Jerry Brito, director of the technology policy program at the Mercatus Center, notes that the unrest in Libya could have an effect on the rest of the world, too -- at least that part of it that participates in social networking. Writing at, Brito notes that Twitter's default URL shortening service -- often necessary to remain within the site's 140-character limit -- is Most people don't realize that the ".ly" in the domain name stands for Libya, just as ".uk" domains are used for sites based in the United Kingdom. Brito reassures us Tweeps that our shortened URLs are safe -- for now.

"For .ly domains to be unresolvable the five .ly root servers that are authoritative *all* have to be offline, or responding with empty responses," said CEO John Borthwick. "Of the five root nameservers for the .ly TLD: two are based in Oregon, one is in the Netherlands and two are in Libya."

Those servers in Oregon and Europe will continue to let users get to .ly addresses as normal even if the Libyan servers are cut off. The more profound question, however, is what influence could a potential new Libyan government have over the domains?

In fact, the current regime already exercises some control over the domains. Brito points out that it prohibits .ly sites to go against "Islamic morality." A sex blogger, for example, had her .ly URL shortening service shut down.

This seems, of course, like the last thing we should be concerned about while watching the brutal violence taking place in the North African nation. But it's interesting to note that many Web surfers have a connection to the country that they didn't know they had.

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