Imagine: You’re a 20-something AI entrepreneur and then your startup’s website gets trapped with — gasp — a “.com” domain. How passe. How embarrassing.

What are you, 45 years old?

Gotta get that “.ai” domain

When you do, it’s to the direct benefit of Anguilla, a 35-square-mile, ~19k-person British territory in the Caribbean.

  • In the 1980s, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) started assigning two-letter domains to nations and territories.
  • These top-level domains have been a key part of Internet geography ever since; “.au’ for Australia, “.ca” for Canada, “.jp” for Japan, and so on.
  • In 1995, Anguilla pulled “.ai,” which is now paying off — big.

In 2018, the nation was annually making $2.9m from the domains, per The New York Times, covering the combined salaries of all of the territory’s primary-school educators.

Anguilla is now making that amount per month, according to IEEE Spectrum.

It’ll only get better

Next year, Anguilla expects 2x its windfall from the “.ai” domain rush, up to $6m per month, just from existing renewals that’ll pay out at higher rates. New domain sales, meanwhile, increased 4x in the five months following ChatGPT’s November 2022 launch.

  • Vince Cate, who manages Anguilla’s domain registrations, told IEEE Spectrum his work is “already like a third of the government’s budget.”
  • Thanks to “.ai” domains, Cate said the nation has been able to pay some debts down and eliminate residential property taxes.

They almost blew it

In the domain’s early days, Cate said a Taiwanese company convinced the government to hand over admin control of its domain, promising a cash infusion from “.ai” domain sales in China (where “ai” means love).

That never materialized and the company ghosted Anguillan officials for a few years before the island government ultimately reclaimed its eventual cash cow.

BTW: This kind of thing has happened before. In 1998, the Pacific island of Tuvalu opened up its “.tv” domain registry; by 2018, domains accounted for 10% of the Tuvalu government’s revenue.

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