all of the opportunity to choose what information we share, when, where and with whom. The choice between what’s public and what’s private is now in the hands of those that control the data.

Over the past eight months, the details of various national mass surveillance programs have been brought to light. We find the broad and unmitigated power that’s being entrusted to bodies like the National Security Agency (NSA) truly frightening.

We are pretty upset about it. We think you should be pretty upset about it too.

These mass surveillance programs undermine trust in our governments and in the corporations that provide access to and services on the Internet. Most importantly, it undermines trust in the Internet itself. It is the Internet that brings us together and allows us to share in each other’s experiences.

Why it matters to us

For OpenSRS: There is a crisis of faith in the organizations that govern the Internet. That, consequently, undermines how our business operates. The policies and procedures that are part of running the Internet infrastructure businesses depend on requires global trust in the organizations that develop and enforce them. Perhaps these organizations, like the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), are too closely connected to the US government, but can they become more global without benefitting those that would seek to control, censor and undermine the Internet?

For Ting: We’ve tried very hard to build a unique service. We’re open and transparent in our pricing and in how we interact with our customers. After years of gouging and poor customer service, it’s no wonder that there is a general lack of trust in mobile service providers. Now, though, it’s also clear that some companies have been providing warrantless, wholesale data access to surveillance programs. Customers are now concerned that we’re providing their phone records and meta-data to these programs without notification or due process. Though we haven’t received any law enforcement requests for user information, these concerns are understandable.

What we’re doing about it

We’re trying to raise awareness through this post and by participating in The Day We Fight Back. We’re also raising money for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

  • Hover will be donating $1 for every domain transferred to Hover on February 11.
  • Ting will be donating $1 up to $10,000 for everyone that shares this post from the Ting blog using the sharing tools there.

What You can do About It:

Here’s the great bit. Just over a year ago, citizens joined together online to defeat some rather heinous digital communications legislation. We know that individual voices matter, and we’ve seen the change they can bring.

If you’re American: Use the banner at the bottom of this post to contact your legislator and let them know that mass surveillance is unacceptable.

If you’re Canadian: Sign the petition hosted by OpenMedia. Or you can find and contact your member of parliament. Now is an excellent time to ask for increased oversight of the Communications Security Establishment (CSE).

Global citizens: Visit The Day We Fight Back and tweet, Facebook, or G+ your support for ending programs of mass surveillance.

10th Anniversary Telecommunications Forum, February 24-25, 2014 in Ottawa, Canada


Tucows CEO Elliot Noss has been invited to speak at the 10th Anniversary Telecommunications Forum on February 24-25, 2014 in Ottawa. He’ll be delivering a lunchtime keynote presentation on February 25 titled, “The Dire State of Networks in Canada, and How We Can Take Advantage of It.”

His presentation is likely to get the attention of a few carriers, some policy makers and industry players and a whole lot of potential customers.

We’ve had great success in the US market with Ting, and we’d love to help push for change in the Canadian market as well.

We’ve secured a 10% discount off the regular conference fee. Use discount code #19382 when you register.

Visit for more information and to register for the event.

Take Action for Fairer and Better Laws Governing the Internet

This week, we’re asking for you help to sound the alarm over a proposal currently making its way through the US House Judiciary Committee that would expand and harshen certain parts of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).

There is a possibility that the proposed changes to the CFAA could come up for a vote as early as this week, according to Demand Progress.

The amendments proposed would allow for the CFAA to be interpreted so broadly that all sorts of mundane Internet use could be criminalized, even going as far as to criminalize breaking a website’s fine print terms of service agreement. Something as simple as creating a Facebook page for your cat, or adding a couple of inches to your height in your online profile for an Internet dating service could expose you to prosecution for a federal crime under the CFAA.

Justice for Aaron Swartz

You’ll note a “Justice for Aaron” badge or banner on many Tucows sites this week that alerts visitors to the need for action, directing them to a site set up to explain the situation and asking them to contact their elected lawmakers.

Aaron Swartz was an Internet activist who was prosecuted under the CFAA in 2011 for downloading academic journals from a system called JSTOR. Earlier this year, Aaron committed suicide due, in part, to the pressure of a potential jail sentence of up to 35 years and a fine of a $1 million that he faced as a result of the heavy-handed prosecution.

Aaron was very involved in fighting against things like the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and was instrumental in the creation of web standards and protocols like RSS and Markdown in addition to his activist work.

