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Tiny Nations Making a Fortune Selling Their URL Suffixes

An obscure 1974 set of postal standards allotted each country a URL suffix (like .com). Today, some tiny countries - like Tuvalu, with its .tv domain - are funding a significant chunk of their annual national budgets by selling their highly prized suffixes to startups.


Anguilla beach
Anguilla has the good fortune of owning the .ai suffix

Twitch.tv. Discord.gg. Github.io. Three memorable addresses for three major websites that all have something in common: Their domain name URLs come from small island nations and territories.


The three platforms use the domain suffixes that were originally intended for websites located in Tuvalu, Guernsey, and the British Indian Ocean Territory. But, to their great good fortune and classic examples of the law of unintended consequences, the country codes also represent other powerful meanings: TV has long stood for television, gamers use “gg” as an abbreviation for “good game,” and I/O is a common technical term. Hardly surprising, therefore, that these small island states (amongst others) are selling off their memorable web addresses to the highest bidders.


Take Anguilla, for instance. It's a British territory in the Caribbean with fewer than 20,000 residents. It doesn’t seem like the sort of place that would benefit from the artificial intelligence wave sweeping the tech world - except Anguilla’s country code top-level domain is .ai, an irresistible address for AI startups with cash to flash.


The rewards from selling web addresses are considerable: Vincent Cate, president at DataHaven.Net Ltd, which handles sales of the .ai domain for the Anguilla government, estimates the revenue generated by the island’s .ai domain is around $3 million per month. Amazingly and very handily, this covers roughly a third of the government’s monthly expenditure. With AI going the way it is, revenues will surely continue to rise.


Meanwhile, in the South Pacific, tiny island nation Tuvalu (with its 11,000 residents) is estimated to me making $10 million per year from its .tv domain - a whopping one-sixth of its GDP. That revenue has allowed Tuvalu to pave its roads, expand electricity access for its residents, and even pay its first annual United Nations membership in 2000.

 
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