What’s in a name?

Not much, if you are the small island of Tuvalu, population 11,000. The country planned to get rich by selling Internet domain addresses. It was thought that the “.tv” suffix would prove immensely appealing, most of all to entertainment companies:

Tuvalu had a 12-year contract to share revenue from .tv registrations to be marketed by a start-up company called DotTV, which was backed by $50 million from California high-tech incubator Idealab. Now you can buy one here.

Tuvalu expected a windfall. DotTV predicted every entertainment company would want a .tv address. At the time, its executives cited examples such as sony.tv, nbc.tv and zee.tv – the last for India’s Zee TV network.

This being the era when people talked of initial public stock offerings before a company’s bathroom needed its first replacement roll of toilet paper, DotTV anticipated a big IPO. The company even said it would create a .tv portal.

Of course, in 2000 the dot-com bubble blew apart, and the value of Web addresses dove like a pelican after a fish. No .tv boom ever happened. Today, nbc.tv is a dead end, sony.tv is for sale, and zee.tv bounces to sheeraz.com, the Web site of Southeast Asian television entrepreneur Sheeraz Hasan.

Are you shocked to discover that the CIA thought the domain address sales would turn the island’s economy around?

And how do things look now?

1. Despite the “.tv” suffix, the island has no broadcast TV station.

2. The prime minister works in a two-bedroom house.

3. Subsistence fishing and farming are the major economic activities.

4. One thousand Tuvaluans are guest workers in the neighboring island of Nauru, which is going bankrupt.

5. The islands are fifteen feet above sea level and are expected to vanish under the sea in a few decades’ time. Tuvalu, however, will remain a sovereign nation under international law. It will retain its rights to all domain names.

By the way, here is the most popular “.tv” website currently in existence.


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