Foreign Domains

1 September 2000
Co-authored by Andrew Chulock

In the beginning, there was dot-com, and it was good. It was so blissfully simple. If you were a company setting up shop on the Net, you had but one choice for a generic top level domains (gTLD), the almighty ".com."

The current shortage of new ".com" names is a direct result of an old policy. Way back in the dark ages of the Net, circa mid-1990s, commercial entities by the thousand were directed to the ".com" gTLD. They weren't permitted to register using other gTLDs like ".net" (reserved for network related entities, hence the name .net), or "org" (reserved for use by organizations). The result is that "com" names became the symbol of commercial enterprises and success.

That old policy is now ancient history. (In Net time, "ancient history is defined as 'before last week.'") Anybody can now register a "net" or ".org" domain. This has been a profit center for companies that register domains since the textbook advice today is that you should register the ".com," ".net," and ".org" versions of any domain you want. So, instead of having to pay $35 per year to own a domain, you're forced to pay triple that amount.

It's not that you want to use all three versions, but what you want to do is prevent anybody else from having them. For example, if you're CNN, you don't want somebody else to gain from the fame you've brought to these simple three letters by them owning

Funny thing is that not every big brand name website learned this lesson fast enough. So, if you go to, you won't find books, but rather you'll find an unrelated Internet Service Provider. If you travel to, you'll find resources for lesbians and bi-women.

From Coconuts to ".cc" If you thought it was getting too complicated and expensive because your e-commerce lawyer will now advise you to register three versions of every domain name you want, it's even more complicated than that and getting worse. Ever heard of or You may have also noticed Internet addresses that end with "to," "il" and other letters.

These final letter combinations are country code top level domains (TLDs). They're nothing more than a TLD assigned to a specific country.

Other popular country code TLDs include "fm," "ws" and ".tv." These, like all country codes, were originally intended for use by the residents of their respective countries.

A few enterprising countries have realized that the shortage of "coms," combined with the rather catchy two letter abbreviations of their countries, which just happen to mean something else in English, have made for a very profitable business. In some cases, the income from country codes has become a major revenue source for some small countries.

For example, "cc," is the country code TLD for the Cook Islands, which are near Australia. Before it began marketing its "cc" TLD, coconuts were the major source of income for these islands. They've come a long way baby.

The "cc" TLD has become popular for many reasons including that it's easy to remember and unlike many other country code TLDs, it has a working registration interface in English.

Another great example of a small nation cashing in on some rather good luck is the tiny island nation of Tuvalu, which was assigned the "tv" TLD. Recognizing the commercial viability of the "tv" TLD, Tuvalu decided to sell its rights to ".tv" to a company called DotTv for $50 million. DotTv's guaranteed minimum payment of $1 million dollars per quarter to Tuvalu is the largest source of income to this island nation of 10,600 people.

While a cool and highly recognizable TLD may be a windfall for these small nations fortunate enough to have them, this also creates a nightmare for companies looking to preserve their domain identities. Now, it's not just the basic suite of "com" "net," and "org" that you need to register, now you also have to consider country code TLDs like ".tv," ".cc" ".md," and ".ws."

Many of these country code TLDs charge substantially more than the $35 per year that you'll pay for a "com." For example, "tv" auctions its supply of domains, rather than selling them for a set price. A search for displayed an opening bid of $1 million!

Even if we put aside the astronomical auction prices, if you were to register your company's domain in all 238 countries at an average cost of $100 per country, your company would have to shell out $23,800 just for domains.

If you think litigating in an American court to defend your ".com" is an ugly prospect, now imagine dealing with the issue in some country half way around the world. For right now, the best answer may be to promptly register country code TLDs in every country where you do business or foresee doing business in the future. With time, maybe a better system will develop, but until then, the mass registration strategy remains the best one. By the way, you will find the company you would expect to find at

Mark Grossman's "TechLaw" column appears in numerous publications. Mark Grossman has extensive experience as a speaker as well. If you would like him to speak before your group or corporate meeting, please call (305) 443-8180 for information.

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