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Internet Domains or Dominions?

In today’s world, all economic interactions of our lives are market niches covered by an entity, which can be privately held or controlled by the public sector. Even with the most mundane things, we never stop to question how some people make millions by dealing and have access to ginormous sums of cash flow, and the Internet is filled with them. Internet domains are a set of data that registers a website onto the system. The way to access these is by a textual designation registered onto a central database provided by a registry.

When typing an address onto the browser, the structure of an internet domain is mainly the same http://www.websitename.extension. Typical domain extensions include “.com, .org, .gov or geographical locations like .ca, .fr or .in”. However, there has been a huge increase in popularity of alternative domain extensions, sometimes tailored to the owner of the website, that will definitely change the way we perceive the internet.

So, who is making money from internet domains? The answer is a bit more complicated than a specific person or entity:

How do you buy an internet domain?

Internet domains are also known as Digital Real Estate. Just like with housing or other kinds of property, one can become the owner of a domain by setting up a new domain or purchasing one that already exists. In the past, it would’ve taken a lot of technical knowledge to set up an internet domain, but recently some private tech companies offer “domain registrars”. It is much cheaper to create a new internet domain than to buy it second-hand, but in the hyper-tech world we live in, most domains are already registered, so the latter option is the easiest to opt for. Domain extensions, also known as Top Level Domains (TLDs ), are the last section of a root domain, and they provide information of the content of the website such as where the website is based in or the kind of product they sell.

Who profits from TLDs?

Depending on the type of TLD that is being used, different entities earn money. TLDs based on geographical locations are generally country codes and they are commonly administered by the countries or territories themselves. Some ccTLDs (Country Code Top Level Domains) are free to use, like “.tk” (based in the island of Tokelau). A handful of ccTLDs are becoming increasingly popular due to their association with initials like “.io” (British Indian Ocean Territories) or “.tv” (Tuvalu), and most of these have been sold to privately owned companies due to their high profitability.

This is not always beneficial for the economy of the country, as their privatization has deprived the affected countries from a very stable and valuable source of income. The Internet domains or dominions? island of Niue is one of the clearest examples, as they transferred the administration and, consequently, the profits of their “.nu” TLD to an individual named Bill Semich in an alleged exchange where Semich would provide the island with internet connection. This deal has deprived Niue from a very worthy source of revenue, since “.nu” is the third most used domain in Sweden, and as of today, the legal battle is still ongoing.

Nevertheless, the public sector is not the only one who holds TLD ownership. Even though old generic TLDs are the most used, there have been nearly 2000 new TLD requests, which have been either purchased to be operated by privately held companies or set for domestic use. New TLD domains are generally cheaper to use, so it is no wonder that website domains are every time more unique.

Future of Internet Domains

With the Internet decentralizing over time, the way we surf the net will evolve in unprecedented ways. Some Internet domains are starting to use other alphabets and scripts than the default Roman alphabet, which can be beneficial for reaching out to non-Eurocentric societies, but can burden the access to foreign resources if there is not a common standard. Domains have been nicknamed by some “digital oil”, which proves there is great value to be found in fields we would never expect there to be. A non-tangible Real Estate market has already been established and is on the rise, and there is a consequential duty to make the Internet accessible to everyone.

Cases like Niue’s loss of income due to privatization have brought up conversations about digital colonialism and how some countries are reclaiming their right not to be structurally dependent on foreign-owned digital infrastructure. Some countries like Australia have established laws that oblige tech companies to comply with a local data storage quota in certain fields like the health sector, but there is a considerable detach between where data centers are set and where the data they store comes from.

As we rely progressively more on technology as a society, new challenges appear, and we need to be socially conscious about them to avoid further inequality.

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