Tuesday, November 01, 2005

More Domain-Name Silliness

More Domain-Name Silliness

Some people will do anything for money. Including selling out an entire country halfway around the world.

After finding out about the dot-museum domain, I found out that a number of nation-states and colonial territories have had their formally assigned two-letter country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs) hijacked by so-called entrepreneurs. Most of these businesses are based in the U.S. Examples include:

.la - advertised as the "new domain name for Los Angeles, Louisiana and Latin America." At first, they were billing it just for Los Angeles, CA "the world's first city to have its own official Internet address" (huh?).

But, the thing is... .la is actually the ccTLD for the People's Democratic Republic of Laos.

The Lao PDR government is an extremely repressive, communist regime, and it deliberately stifles access to the Internet for its people. This is well-documented. Nevertheless, in 2002 the Internat Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) reaffirmed that the domain belongs to Laos. So, hopefully, if "regime change" ever occurs, it can be utilized by Laotian people - not by Angelinos.

.cc - This was heavily marketed as "the next .com" especially by media powerhouse Clear Channel Communications, which not-so-subtly tried to identify the domain with itself. Around 2000 or so, ads for the now-defunct spot.cc domain name registration service ran constantly on ClearChannel stations. Today, eNIC still markets the .cc domain, although not as heavily as back during the .com boom.

But - .cc is actually owned by... the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, a chain of South Pacific atolls that's an offshore territory of Australia. The resident population is about 629. At least these islands supposedly got some kind of remuneration - an undersea Internet connection and some computer training programs - from the deal.

.tv - This domain, for obvious reasons, is quite popular among pornography distributors and the like. It is managed by a division of VeriSign, the same company that handles .com and .net.

Of course, .tv ... is owned by the Republic of Tuvalu, another Pacific island chain. Tuvalu gained independence from Britain in 1978, and has just over 10,000 residents - and a 15-member Parliament.

Originally, Idealab contracted with the Tuvalu government for a long-term lease to obtain rights to the .tv domain. The funds allowed Tuvalu to join the United Nations and the Commonwealth for the first time, in 2000. Schools and infrastructure have been improved, too, but the amount of money has not been nearly as much as predicted. The country has for years also sold its telephone lines to 'chat' line and telephone gambling providers; and postage stamp sales are another generator of foreign currency. Tuvalu still uses the Australian dollar as their local currency.

However, since most of the people there are conservative Congregationalist Christians, thanks to the work of 19th Century British missionaries, there is some concern about these somewhat morally questionable sources of revenue. On the other hand, they have no other option (except, perhaps, bailout by New Zealand and Australia).

There are many other examples where "domain hacks" have been used rather cleverly, to make a word using those last two letters at the end.

For example, del.icio.us uses the .us domain, and the blo.gs aggregation service now owned by Yahoo uses the .gs ccTLD, which is assigned to the British South Atlantic colony of South Georgia and the South Shetland Islands - a colony less well-known than the nearby Islas Malvinas, whose ccTLD, incidentally, is ... .fk.

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