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Snazzy Domain Names Benefit Facebook, Google, Visa -- and Some Lucky, Small Nations as Well

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Domain names like .me, .tv, .cc, .fm, and .ly are all country codes from which their respective countries profit.

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If you've ever used the Internet while traveling abroad, you know that different countries have specific country code domain names, like ".uk" for the United Kingdom, ".jp" for Japan, and ".fr" for France, replacing the .com at the end of an URL. These are called country code top-level domains (ccTLD) and they can be used by companies anywhere in the world, with royalties and rights going to their countries of origin. When it comes to such domain names, some countries are luckier than others, however. For example, the country code domain of Libya is .ly, which has become a popular domain name for url-shortening sites sites all over the Internet.

As unique and catchy domain names become more popular and marketable, some countries (many of which happen to be small or island nations), including Montenegro, Tuvalu, the Cocos Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Libya, are capitalizing on the happy accident of receiving an interesting or economically desirable domain name.

.me

In 2006, the Parliament of Montenegro declared independence from Serbia. That same year, it was awarded the .me country code.

Montenegro's government obviously understood the potential boon of the .me domain, and so began an auction of it immediately. The company Domain.me won the rights to the contract in 2008 and has operated the domain ever since. Part of the contract stipulated that Montenegro would receive a percentage of the sale of all domains. According to Domain.me's Head of Marketing Natasa Djukanovic, in the first five years of the deal, Montenegro made € 13.2 million (equivalent $17.27 million USD).

Several big companies like Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Visa (NYSE:V), and Google (NASAQ:GOOG) use .me domain names, to shorten their URLs (fb.me, v.me, and g.me, respectively). Moreover, the most memorable website URLs tend to be short and catchy: companies are betting that the .me domain, with its connotations of personalization and individuality, fit that bill. As Djukanovic told Minyanville, ".me domains are personal, memorable, and create an instant connection between companies, startups, or individuals and their customers or users."

On May 16, Domain.me announced that it was releasing five premium domain names: around.me, hire.me, fund.me, find.me, and for.me. There is a competition going until June 15, wherein businesses and startups can submit proposals and applications declaring why their company and brand would be the best to bear the new domains.

.tv

Fortunate to share its name with the abbreviation of television, the Polynesian island nation Tuvalu's country code top-level domain is .tv. Located halfway between Australia and Hawaii, with a population of 10,544, Tuvalu is the third-least populous sovereign nation in the world, behind only Vatican City and Nauru. Moreover, its physical land size is approximately 10 square miles.

This small state benefits mightily from its fortunate domain name: In 2000, the Tuvalan government negotiated a contract with dotTV, a subsidiary of Internet infrastructure services company VeriSign (NASDAQ:VRSN), to lease the domain name for $50 million in royalties, plus a payment of $1 million per year. Moreover, Tuvalu owns 20% of dotTV.

In 2006, VeriSign joined forces with content and social media firm Demand Media (NYSE:DMD), operator of eHow and Cracked, to promote .tv as a the top-level domain name most preferred for Internet video content. In 2010, the domain name and website marketplace Sedo partnered with VeriSign to sell 115 premium .tv domain names.

Often, .tv websites offer video content for specific brands that already have .com sites, including mlb.tv, Mercedes-benz.tv, and mtv.tv. Additionally, the youth-oriented marketing firm Vice has received contracts from Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) and Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) to create brand-tailored .tv content stations.

.cc

A favorite with cycling clubs and retailers (rapha.cc), Christian organizations (ctk.cc), and even Canadian Club whiskey at one time, .cc is the country code top-level domain for the Territory of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, a territory of Australia located in the Indian Ocean, about halfway between Australia and Sri Lanka.

The domain name has been operated since 1997 by eNIC, a VeriSign subsidiary that markets .cc as "the next .com." Along with SamsDirect Internet, eNIC has made .cc one of the most popular alternative domain names in the US. A great deal of the domain's success is owed to SamsDirect's partnership with Clear Channel Communications, America's largest radio broadcaster, whereby the .cc domain was promoted on several hundred radio stations.

.fm

The country code top-level domain of the Western Pacific island nation the Federated States of Micronesia, .fm is popular and economically valuable to FM radio stations and streaming audio, a notable example being music recommending website Last.fm. The domain is operated by dotFM, a subsidiary of San Francisco-based multimedia and e-commerce company BRS Media Inc (the company has another subsidiary dotAM, which operates the top-level domain of Armenia).

Through dotFM, anyone can register a .fm domain for a fee, and much of the income from sales goes to the people of Micronesia and their government.

.ly

The country code top-level domain of Libya, .ly is run by the registry Nic.ly and is sponsored by the General Posts and Telecommunication Company, a state-owned organization formed in 1984 that oversees all post mail and telecommunication in Libya. Nic.ly operates by appointing certain registrars to offer .ly domain names to businesses across the world. One of those registrars, Libya Telecom & Technology, founded as a private company in 1997 by Muhammad Gaddafi himself), pioneered the proliferation of the .ly domain name.

Though the domain is mostly used by the public in Libya, many URL-shortening websites use the domain name, including brief.ly, adf.ly, and ow.ly. (The popular site Bit.ly changed its name and domain to Bitly.com in 2011, to avoid issues with the Libyan government.) In addition, many of the Libyan domains were reserved for words in English that end in ly, like name.ly, sincere.ly, and sil.ly.

Editor's Note: Montenegro made € 13.2 million (equivalent $17.27 million USD) in the first five years of the deal, not the first year, as was originally published.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoshWolonick and @Minyanville
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