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Laos Internet Domain Hawked in Los Angeles.

By Kevin Murphy

A company based in the UK wants to sell internet domain names intended for the Laos People's Democratic Republic to people and businesses based in Los Angeles, California, starting from today.

LA Names Corporation Limited, based in Guernsey, will be the second company to take a crack at selling .la domains to Los Angeleans. In 2000, BulkRegister Inc attempted to do the same, but no longer does so.

The company has hired Afilias Ltd, known for hosting the .info and .org top-level domains, to operate its back-end registry services, meaning any registrar accredited by the Internet Corp for Assigned Names and Numbers will be able to retail .la names.

LA Names said "independent forecasts" predict up to one million names could ultimately be registered. There were almost 10 million people living in the Los Angeles county area according to the 2000 census.

The firm has borrowed the pricing scheme of the fairly successful The .tv Corp, which is now owned by VeriSign Inc. Registrations are $50 per year, with a two-year minimum, and certain "premium" generic domains, like "theater.la", have larger fixed prices.

Cynics will observe that the .la domain name is not intended for Los Angeles at all. Rather, it was originally designated to Laos. LA Names has signed a deal with LANIC, which a department of the Lao PDR government, to market the domain.

LA Names is not the first company to opportunistically tap into an underused country-code top-level domain owned by a developing nation to market it elsewhere. Samoa's .ws is marketed as "web site" by Global Domains International Inc, for example.

And the Pacific island nations of Tuvalu and Niue have also licensed their domains to overseas firms. VeriSign markets .tv and Niue Domains Ltd markets .nu, which means "now" in Swedish. Critics compare the practice to colonialism.

Every nation in the world has a two-letter domain assigned to it by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, part of ICANN. The codes are based on the so-called ISO 3166-1 list, administered by a body within the International Standards Organization.

Laos, a south-east Asian nation which borders China, has about half as many citizens as Los Angeles has residents, though it is about the same size as California. One of the poorest nations in the region, its internet user base numbers in the low thousands.

According to the LA Names web site on Friday afternoon, the five most recently registered names included "tittiesandass.la" and "doggym.la", which should not come as a surprise to our readers in Los Angeles.
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Publication:Computergram International
Geographic Code:4EUUC
Date:Jun 9, 2003
Words:426
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