The SWITCH foundation has been entrusted with a special task since the very beginning of the Internet in Switzerland and Liechtenstein: as the domain name registry, it manages all domain names ending in .ch and .li in the global Domain Name System (DNS). SWITCH provides the services this sovereign function entails on behalf of the Swiss Confederation (Federal Office of Communications) and the Principality of Liechtenstein (Office for Communications).
SWITCH and the Domain Name System
Domain name registries bear a great deal of responsibility in that the Internet can only keep working if the DNS does. Why do we need a DNS? The Internet is made up a vast number of interconnected computers. Each of these computers has its own unique Internet Protocol (IP) address, a long and complex identification number. If one computer wants to establish a connection to another over the Internet, it needs to know the other computer's IP address. This is why the Internet community welcomed the introduction of the DNS, which allows us to use domain names in place of IP addresses by translating each into the other. This work is done in the background by special DNS servers and remains unseen by most users. They simply type switch.ch, for example, into their browser's address bar, and their computer grabs the IP address from the DNS server, connects to the right SWITCH computer and loads the requested content into the browser in an instant.
SWITCH acts as the registry for all domain names ending in .ch and .li. Each domain name is entered, together with the holder's contact details, into a central register that provides the basis for operating the DNS servers and the Whois server, which runs a public tool for checking who is the holder of a given domain name. Whois information can be found at nic.ch and nic.li (NIC stands for Network Information Centre).
Officially tested infrastructure
Switzerland's Federal Council has placed the Internet on its list of "critical infrastructures", together with electricity, oil and water supplies, railways, roads and the banking system. Though invisible, the DNS for .ch and .li is a hugely important service without which communications in Switzerland would virtually grind to a halt. Mindful that a DNS server outage could have unforeseen consequences, the federal government carried out exacting tests on SWITCH's registry infrastructure. It must meet the very highest standards of security and stability. SWITCH passed with flying colours. Read more in our story "Reliability doesn't happen by accident".
Registering .ch and .li domain names
SWITCH's resale partners, known as registrars, are responsible for selling domain names to customers. For a list of registrars that can register domain names ending in .ch and .li, see nic.ch and nic.li. SWITCH stopped selling .ch domain names as of the beginning of January 2015 and successively handed over the related client support to its business partners, the registrars. This transfer process ended in May 2016. The basis for this change is the Ordinance on Internet Domains (ODI).