In memory of Aaron, US lawmakers have joined together to proposed a series of amendments to the CFAA called, “Aaron’s Law.” These changes would tighten the Act and would ensure that no one else would face the kind of persecution that Aaron Swartz faced thanks to the CFAA.

Take action

We ask that you take a look at the Justice for Aaron website and get involved. That could mean contacting your elected representatives if you live in the US, or simply raising awareness by putting the badge on your website or Facebook profile this week. Join sites like BoingBoing, Reddit, Demand Progress, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Tucows in this effort.

If you want to learn more about Aaron Swartz, Aaron’s Law or the CFAA, you can visit some of the links below.

Verisign and the US Department of Commerce – Our Take

This morning, it was announced that Verisign and the US Department of Commerce had come to an agreement that allows Verisign to continue to operate the .com domain for another six years.

What was missing from that contract was the hot topic of conversation this morning – Verisign no longer has the right to four price increases of 7% over the term of the agreement. In other words, .com domains will likely remain prices at $7.85 until November, 2018 when the new agreement comes up for renewal again.

Verisign does have the right to increase prices if they can prove “extraordinary” expense resulting from and attack or threat of attack on the security or stability of the DNS. Any price increase would require Verisign to prove that the increase served the public interest before the Department of Commerce would approve.

Verisign could also seek a price increase if it could prove that market conditions no longer warranted the new restrictions that are put in place with this agreement. Again, that would require Department of Commerce approval.

Tucows’ Take

Elliot Noss, Tucows President and CEO, says that the new agreement between the Department of Commerce and Verisign “rights a wrong in the last contract.”

Tucows has been very outspoken about .com pricing, and we were clear at the time of the last renewal that we did not believe Verisign should have been given the right to price increases.

It’s good news for registrants and the Internet as a whole.

Elliot also suggests that the new contract could even turn out to be good for Verisign going forward. The previous contract provided them with an opportunity to raise prices. As a public company with a fiduciary responsibility to maximize shareholder value, Elliot notes that investors, who often think in the short term, would put immense pressure on Verisign to exercise those price increases.

He goes on to suggest that having the option to raise prices four times in the next six years may have turned into a competitive disadvantage for Verisign given the new gTLDs coming online within the next 12 to 18 months.

By not having price increases available to them as a way to grow revenues, Verisign is will be driven to more efficiency and innovation. Certainly, the conference call Verisign hosted this morning featured a lot of talk of innovation, patents, and the addition of new value-added and revenue generating services like Distributed Denial of Service attack protection.

One thing is for sure, and perhaps this is the most important part of the contract extension announcement: Verisign continuing to be the operator of the .com extension for the next six years is great news for everyone. Verisign has proven itself to be an exceptionally good operator of the root. From a technology and service perspective, .com is clearly in good hands.

You can read the US Department of Commerce statement here.

OpenSRS Announces Industry Best Wholesale Pricing on Extended Validation SSL

– Also adds new Subject Alternative Name (SAN) SSL certificates –

TORONTO, September 20, 2012 – Tucows Inc. (NYSE AMEX:TCX) (TSX:TC), a global provider of domain names and other Internet services, today announced significantly reduced pricing for resellers on Extended Validation (EV) SSL certificates through its OpenSRS wholesale Internet services division.

OpenSRS resellers will immediately benefit from the lowest published wholesale list prices on Symantec Secure Site Pro with EV, GeoTrust True BusinessID with EV, Thawte SSL Web Server with EV, Trustwave Extended Validation SSL with EV, and Comodo EV SSL certificates.

“We’re taking this leadership role on Extended Validation SSL pricing because we strongly believe the advantages of EV should be accessible to a wider range of potential users,” said Dave Woroch, EVP Sales, OpenSRS. “Our resellers will now be able to offer the benefits of EV SSL to more of their small- and mid-sized business customers and, in turn, consumers will benefit from the increased protection that EV SSL provides.”

In addition to lower EV SSL pricing, OpenSRS also announced the addition of new Subject Alternative Name (SAN) SSL certificates from Symantec, GeoTrust and Thawte. These products are often used to secure Unified Communications (UC) servers including Microsoft Exchange and allow for multiple domain names to be added to a single SSL certificate.

The addition of SAN certificates further ensures that OpenSRS resellers are able to provide the appropriate SSL certificate for their customers no matter the brand, type, price point or level of protection required.

