The Dark Side of the .io Extension

Over the last year Morgan has done some articles on the increasing popularity of .io and its usage by start ups. David Meyer wrote an article for GigaOm that takes a look at the dark side of .io and the people of the islands.

From the article:

The .io country code top-level domain is pretty popular right now, particularly among tech startups that want to take advantage of the snappy input/output reference and the relative availability of names — Fusion.io, Wise.io and Import.io are just a few examples. But who benefits from the sale of .io domains? Sadly, not the people who ultimately should.

While .tv brings in millions of dollars each year for the tiny South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, and .me benefits Montenegro, the people of the British Indian Ocean Territory, or the Chagos Islands, have no such luck. Indeed, profits from the sale of each .io domain flow to the very force that expelled the Chagossian or Ilois people from their equatorial land just a generation or two ago: the British government.

Meyer goes into the history of what happened to the people who inhabited the land and he then details the who, what, when and where of the .io deal. He says he spoke to representatives of the Chagossian community, who never knew about the .io deal and feel they have been stolen from once again. Meyer also said he has spoken to some in the start up community and has found a mixed reaction. He said some founders never knew the history of the people and what they have endured, some said they will think hard about registering another .io domain.

Here is an excerpt with regards to the deal:

The rights for selling .io domains are held by a British company called Internet Computer Bureau (ICB), which also holds the rights to sales of .ac and .sh domains — indicating the South Atlantic islands of Ascension and Saint Helena respectively — and others. The .io domains each cost £60 ($102) before taxes, or twice that if you’re outside the EU.

The British government granted these rights to ICB chief Paul Kane back in the 1990s. ICB gets to run .io “more or less indefinitely, unless we make a technical mistake,” Kane told me. (ICB has so far run a stable .io namespace. It should be noted that Kane is a respected veteran of the infrastructure scene, and has been entrusted by ICANN with one of the 7 so-called “keys to the internet”.)

Kane would not disclose the number of .io domains that are sold each year, nor how much of the revenue go to the government. However, he said a fixed amount per domain goes to the “Crown bank”, with the rest being reinvested in the Domain Name System (DNS) services he operates, such as CommunityDNS. “We are a for-profit company that has elected to make sure that the monies received go into infrastructure investment,” he said.

Here is an excerpt from the start up community:

I asked a few founders of “.io” startups whether they knew of the Chagossian association, and if it changed their view of the domain.

“That was kind of shocking – I had no idea, and of course it feels wrong,” Hampus Jakobsson, the founder of sales reporting startup Brisk.io, responded. “The problem is that there are, as you know, an issue with availability of good domains. I will think twice before buying a dot io, but that means it will be harder for me to find addresses.”

Thomas Schranz, founder of project management startup Blossom.io, concurred: “It does indeed change my perception of the .io domain in that I now see it as politically more nuanced/slightly problematic to choose it over a ‘neutral’ domain like .com or .net or .org or the upcoming new top-level domains.”

Read the full story here

Will this story affect your decision on going with a .io domain ?

{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Eric Borgos July 4, 2014, 4:59 am

    Interesting. I knew about .tv and other similar small island/territory type domains, but never thought about where .io domains came from even though I see them often.

    Reply

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