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This question comes from a possibly stupid idea, but I want to make sure its as not-stupid as possible.

I want to tattoo a QR code on my arm, that encodes a website. The domain has to be as short as possible for the QR to be as small as possible. Now I found a nice domain name, but its TLD is .gy.

The tattoo is rather permanent, and I know things on the internet are not always like that.

So my main concern is - what happens if the country governing that TLD ceases to exist? What if they are involved in war? What if there's administrative errors and they fail to keep ownership over their TLD?

I just have a feeling that a .gy domain is much more likely to disappear / malfunction as compared to .com or .nl.

Are those feelings correct? Would it be safer for me to go for a .com domain?

That tattoo would be stupid, but one thats not working anymore would be even more stupid.

EDIT: The deed has been done, and its working great :) I decided to go with an even shorter domain (one that I still had), and one from my own country. Fits great in a 21x21 with "medium" ECC. The URL thats encoded is the following: Click on your own discretion. photo of qr code tattoo

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    I'd add a couple questions to your list of concerns: "what if i fail to renew the domain in time and someone else captures it" and "what if renewal becomes prohibitively expensive". – gronostaj May 3 at 14:56
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    Just fun fact, the USSR TLD is still around. – Jan Dorniak May 4 at 0:21
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    I had to look it up but I'm doubtful Guyana is going anywhere in your lifetime – Journeyman Geek May 4 at 4:17
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    You realize you'd also have to maintain that site in perpetuity, lest some one else take it over. .Q:"What's that on your arm?" A: "Oh, that's the QR code to the revenge website my ex set up; I forgot to renew and my ex got a little vengeful". That would be stupid and awkward. Or perhaps you just fall afoul of some Gov't law requiring citizenzhip or local presence for a national TLD-based website. – Ian W May 4 at 8:18
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    What if QR-codes stop being "a thing"? – d-b May 4 at 10:10
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Yes, top level domains disappear:

.zr is the former Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for Zaire. When Zaire was renamed to Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1997, .zr was phased out and .cd took its place. In 2001, .zr was deleted.1

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.zr

Additionally you might lose the right to renew:

On 29 March 2018, as a consequence of the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union, it was announced that "as of the withdrawal date, undertakings and organisations that are established in the United Kingdom but not in the EU, and natural persons who reside in the United Kingdom will no longer be eligible to register .eu domain names or, if they are .eu registrants, to renew .eu domain names registered before the withdrawal date".

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.eu

Or the price might be increased significantly:

The TLDs seeing the biggest price hikes are .hosting and .juegos (Spanish for “games”) which are going up from about $20 retail and about $10 retail respectively to about $300 apiece. [...] Names in .audio, .blackfriday, .diet, .flowers, hiphop .guitars and .property, currently priced in the $10 to $25 range, will all start retailing for about $100 per year.

Source: http://domainincite.com/21603-schilling-big-price-increases-needed-to-keep-new-gtlds-alive and the user Coburn who was able to provide a source.

As for stability of a western European country vs south american countries: Hard to say. The last two world wars weren't that long ago and were 'centered' in Europe, so who knows where the next 'round' of country and border destabilizing war will be. Also worth noting that QR codes as a way to share hyperlinks won't stay relevant forever either, imagine right now if someone had a tattoo of a usenet group. Point of all of this together is: URLs (and QR codes as a way to encode them) aren't meant in any way to be permanent.