A full product and price list is available at

About Tucows

Tucows is a global Internet services company. OpenSRS ( manages over twelve million domain names and millions of value-added services through a reseller network of over 12,000 web hosts and ISPs. Hover ( is the easiest way for individuals and small businesses to manage their domain names and email addresses. ( is a mobile phone service provider dedicated to bringing clarity and control to US mobile phone users. YummyNames ( owns and operates premium domain names that generate revenue through advertising or resale. More information can be found on Tucows’ corporate website (

i2Coalition Officially Formed

Today, September 17, 2012, marks the official formation of the Internet Infrastructure Coalition or i2Coalition, a group dedicated to supporting private investment to drive the “nuts and bolts” of the Internet for continued growth. i2Coaltion includes more than 40 industry leading infrastructure providers and tech firms.

Tucows is proud to be one of the founding members in the i2Coalition.

The idea for the i2Coalition came about in 2011, when many of the founding members joined together during the winning campaigns educating the public and elective officials about the intrusive Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). The i2Coaltion will continue the mission to advocate for public policy goals essential for Internet infrastructure growth. As part of the launch, i2Coalition co-founder and Board Chair Christian Dawson outlines the group’s public policy priorities and mission in the following video:

The i2Coalition supports the needs of the Internet infrastructure industry to develop market-based standards to drive innovation, which is crucial for continued growth. It intends to be a unified voice for public policy advocacy and education for the industry.

If you or your company shares that vision and serve the Internet infrastructure industry, please consider joining the i2Coalition by visiting the i2Coalition membership page to learn more.

CISPA and protecting your personal online freedom

During the SOPA / PIPA debacle, Internet denizens came out in droves to beat the bills back and protect our collective online rights. We, as in the Internet at large, said that the battle was won but the war would continue. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act is the latest attempt at an affront to your online freedom.

CISPA hits the senate floor for voting in early June having already passed the US House of Representatives. If passed by the Senate, the last hope to get CISPA sent back to the proverbial drawing board would be a White House veto.

If passed, CISPA would provide broad authority to government organizations to collect and pass information between agencies. “Cyber threat information,” as the bill puts it. Ostensibly, CISPA is intended as a response to cyber security threats from hackers, terrorists or criminals. CISPA would give broad allowances for government agencies to pass our private information and communications between themselves. Currently, doing so leaves said agencies open to lawsuits from private citizens. Perhaps more disturbing, it allows (or could force) private organizations to pass information to government agencies under the same provisions.

The language in CISPA is in some cases so vague that it would be too easy to put to ill use. The powers afforded are too broad and would allow the government and private corporations like Facebook, Google et. al. to pass private information freely, with impunity. All under the guise of protecting against a “cyber threat.” The language explaining what exactly constitutes a cyber threat is also too broadly and loosely defined (see page 15 of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act) and potentially sacrifices too many of our personal freedoms.

Our issues with CISPA are many. As concerned Internet citizens, we worry about what it would mean for personal online privacy—both yours and our own. As an Internet company that takes your privacy very (very) seriously, we worry about our ability to protect your online privacy, for our part, will be severely compromised.

If you feel, as we do, that CISPA is an ill conceived and too loosely defined a bill, please make your voices heard.

At Tucows, we feel that the Internet—whether accessed on your computer, on your smartphone or via any other vehicle—is vitally important. CISPA is a very serious threat to the freedom and privacy we take for granted online.

Freedom to Connect

If you are at all interested in issues like Internet openness and net neutrality, then you’ll want to check out F2C: Freedom to Connect. It’s a fantastic two-day conference devoted to preserving and celebrating the essential properties of the Internet, coming up on May 21 and 22nd, in Washington, DC.

Read on to learn how to win a free pass to F2C or get a discount on your registration!

This year’s F2C conference features a very strong lineup of presenters and panelists. F2C: Freedom to Connect logoConfirmed keynote speakers include Vint Cerf, Michael Copps, Cory Doctorow, Benoît Felten, Rebecca MacKinnon, Eben Moglen, Mike Marcus and Aaron Swartz.

Here’s a good explanation of what F2C is all about:

The Internet is a success today because it is stupid, abundant and simple. In other words, its neutrality, its openness to rapidly developing technologies and its layered architecture are the reasons it has succeeded where others (e.g., ISDN, Interactive TV) failed.

