For every country, and indeed many various territories, dependencies, states, provinces etc. one of the most important elements of self-representation, self-recognition and identity is a humble piece of cloth. The flag, for governments and patriots alike, is more than that though. It is a symbol of their identity, replete with symbolism, sacrifice and values. Many flags have become well-known enough that even the most geographically challenged can match the national flag to the nation it flies under. Everyone knows the Union Flag (Union Jack) is for Britain, the Tricouleur represents France, and the Star-Spangled Banner flutters over the States.
A few years ago, one enterprising graphic designer decided to make full use of the internet’s awesome superpowers and marry the thousand-year old tradition of the flag with a very recent innovation – the top-level domain – to produce a set of virtual animated flags.
A top-level domain is essentially a part of a website’s address, or URL, which identifies a website’s host origin or its function. For example, .com means that the site is engaged in commerce (usually), while .ac (or .edu in the US) means an educational institution.
Top-level domains with a regional flavour are used to represent the hosting nation of a website where that site would be registered. For example, .uk would be for a site registered in the United Kingdom, while a site URL ending in .mu means that the site is based on a Mauritian server.
These regional domains are officially known as ccTLDs (country code top-level domains). They are generally used or reserved for a country, a sovereign state, or a dependent territory. They are always two letters long and usually are formed from letters in the country’s name, though not always the one in English. While .us is for the United States and .in is for India, Algeria’s ccTLD is .dz (Al-Djazair) and Switzerland’s one is .ch (for its full Latin name, Confœrderatio Helvetica).
The first registered ccTLDs to come into service were .us, .uk, and .il, all registered in 1985. In 1986, .au, .de, .fi, .fr, .jp, .kr, .nl and .se were registered. This was long before the Internet as we now it even came into being.
The story behind these animated flags is shrouded in the depths of mystery. The only solid lead I could find from my research was on a forum post from Forumotion, a company which offers forum setup and development services. A member of Forumotion’s staff, nicknamed Hancki, who also moonlighted there as a forum helper, started a thread in which he/she showed off some animated flags they had allegedly made. They made no comment on how or even if they did create the ccTLD flag GIFs but the other forum participants loved them and thought they were great.
That first selection of little waving flags appeared in April of 2010, and since then have become hot property for forum lovers and gamers looking to add some patriotic sparkle to their signatures. Numerous forum owners from Pakistan to the States have snapped them up, and now for the first time, the Half-Eaten Mind has brought them together in one place, free for use to represent your homeland.
With the help of a list of ccTLDs provided by Wikipedia and another source, I found other forums that had these distinctive animated flags, and by changing the part of the forum’s URL with the country name or ccTLD, was able to collect a flag of nearly every country and territory on Earth. It was just like FlagCounter, only with more fluttering.
To celebrate the amazing design of these flags, the Half-Eaten Mind is producing a special series of articles showcasing the flags of the world’s nations, with their relevant ccTLD. Due to the size of the project, I will be covering a different part of the world every weekend, with links to previous articles in the series. Part One will cover the continent of North America. This geographical region includes Central America and the Caribbean. I will then work my way eastwards and southwards.
Below each set of flags, arranged vertically in the page’s centre due to WordPress’ horrifically fiddly HTML editor, are a list of the featured countries, alphabetically by their ccTLD. Each country name has a link to its government’s website or the nearest equivalent.
Some flags, such as that of Libya are out of date. Some newer countries, such as South Sudan and some dependencies are also absent. There are also some flags of now defunct countries, such as Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, that were issued ccTLDs in the Eighties and early Nineties, which I have also included.
By the way, vexillology is the study of flags, their designs, meanings and history.
.an Netherlands Antilles (no longer exists)
.cr Costa Rica
.ky Cayman Islands
.lc Saint Lucia
.pr Puerto Rico
.sv El Salvador
Next weekend, we head south to the other part of the American landmass. Stay tuned.
“Country code top-level domain” – Wikipedia/Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Country_code_top-level_domain
“Some animated flags” – Hancki, Forum of the Forums/Forumotion/phpBB (9 April 2010) http://help.forumotion.com/t68097-some-animated-flags
CC Search, Creative Commons http://search.creativecommons.org/
“ccTLD” – Wikipédia (Portuguese)/Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/CcTLD
“PHOTO MOMENT: Old Mauritian coins” – RedDodo.com, netanimations.net via Vijay Shah, The Half-Eaten Mind (7 September 2013) https://halfeatenmind.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/pm-old-mauritian-coins/
“File:Map of North America.svg” – Cacahuate, Texugo, Joelf, Globe-trotter & Piet-c, Wikimedia Commons (2 August 2008) http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Map_of_North_America.svg
“Image and Video Post-Processing With WebGL” – Nicolas Garcia Belmonte, Dev.Opera/Opera Software ASA (17 October 2012) https://dev.opera.com/articles/webgl-post-processing/
“Flag Icons” – Webshocker, dribbble/Dribbble LLC. (10 May 2014) https://dribbble.com/shots/1546961-Flag-Icons
“Pakistan Defence” – Pakistan Defence http://defence.pk/
“RIGS OF RODS” – Rigs of Rods http://www.rigsofrods.com/content/
“Category:Country Flags” – EP.com Wiki/EntropiaPlanets.com/EntropiaPlanets Wiki – Entropia Universe Guides Wiki Info http://www.entropiaplanets.com/wiki/Category:Country_Flags