Climate change could be set to wipe a handful of domain names off the Internet’s map. The Pacific island nations of Tuvalu and Tonga which own the .tv and .to domain names are both slowly sinking and once gone their Web identities might follow.
Tracking studies suggest that Tuvalu â€“ a collection of four reef islands and five atolls the highest point of which is just 4.5 metres above sea level â€“ could be completely below water within 30-50 years.
Other relatively low-lying island states which could face a similar submerged end include Tonga with its .to domain name; Kiribati (.ki) the Maldives (.mv) and the Marshall Islands (.mh).
However none of them enjoy a domain name which such strong commercial appeal as Tuvalua’s .tv. The island’s government receives US$4m per year under its exclusive domain registry agreement with Internet giant VeriSign. This is a fortune for the island which has almost no natural resources and ironically enough no TV station.
But if the island vanishes will the domain name follow? US domain name registry GoDaddy is recommending its customers against buying .tv names claiming that under ICANN rules the domain names from any defunct country must be phased out.
Look up a .tv domain name on GoDaddy and a pop-up box appears to warn that â€œthe island of Tuvalu is sinkingâ€ and recommends .com .net and .info as alternatives.
It’s hard to imagine thousands of TV stations production houses and individual programs all walking away from their investment in .tv Web addresses and much speculation has pointed to a USA Today article in which a spokesman for VeriSign said that a defunct country’s Internet domain lives on citing the continuation of .su addresses despite the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Of course given that VeriSign makes a mint from its exclusive rights for .tv addresses you’d expect them to be spruiking the domain name’s survival long after the island of Tuvalu has gone.