Twenty years ago: the Tuvalu archipelago hit the jackpot by giving up its .tv domain

Twenty years ago: the Tuvalu archipelago hit the jackpot by giving up its .tv domain

June 20, 2019

The story

In February 1999, the small archipelago of the South Pacific rented its suffix internet .tv for the tidy sum of $ 50 million spread over twelve years. The beginning of a great adventure for one of the countries then counting among the poorest in the world.
CNN, France Televisions or Twitch: today there are many audio-visual content platforms to have a domain name with the suffix .tv. But like the .fr commonly given to French sites, the .tv was originally not intended to be the digital banner of television channels but, more prosaically, that of an archipelago of eight islands lost in the middle of the Pacific, the Tuvalu atoll.

“Nobody would have thought that foreigners could invest in a place like Tuvalu, but our quality of life has changed a lot since,” rejoiced in 2001 Koloa Talake , a parliamentarian of this lost paradise of 11,000 souls and 26 kilometers in diameter , quoted by the Los Angeles Times. It must be said that the country, independent of the British crown since 1978 counted until then among the poor countries of the world .
Everything changes a few years ago, when the archipelago decided, in 1998, in the middle of the internet boom, to auction its Internet domain name , the tantalizing .tv. The Internet suffix has something to attract, including television channels that could capitalize on the two letters to highlight their then nascent digital portals.
“At this moment, we are witnessing a static Internet turn of the Internet for an enriched and engaging formula of information more like what we find on television,” the future tenants of the name of domain, explaining want to make “the domain .tv a suffix meaning for the users who will know on which type of website they navigate”.
The deal finally ended in 1999 and the domain name falls into the hands of Jason Chapnik , a 28-year-old American businessman who earns the suffix thanks to the support of the Californian investment fund Idealabs. Exchange for a tidy sum of $ 50 million spread over 12 years and the granting of 20% of shares Idealabs in Tuvalu.
“We were thinking about and listing all the possible domain names, asking ourselves which one we would go for first, we had lists, .info, .law … When we came across .tv, we had directly knew we had found something, “explained Chapnik in the columns of the” New York Times ” .

Winning the ticket to the UN

With .tv, Tuvalus got their ticket to the UN. The case then falls to the gold mine for a country whose annual budget then capped at $ 14 million and whose per capita income stagnated at $ 400. A manna that is also paradoxical when the archipelago in 2005 had only a hundred computers including 87 connected to the Internet via the satellite.
If the local authorities then embark on major infrastructure projects, they also take the opportunity to equip their archipelago with a new international stature . Beginning with a place at the United Nations, Tuvalu joined in 2000 as the 189th member country and a seat in the Commonwealth in exchange for an annual ticket set at $ 40,000.
“The global recognition of Tuvalu as an independent state has been made possible by its relationship with the .tv domain”, then recognizes Koloa Talake who sees in the internet suffix the entry ticket of the atoll “in the 21st century “.
But the new budget is not just for international outreach. Thanks to the renting of its Internet suffix, the archipelago acquires 2 schools, water pumps, a restoration of its main road and takes the opportunity to bring the electricity in seven of the eight islands that counts the atoll.
In 2001, the suffix was ceded by the DotTV startup created by Chapnik and Idealabs to Verisign , which renewed the agreement until 2012, then until 2021, allowing the archipelago to significantly increase revenues from renting their domain name, which is now used by some of the biggest TV groups in the world.
But history could well turn short for Tuvalu, today threatened with extinction by the rising waters .While the 11,000 inhabitants still counting the archipelago could unfortunately be among the first climate refugees in the world, the .tv suffix sees its posterity ensured, at least for the next few years.