Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Winning the alphabet lottery: .tv and the nation of Tuvalu

Today, as video is watched on smartphones and laptops rather than on living room couches, the .tv suffix — owned, improbably, by the tiny South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu — has become for some companies a chance to signal that they are showing video the way people are increasingly used to seeing it. ...

The sudden prominence of .tv is the latest twist in one of the Internet’s more unusual tales. In the 1990s, the suffix .tv was assigned to Tuvalu (Britain received .uk; France, .fr; and so on). At the height of the Internet gold rush, in 1999, a start-up named DotTV paid Tuvalu $50 million over 12 years for the right to sell .tv to other companies. ...

In 2002, Verisign, a large manager of web addresses, acquired the company and still operates the .tv domain today. It agreed in 2011 to manage the .tv address through 2021, and the payments to Tuvalu’s government are said to be a couple million dollars a year.

Those dividend payments are an important revenue source for the country, which has a population of barely 10,000 who live on a tiny cluster of coral atolls and islands about halfway between Australia and Hawaii.

The economic success of Tuvalu and .tv has led other countries to try to leverage their domain names into a consistent revenue source: Montenegro, for example, has the extension. me that can offer a personal touch to a Web address; and Colombia’s .co has emerged as a logical, less expensive substitute for .com. ...

“I was once shocked when I saw someone using an alternative ending, I thought they were dooming themselves,” said Josh Bourne, a managing partner at FairWinds Partners, a consultant on domain names. “But I’ve changed my opinion,” he said, rattling off prominent examples like Ask.fm (fm for Micronesia) and Bit.ly (ly for Libya).