Versign may lose .tv to Tuvalu

Verisign, which bought the .tv Corporation which runs the .tv country code domain owned by the small Pacific island nation...

Verisign, which bought the .tv Corporation which runs the .tv country code domain owned by the small Pacific island nation Tuvalu, may find it has a worthless asset.

Tension between the claims of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) could conceivably see the right to administer the .tv domain taken away from the .tv Corporation, and transferred to an organisation set up by the Tuvalan government or the local community, says Peter Dengate-Thrush, head of InternetNZ's international committee.

ICANN, a non-profit organisation that oversees the registering of domain names, is trying to establish a measure of authority for itself over country code domains (ccTLD) through contracts with the national administering authorities, but so far only a few countries, including Australia, have signed or committed to sign such a contract.

The opposition lobby argues that the people of a nation should have some measure of rights over their own domain name, and is trying to constitute a body representing ccTLD interests as a support organisation under ICANN. To date, ICANN has focused on the administration of international top-level domains such as .com, .net and the new .biz and .info.

Appropriate bylaw changes to link the ccTLD body to ICANN could be finalised at a meeting of ICANN and ccTLD representatives in Ghana next month. Dengate-Thrush and InternetNZ chairman Keith Davidson plan to attend. This will not finally settle the difference of views, but could take the parties closer to resolution, Dengate-Thrush says.

The .tv domain, despite belonging to a small Pacific island nation under threat of erosion from rising sea levels, has had a good deal of custom through its obvious appeal to organisations associated with television. The Tuvalan government reportedly intends to use the undisclosed revenue from the sale of the .tv Corporation to help fund relocation of its people.

Whatever happens to the .tv Corporation's registration right and the physical condition of Tuvalu, the name .tv will not disappear. Two-letter country codes are enshrined in an ISO standard, which originally assigned them for telegraph purposes. To abolish .tv, even if the island becomes uninhabited, would create "a disturbance of seismic proportions" in Internet use and administration, says Frank March at the Ministry of Economic Development, a member of ICANN's government committee.

Verisign is rumoured to have paid as much as $50m (£35m) for the .tv Corporation.

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