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    If you want something on your body to open a webpage an implantable NFC chip (or just an NFC bracelet 😅) might work better. It's removable if NFC becomes passe and it's editable if you want to change the website link. – David Mulder May 4 at 0:25
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    The usenet group tattoo would now be considered "retro" and increased 200% in coolness. – WooShell May 4 at 9:20
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    "QR codes won't last forever either" -- the QR code is just a way of encoding the URL (a piece fo text), it'll be possible to decode it as long as you can find a description of how the encoding works. Which is a bit different from a Usenet group, which depends on other people running servers to carry the group. Sure, QR codes can become passé, so it won't be as easy to access the software required to decode it. – ilkkachu May 4 at 9:24
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    ...or the http protocol that you'd prefix your url with could be replaced with something else. Oh wait, that's pretty much happened (https). Surely that'll be around forever, though. – A C May 4 at 15:40
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    A lot more European countries have disappeared in the past 40 years than South American ones. And that was without a world war too. – RBarryYoung May 4 at 17:23
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All domains are ultimately controlled by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

From Wikipedia:

ICANN is an American multistakeholder group and nonprofit organization responsible for coordinating the maintenance and procedures of several databases related to the namespaces and numerical spaces of the Internet, ensuring the network's stable and secure operation

They assign the registries for Top Level Domains, including the countries. They let the countries decide who their registries are.

In short, nothing is permanent. Countries, registries, or even tattoos.

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    I think you just pushed me over the edge on scarring this domain name into my wrist :) – Rob May 3 at 15:13
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    @Rob just make sure he does it right. baklol.com/baks/Funny/Worst-Tattoo-Spelling-Mistakes-_19 – Keltari May 3 at 15:19
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    I would check it considerably more thoroughly than you checked your question. "seize" to exist??? [You missed a couple of apostrophes too ;) Also, unless you have heritage connections to a country, you ought to check out its political 'optics' on the world stage. If, for instance, you have strong positive opinions on gay relationships, don't align yourself with a country where it's illegal. – Tetsujin May 3 at 16:58
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    Even if the address does turn out to be permanent, how do you think we older users feel about our tattoos of Gopher or UUCP paths? – jeffB May 4 at 0:06
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    @jeffB - even my compuserve address is starting to feel a little passé these days ;) – Tetsujin May 4 at 8:01
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TL;DR

The TLD will probably outlive the legibility of your tattoo.


While the other answers address the technical aspect I'd like to address the physical aspect.

  • Unless you are being tattooed by a machine then you'd have to bestow a lot of trust in your artist to make it perfect
  • Tattoos fade. Do you plan on undergoing this endeavor every decade or so?
  • Tattoos blur. I have no idea how this issue would be corrected.
  • Once your skin starts wrinkling then will you get Botox in that specific area?
  • Consider writing out the URL below the QR code for the aforementioned reasons
  • What happens when we switch from HTTPS to HTTPSS or something. Will your old URL be forwarded properly?
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  • Also most tattoo regret comes from small tattoos (I don't have the statistics to hand but it's genuinely been measured not just guessed). People who get really big tattoos all over their arms / chest / whatever don't usually regret them. People who get one or two small tattoos on their wrists and ankles often do. – niemiro May 4 at 15:55
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  • This is 100% the actual issue with the idea - tattoos both fade AND blur over time, I think it's very unlikely a QR code tattoo would still be scannable after a few years. boredpanda.com/tattoo-aging-before-after/… – Nathan Griffiths May 5 at 4:25
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    The concern noted here is valid, but do note that QR codes are specifically designed to remain scannable even if distorted or partially obscured. I'm not aware of any specific studies on how well they tolerate skin distortion or tattoo fading (might make for nice YouTube video, maybe using a temporary henna tattoo or even just a QR code printed on a rubber balloon or something), but I'd be reasonably confident that a well made tattoo should remain more or less scannable for most of a lifetime. – Ilmari Karonen May 5 at 17:08
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You might not need an exotic 2-character TLD, and could go for a slightly longer .com or .net:

Assuming you are aiming for the lowest resolution QR code (21x21 pixels), you have several options depending on error correction level (see Version 1 in Byte Mode of ISO/IEC 18004:2000(E) standard).

Version 1, Byte Mode, 21x21 pixels:
  EC Low (7%)          http://abcdef.com  (17 chars)
  EC Medium (15%)      http://zyx.com     (14 chars)
  EC Quartile (25%)    abcdefg.com        (11 chars)
  EC High (30%)        abc.com            (7 chars)

The latter two assume most phones will recognize the text as an URL without the http:// prefix (which is true today, but perhaps not in the future).