The Internet’s issues are under-represented in Washington DC policy circles. F2C: Freedom to Connect is designed to advocate for innovation, for creativity, for expression, for little-d democracy. The Freedom to Connect is about an Internet that supports human freedoms and personal security. These values, held by many of us whose consciousness has been shaped by the Internet, are not common on K Street or Capitol Hill or at the FCC.

F2C: Freedom to Connect is about having access to the Internet as infrastructure. Infrastructures belong to — and enrich — the whole society in which they exist. They gain value — in a wide variety of ways, some of which are difficult to anticipate — when more members of society have access to them. F2C: Freedom to Connect especially honors those who build communications infrastructure for the Internet in their own communities, often overcoming resistance from incumbent cable and telephone companies to do so.

The phrase Freedom to Connect is now official US foreign policy, thanks to Secretary of State Clinton’s Remarks on Internet Freedom in 2010. She said that Freedom to Connect is, “the idea that governments should not prevent people from connecting to the internet, to websites, or to each other. The freedom to connect is like the freedom of assembly, only in cyberspace.” Her speech presaged the Internet-fueled assemblies from Alexandria, Egypt to Zuccotti Park.

Win a Free Pass, or Get 33% Off Registration

F2C meshes very nicely with our corporate ideals about how the Internet should work and how it needs to be protected and nurtured. Our mobile service Ting is a proud sponsor of the event and we have a couple of discount options for those of you who are looking to attend.

  • First up, we have a free pass to give away to one person. We simply ask that you email us and give us a short explanation on why you think you should attend. Act fast – we’ll have a look at the emails and choose a winner on April 11th.
  • For those who don’t get the free pass, we also have a discount code that you can use to get 33% off the registration fee. When you register, use promo code “TING33”.

The cost for the conference is $349 until April 16, after which the cost goes up a bit. That discount code will work until April 30.

For more information, and to register, visit the F2C: Freedom to Connect website.

The Internet is Sentient


There is a battle going on between the Internet and those who are threatened by the Internet’s values. This includes anyone protecting old business models; incumbent telcos and cablecos, and rights collectives representing old distribution models for intellectual property. Most importantly, the greatest threat is to the power of the nation-state itself.

This struggle is marked by the Internet achieving sentience. I use sentience here to describe the deep symbiosis of the network and the people that use it and the huge quantity of emergent properties that result. The whole is vastly greater than the sum of the parts.


The Internet has achieved sentience. It is some different version of Kurzweil’s singularity, but it exists today. The Internet is self-improving, it propagates its unique values and, most importantly, it has now matured to the point where it is able to protect itself from any threat.

This sentience is a fusion of network and people. Recognizing its existence is central to understanding how society will evolve with and through it and to making this symbiosis as healthy as it can be. For many, this sentience is understood on an implied level. This will be better if made express.

It constantly improves

From its inception the Internet has been on a path of continual self-improvement. We can see this in everything from the way that content delivery became more efficient (compression, local caches, CDNs) to the way languages have become more efficient (C++ to Java to Perl to Python to Ruby to JavaScript) to the way that social has become more efficient (the progression from ICQ to Facebook/Twitter and beyond).

Every element of the Internet eventually gets improved upon with huge network effects, and those network effects are just accelerating. Not only is the Internet improving with the number of people connected, it is improving the very people connected to it.

It propagates its values

The Internet has often been described as valueless. It is not. In fact strong values have emerged. The Internet stands for openness, connectedness, sharing and fairness. It facilitates these things and propagates them. Think of the generally increasing difficulty that corruption and unfairness are having, from dictators to unfriendly business practices.

The Arab Spring and Verizon removing an unfair $2 surcharge are equally good examples. A groundswell starts and does not come from any one voice, but seems to come from the collective consciousness. It seems to come from everywhere at the same time.

It responds to threats

The Internet itself now clearly responds to things that threaten it. The response is multi-faceted, coming from many different places and in many different ways.

We see responses to legislative threats like SOPA and ACTA where people all over the world have responded to specific national legislation in a way never before seen.

We see this when we see Anonymous and others attacking various parties and entities that threaten the Internet and its values, almost like mutated white blood cells in the Internet’s bloodstream. And of course there is no specific person or thing that is Anonymous. Watching those threatened take a traditional approach to stopping it approaches farce.

