(See updates in the bottom)
.fi is the RFC 1591 TLD for Finland (taken from ISO 3166 country code).
Historically, in Finland, it was possible to get whatever .fi domains were needed by some particular entity - and it was free, only the DNS maintenance fees were collected. AFAIK the domains were handed out and maintained by EUnet Finland (a company now called KPNQwest Finland).
Then, the domain policies were handed to Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority (Viestintävirasto) - Formerly called Finnish Telecommunications Administration Centre (Telehallintokeskus). It's a government agency under Ministry of Transport and Communications. The agency is also responsible for radiowave communications, television taxation, and such.
Yep, bureaucrats inherited the NIC formerly maintained by a company run by "inttternet freedom of speech excerciser" and anonymizer server runner. Well, personally I think this is a good thing - so far, the strict regulation has saved .fi domains from slipping into the sorry, sorry state of The Big TLDs. There is one thing that bugs me personally, though - it's not possible for the authorities to open .pp.fi ("Private Persons" subdomain similiar to .pp.se), because EUnet reserved that domain for their customers. I guess they just need to pick another one when the time comes...
Before the transition, the namespace was somewhat nicely
managed, but some domains were somewhat confusing. For example,
oulu.fi and helsinki.fi are not the
domain names for cities of Oulu and Helsinki - they're the domain
names of University of Oulu and University of Helsinki. The
respective domains for the cities are ouka.fi and
hel.fi. Then, tampere.fi is the city of Tampere and
uta.fi the University of Tampere. Go figure.
The .fi domains can only be go by corporations and registered
organizations. There has been some slipperiness in "special cases" -
for example, during the last presidential elections the candidate
supporting organizations got domains after the candidate names.
The domain names are granted for "registered business name,
secondary business name, or translation of thereof; or for a Finnish
trademark registered by the company", or, in case of
organizations "name, abbreviation of the name, or other name
that describes what the organizations does; or for a Finnish
trademark registered for the organization". (Translations mine.)
The rules have been somewhat fine-tuned over time. Previously, for
example, it was possible to register abbreviated names, but these days
they only grant rather long names (the silliest example I can think of
is suomenpeliautomaattihistoriallinenseura.fi, for organization
of coin-op game fans... =)
Also, the trademark domain registeration seems to be rather new
invention, because I haven't seen that one "happening" too often. (Those
have been often negotiated separately - for example, there are domains
for specific magazines and newspapers, and not just for the publishing
houses!) Since the domain space is strictly managed by a government
entity, there's no need for silly domain dispute things that are so
common in .com/.net/.org... There's no nokiasucks.fi =)
Usually, the shortest names are granted only in special
circumstances. vr.fi was given to VR.
In some strange course of event, the Finnish governmental
institutions have somewhat strange domain names. Some are
Finnish abbreviations, some have full names, some have
English abbreviations as their domain names. Some examples:
- mil.fi = Finnish Defence Forces. This probably because
a) most of the Nordic countries have their armies under this
sort of domain - mil.se, mil.no and so on, and b)
it mimics the American .mil TLD.
Then again, ilmavoimat.fi = Finnish Air Force - they have a
full Finnish name?
- eduskunta.fi - the Finnish Parliament. Full Finnish name.
- vn.fi - the Finnish Government. Short
abbreviation. Fortunately, they seem to also have
valtioneuvosto.fi, a longer, more descriptive name...
- minedu.fi and mol.fi - Ministry of Education and
Labour Administration - both have English abbreviations and there's no consistent
system behind them!
Also, some people have been clever and bent the rules
somewhat. For example, organization called Katastrofi Ry
Also, before Saunalahti ate an ISP called
SciFi Communications, they had the famous sci.fi domain.
Also, PAF, an Åland-based gambling thingy, has paf.fi
("pahvi" is Finnish for "cardboard"...) and Piipää Oy has a domain called www.fi (for their sucky search engine), taken before the transition but they actually had some secondary business name that was neatly abbreviated to www...
Someone threatened to form a "desk drawer company" just to register
Update: In September 1, 2003, a new law came in effect. Basically, the .fi ccTLD was "opened up". (May God have mercy on our souls.)
Basically, now it's possible for everyone to get whatever domain name they want. However, the domain names
- cannot be trademarks not owned by the registerer (in other words, Thou Shalt Not Extort),
- cannot form a person's name, unless it is the name of a business (in other words, Thou Shalt Not Do Silly Webmail Tricks),
- cannot be offensive or encourage criminal activity (in other words, Thou Shalt Not Be A Pornographer Of A Thousand Domains),
- cannot be registered in order to be delegated to use at later time (in other words, Thou Shalt Not Squat, and By The Way, Did You Notice It's Not 1998 Anymore?),
- cannot be like a company type abbreviation - "oy", "ky" - or related thing like "tm" for trademark, and can't be like another TLD - no "com.fi" or "org.fi". (In other words, Thou Shalt Not Confuse The Bejesus Out Of People.)
In other words, the domains can be registered freely but they still undergo some review to avoid the mess the gTLDs are in. Hopefully, these regulations will lead to more liberal but also rational development of the .fi top level domain.