Sunday, January 16, 2011

Ten Country Domain Names Rarely Used for Their Real Purposes

I bet, with the benefit of hindsight, if they could redesign the internet, there's a lot they'd probably do differently. We're so used to seeing urls now that we've forgotten how silly and clunky they are, with 'www' stuck on the head and 'com' stuck on the tail. I guess 'dot-com' is supposed to mean 'commercial', but that's silly too. Just as silly as 'country codes', wherein a German-based site, for example, could use '.com' if it wanted to, but if it wanted a bit of a nationalistic twinge, it could go for '.de' too.

They're going all sorts of places with these country codes. If you're based in Russia, you might have a website that dates from the Gorbachev era, and it might end with '.su' ('Soviet Union'). Or it might have come along later and been '.ru'. Or it could be newer than that and have a country code of '.рф', the brand-new Cyrillic country code for Russia. Or rather 'top-level domains', as people in the know call them.

Every country gets one - and many places that aren't really technically countries. Many barely use their TDLs at all, and a handful of them have been lucky enough to have a country name that could be shortened to a commercially-viable two-letter combination, with the result that a domain name designed to represent a country winds up being used for any of a variety of reasons - few having to do with the country in question. You might be surprised to learn that Viacom-owned, Mark Knopfler-coveted one-time music channel MTV is based in the USA, not the tiny island nation of Tuvalu (population 10,500, area 26 square kilometres). How, then, do they have the url Well, Tuvalu really launched the genius idea of selling a country's top-level domain to a world hungry for unusual web addresses. The dot-tv country code has been a runaway success due entirely to the country of Tuvalu and the medium of television sharing two letters. The domain name is now one of Tuvalu's main sources of revenue, and the sadness of this sentence from Wikipedia is so complete that I have to quote it directly: "Domain name income paid most of the cost of paving the streets of Funafuti and installing street lighting in mid-2002."Top-level Domain .tv (Tuvalu) The Federated States of Micronesia have been able to follow Tuvalu's lead, selling domains with its country code to radio and streaming-based music sites, most notably the UK-based Wikipedia observe that the TLD gets "much use related to FM radio; little related to (Micronesia)".Top-level Domain .fm (Micronesia) Poor Armenia, of course a much bigger country than the others on this list, is stuck with a radio format way less cool that Micronesia's. Since the AM dial is mostly limited to religious programming and Rush Limbaugh by now, Armenia has had little success hawking the .am domain to radio stations. The Black Eyed Peas' is perhaps relieved to note that his name doesn't seem to be a valid url.Top-level domain .am (Armenia) Opportunistic Montenegro decided, unpon independence, against a TLD based around its local name "Crna Gora", going instead for one that uses the first and, illogically, fifth letter of its Italian and English name. This must, of course, have nothing to do with a desire to sell its spanking-new domain to 'Web 2.0' sites hoping to launch sites with names like, say, '' or ''. Apparently 71% of registrations have been to Americans.Top-level domain .me (Montenegro) Does anyone else remember the days when a url like "" was the very height of coolness? Does anyone actually remember Tonga, an island nation of 104,000 people whose main claim to fame is the Gloria Estefan song (oh wait, that was 'Conga'). You don't see that kind of url around much anymore, but there must have been a stretch of a few years there where it made Tongans feel pretty damn cutting-edge.Top-level domain .to (Tonga) I'm sure everyone at one point or another has typed in a .cm url, even if we couldn't find Cameroon on a map (hint: it's in Africa). The TLD is popular for people hoping to capitalise on typographical errors as people attempt to type the much more common .com. McAfee says .cm is the most virus-riddled TLD on the internet.Top-level doman .cm (Cameroon) Since the only time people ever discuss Niue, population 1400, is to take a stab at pronouncing its 75%-vowel name, they probably don't associate the TLD .nu with it. They probably don't associate .nu with the English word 'new' either, though that's what Niueans were hoping for. Scandinavians use it for news channels, since 'nu' means 'now' in their languages. And the French, though the government of Niue tries to stop them, use it for porn, since 'nu' means 'nude' to them.Top-level domain .nu (Niue) It's tough to see much 'proper' use for this country code, belonging to South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, a British territory near Antarctica whose population of 30 people includes museum staff. What creeps me out more than a group of islands in the middle of nowhere having a population of only thirty people is that same island group having an active and manned museum. Anyway, since they probably spend more time typing sentences over and over again on typewriters and putting holes in doors with axes, the locals get less use from the TLD than, a blog-related site with little going for it except a cute url.Top-level domain .gs (South Georgia) Based on the title of this article, I'm not sure about this one, because like Americans themselves, I'm not sure quite what the 'intended use' of the .us domain name is actually meant to be. Americans do just fine without a country code, and I bet a fair percentage of Americans are completely unaware that the .us TLD even exists. The only place I've ever really seen it is for, the bookmarking website that seems to have gotten bored of its random dots and become ''. So now it has no reason whatsoever to exist.Top-level domain .us (United States) The practically-unknown Australian possession Christmas Island uses .cx, whose main reason for existing is not in fact to display pictures of men stretching their anuses as wide as possible.Top-level domain .cx (Christmas Island)