We see this when we see plans arise for alternatives to the present Internet in response to threats from those who fear it. As the SOPA debate kicked into high gear a Reddit discussion on “Plan B” kicked off and has not slowed down despite the immediate threat passing. This was not even close to the only dialogue of its kind. The collective consciousness of the Internet understands the threat as continual and existential and in no way limited to SOPA, PIPA or ACTA. Those threatened, on the other hand, think they have a “PR problem” and that somehow Google and Silicon Valley have fooled people.

Finally, the Internet responding to threats to its existence is happening at an increasing rate. Draw a line through Citizen Lab, EFF and others in the late 90’s, TOR and others in the late 00’s and the responses that we have seen in the last months. This trend will accelerate.

What are the implications of sentience

When we interact with the Internet, whether it is in platform design, marketing or our own personal use of social media we need to keep the concept of sentience in mind. It can change the way we approach these tasks.

When we interact with the Internet we need to not only to expect it to change and evolve but we need to actively think about our own participation in this evolution. We are each a tiny part of the sentience of the Internet.

Perhaps most importantly for this post and for the broad theme of conflict between value systems, any attempt to legislate, regulate or otherwise control the Internet ignores sentience at its peril.


The genie of the Internet is out of the bottle. From now on, its sentience will protect its independence, whether one likes it or not. If those threatened try and squeeze too tightly the Internet will simply get up and walk away. The nation-state can no longer control the Internet but it can do significant damage to it, and in doing so to itself.

The hope is that acknowledging and discussing the Internet as sentient will allow us to approach its relationship with the nation-state, and other interests who feel threatened by it, in a way that more smoothly eases us into the future.

Why We Don’t Like SOPA

The proposed SOPA (and equally odious “Protect IP Act“) legislation is fundamentally flawed in how it works and the damage it is likely to do to the Internet, which has been the greatest platform for innovation the world has ever seen. For that reason we will be joining the blackout organized by our friends at Reddit by blacking out the Tucows Software Download site on January 18th from 8am to 8pm EST (1300-0100 UTC).

The Internet is a global creature. A “Made in the USA” solution will no more work to stop the problems talked of than would one made in any other single nation state. Worse, the US has been at the forefront of ensuring that the Internet has remained free and a platform for innovation for the last fifteen years. With SOPA, or ProtectIP, that leadership will effectively end and Syria, China, Iran and others will not only use the US as a role model, they will also use these actions as further evidence of US control of the Internet and justification for trying to turn it over to the UN/ITU. This is best described by Susan Crawford.

Worse, the legislation itself is fundamentally corrupt. It is bought and paid for by big media, trying vainly to protect anachronistic business models. This has been demonstrated clearly in all of the hearings and the very conduct of the debate. Listening to how deeply uninformed those being asked to legislate this issue are has been nothing short of scary. Watching how support and opposition has lined up has been disheartening. This is the worst example of the kind of fundamental corruption that is at the heart of the US political system currently and is well defined by Professor Larry Lessig. If you have ten minutes please watch this video on the subject. If you have an hour please watch this one.

The Internet is not a corpus, it is not a thing. It is a series of protocols, which are really agreements on how computers will behave when connected to the Internet. Treating the Internet like a thing to be legislated and controlled is as ill conceived as treating “Intellectual Property” like physical property and leads to even greater perversions. If governments squeeze too tightly, the Internet as we know it will simply get up and walk away. It will fracture and split with a “clean” Internet and a much larger Darknet. than there is today, but not one used mainly for file sharing. Instead the Darknet will become the real Internet. Brands will sell things and Media will offer content on the “Cleannet”, but the Darknet will be where ideas are shared, plans are made, memes are propagated and where most of the cool people, including most of our children, will be.

Prohibitions have never worked to change behaviours. They simply make people who fear things feel good and create a new mini-industry for fear mongers to make money off of. They do not change behaviours.

If you wish to get involved we suggest you visit Stop American Censorship, and that you follow @tucows on Twitter where we’re we’ll be tweeting regularly about the movement to stop SOPA.


Tucows Announces Commencement of Dutch Auction Tender Offer to Repurchase up to 6.5 Million Common Shares

TORONTO, Dec. 20, 2011 – Tucows Inc. (NYSE AMEX:TCX), (TSX:TC) a global provider of domain names, email and other Internet services, announced today that it is commencing its modified “Dutch auction” tender offer to repurchase up to 6,500,000 shares of its common stock, representing approximately 12.2% of Tucows’ outstanding shares, as previously announced on December 15, 2011. The closing price of Tucows common stock on the NYSE Amex on December 19, 2011 was $0.75.
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