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Tonga gets in on domain game

Capitalizing on the shortage of domain names, the Tonga begins hawking the ".to" designation to Netizens.

Capitalizing on the shortage of domain names, the Kingdom of Tonga--the only inhabited South Pacific island never to be colonized--has begun hawking the ".to" designation to Netizens.

It has sold more than 200 of the names so far, charging $100 for the first two years registration and $50 per year afterward, the same rate charged by InterNIC, said Eric Lyons, a marketing consultant for Tonic Corporation, which is handling the registry. The ".to" names now are operational in all name servers, just like ".com".

Tonic's major stockholder is Crown Prince Tupouto'a, the country's minister for foreign affairs and defense.

"There are more than 853,000 names currently registered with the InterNIC in the '.com' domain, and most desirable names are already taken," Lyons said. "Until now, the name shortage situation has been a frustration for consumers and ISPs alike."

Tonic, short for the Tonga Network Information Center, has been the national DNS registration authority for the country since 1995, providing name service to governmental, commercial, and personal Internet sites.

The registration is a way to generate revenue for Tonga, a nation with few natural resources to bolster its economy. It previously had leased out space for geosyncronous satellites, Lyons said.