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Country Codes
Simplicity, once again, has a price

January 27, 2000
Web posted at 6 a.m. Hong Kong time, 5 p.m. EST

Chalk up another point for prescience. Seoul's NASDAQ-listed broadband Internet provider Thrunet is preparing to pay $5 million to a Korean-American student who registered the domain name way back in 1995, when the Internet was mostly a glint in an investment banker's greedy eye. Thrunet aims to develop as its main portal into its e-network, and in Seoul, (which the student had developed into a Korean culture site) speaks a bit louder than

Asia Buzz: Picking Favorites
Taiwan's election mania explained
- Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2000

Asia Buzz: To Market, to Market
The overvaluation of financial portals
- Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2000

Asia Buzz: Spin Follies
China never seems to get it right in Tibet
- Monday, Jan. 24, 2000

Culture on Demand: Style Council
Hints for the terminally hip
- Saturday, Jan. 22, 2000

Letter from Japan: Past Imperfect?
Japan's unhelpful way of dealing with history
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Asia Buzz: Time Will Tell
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At $5 million, has set a record for an Asian domain name--if you discount the $3 billion that is worth in NASDAQ market capitalization.

But what about some other country names? Tap in, or and you'll end up in the server of Vancouver company touting the domains for sale. It doesn't list a price but's is a fair indication.

The same goes for, and All undeveloped as sites, they have been locked up by the equally expansively named of the U.S. Same goes for, also under the umbrella.

The U.S. company Great Domains is asking over $10 million for That's a rare example of a country domain being owned by someone from that country. But if Kim Jong Il came along with $20 million, I'm sure Great Domains could be persuaded to sell it to North Korea. Then it could do what it does anyway: use old media (er, propaganda) to diss the imperialist U.S. so everyone with a Net connection can read its take on the world. That's a bit like poor old Philippines Long Distance Telephone, who gets hosed every time someone logs onto, which turns out to be The Manila-based carrier is embroiled in legal action for's wacky architects to cease and desist. So far, it's not going well, and the results are there, online, for anyone to see.

Indeed, it's pretty rare for a domain name to be owned by someone within the country it signifies. That might be galling to one's nationalism but there's little governments or the law can do about it. It must really irritate the Taiwanese that is controlled by the crowd, a company that is part-owned by Beijing's state-run news agency, Xinhua.

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