Not sure what is optimal here: lower resolution with less EC, or higher resolution but more resiliance against faded/malformed tattoo?! In case you decide for more error correction and higher 25x25 resolution:

Version 2, Byte Mode, 25x25 pixels:
  EC Medium (15%)      http://abcdefghijklmno.com   (26 chars)
  EC Quartile (25%)    http://abcdefghi.com         (20 chars)
  EC High (30%)        http://zyx.net               (14 chars)
  EC High (30%)        abcdefghij.com               (14 chars)

Beware that even the 21x21 pixel resolution is already quite high for a human tattoo artist to draw. So make sure your tattoo will be reasonably sized, otherwise the QR code will not work reliably. For example http://abcdef.com:

enter image description here

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    You don't even need a good 6 char .com name; it can be a mish-mash of any chars. Buy the short domain and permanently forward it to the real domain. The end user would never know unless they paid attention. People trust bit.ly links so I doubt they'd think twice about OP's domain. – MonkeyZeus May 5 at 11:55
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    @FreeMan The year is 2088 and the mortician is preparing things for the services but notices a QR code on the person's wrist so they scan it. Lo and behold OP has rick-rolled someone just one last time. – MonkeyZeus May 5 at 12:36
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    At 21x21, you fit 17 characters in byte mode, not alphanumeric. Alphanumeric is only uppercase (and would allow 25 characters), but even though many QR code readers support uppercase URLs, some don't and behave weirdly. Note however that 17 characters implies error correction level L (low), when higher levels may be useful here. – jcaron May 5 at 12:44
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    I'm pretty sure some QR Code readers don't support URLs not starting with http://, https:// or www.. – jcaron May 5 at 12:46
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    @MonkeyZeus I may have been unclear. The QR Code readers will indeed always recognise and read the QR Code. But most can open the URL the QR Code contains if they recognise it as a URL. The criteria for doing so vary a lot from one reader to another. It is possible some will let you "open" anything as if it were a URL, while others only recognise text starting with http or www. Some are tolerant for upper-case, some are not. If you want to be able to open the URL just after scanning it, starting with lower-case http:// or https:// is strongly recommended. – jcaron May 5 at 15:31
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It's probably also worth pointing out that perhaps the most infamous example of a tld surviving its country is the .su domain. Only 15 months after it was assigned, the Soviet Union was dissolved into its constituent parts. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.su). Despite dissolution, the .su tld continues to exist and serve sites.

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I think it is pretty safe to assume that when you look for a website to stay online as long as possible, the existence of the TLD is the least of your concerns. When you still have to host the website and ensure that it lives at least as long as your tattoo, chances are that other possible terminating events will occur earlier. Others have discussed the viability of such a thing, so I am going to present other possible and perhaps better options.

The Wayback Machine is a powerful tool to use when looking for a long gone website, but you also have the ability to save any page there. The website may become unavailable for a variety of reasons, but anyone has the possibility to browse its archived version, and also verify that it was indeed yours. Of course the archive may one day cease to exist as well, but that would result in a lot of worse things than the increased stupidity of your tattoo.

Next on the effort scale we have .onion services. These are hosted on the decentralized Tor network, but running one requires very little resources. Any computer connected to the internet will do, but visitors must go through the Tor network to connect, or use one of the public proxies. The advantage is also that nobody will be able to steal or reroute the traffic to the website, as long as you are the sole owner of its private key.

Both of these methods require the device that would read the QR code to understand how to navigate to the desired result, which is not usually available. You can use a URL shortener to compress the size of the (navigable) URL, but there is something better: purl.org. This hosts "permanent" URLs, basically maintanable redirects. You can host the website anywhere and always make sure that the pURL redirects to a working location, or perhaps to the Wayback Machine when you no longer wish to run the website. A lot of important things rely on it already, so if it also becomes unavailable as a service, the consequences will be dire for many people.

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