Thursday, June 14, 2007

Exotic Domain Names .CC .TO .TV : Cocos Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu etc.

I've written a little about www.wretch.cc and www.1421.tv before but I have just recently discovered why a lot of sites are registering with exotic domain names.

Last I wrote, I speculated that sites register in these exotic domains to avoid laws that limit what can be shown in any given country. It turns out to be a little more complicated...

First, some domains like this like .to "[do] not maintain a whois database that provides registrant information, as many of our customers consider the public display of this information invasive of their privacy" Interesting, anonymous...

Second, "
There's .tv from the Pacific island of Tuvalu, .to from Tonga, and .cc from the Cocos Islands. Or how about .md from the former Soviet republic of Moldova or .tm from Turkmenistan?

[...] some small nations have already cashed in on their digital assets.

They are selling their surplus addresses in deals that have netted them millions of dollars enough to pay for schools, medical care, even free or subsidized Internet access via satellite to islands that cables cannot reach.

For some countries, Internet domain names have proved more lucrative than coconuts or vanilla."

It seems that although "the two-letter country suffixes are meant for residents and businesses in a particular country [...] [,] no one has stopped governments from allowing them to become unofficial global suffixes."

Take some examples. "The .tv suffix is being targeted at TV stations and video-heavy Web sites major league baseball and Columbia TriStar are among clients. Moldova is limiting foreign registrations of .md to health-related names and sites. And .to is being marketed as a jumping-off point to another site with a name more difficult to remember.

For Tuvalu, with 10,500 people and a land mass of 26 square miles, the marketing deal gave it money to join the United Nations."

And for the Cocos Islands, "[Brian] Cartmell, a Seattleite, has secured exclusive rights to manage the domain name registry for the Cocos Islands, a 5.4-square-mile territory of Australia, population: 650, domain name: .cc."

"He claims to have sold more than 60,000 .cc addresses so far through his Web site, enic.cc, and says he expects to reach a half-million this year." [2000]

"Cartmell says he has never visited the Indian Ocean islands that are his domain's namesake—they're reachable only by once-a-week flights from Perth, Australia. He has a contact in New Zealand who serves as his go-between. The Islands, whose main export is coconut meat, do not receive a cut from the .cc registration fees; but Cartmell says the country has received other benefits from its partnership with his firm, such as being wired with satellite-linked Internet service."

In the end it truly is a marketing strategy linking the suffixes to real world domains:
"Another private company is hoping to make .md (Moldova) a destination domain for medical-related sites. A San Diego firm is about to launch WorldSite.ws, on behalf of Western Samoa. Perhaps the lamest effort to date has been the repeated attempts to market Web addresses from Christmas Island (.cx) as a holiday gift item.

These new domain sales efforts are not only intended to open up new Web real estate, as the marketing materials suggest, but also to give obscure domain names sufficient prominence so that thousands of established Web businesses feel obliged to buy them."

It makes me wonder if Taiwan could successfully market .tw since it is also an island nation. God knows it could use a little more recognition. But since wretch.cc, a taiwanese outfit, has already set up in .cc, what does that tell you about the internet domain business in Taiwan?

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