When Jenni Baier accidentally punched in the wrong address on her Web browser, she inadvertently discovered something new. Make that .nu.
Ever since then, Baier, who runs what she describes as "a very small Internet service provider" in Harmon, Illinois, has been hooked on the new top-level domain name: .nu.
The bigger kids on the block--such as the Interium Policy Oversight Committee--are busy fighting with the likes of government contractor Network Solutions and the National Science Foundation to expand the number of top-level domain names. In the meantime, the Internet Users Society quietly took advantage of Internet protocols that allow countries to establish their own domain names.
Most people know about the popular domain names--".com," ".net," ".edu," and ".org." And most know they are overcrowded. While the government is holding off on approval of other commercial top-level domain names, it has always allowed countries to register two-letter top-level domains.
There are many country domain names in use, such as ".uk" for the United Kingdom and ".jp" for Japan. But .nu, with its double and triple entendres, is destined for greatness, the founders of the private nonprofit Internet Users Society hope. Besides sounding like "new" in English, "nu" also means "now" in several Scandinavian languages. And in Yiddish, it is a common greeting tantamount to "What's up?"
The country of Tonga registers domains ending in ".to."
.Nu, however, does stand for something: the tiny Polynesian island nation of Niue, near Tonga and Fiji. With only 2,000 residents, it wasn't as if Niue's people were clamoring for official addresses.
So the Internet Users Society--led by Bill Semich, technical manager in the United States and also an editor at Web Week; Stafford Guest, administrative manager in Niue; and Richard St. Clare, founder of the Savage Island Network in Niue--grabbed up the name with the permission and cooperation of Niue officials.
In exchange for allowing others to use the domain name, Niue hopes to gain publicity and promote itself as a prime tourist destination.
Baier thought it was such a good deal that she registered about 15 names, including something.really.nu and ideas.nu.
So far, the domain has more than 800 registrants, according to Laura MacSweeney, a spokeswoman for the group.
"I think it was a pretty brilliant idea," Baier said. "I'm pretty impressed."