David Bloom is a Deadline contributor.
Maybe. The country of Laos and the companies working for it sure hope so. Today, on Laos’ behalf, URL registry GoDaddy began auctioning dozens of prime entertainment-themed Internet addresses ending in the newly available .LA suffix. The auction ends July 18. Among the names getting the auction treatment: comics.la, moviestars.la, producers.la, talentscout.la, screenwriter.la, studios.la, casting.la, thespian.la, stagehand.la, movietickets.la, filmfestival.la, filmguide.la, productionlocations.la, encore.la, homecinema.la, cartoons.la and, perhaps inevitably, mime.la.
.LA is the “country code” designated for Laos by ICANN, the agency that runs the Internet’s global name directory and ensures every online address is unique. Many countries only allow a company or person to use their country code if they have some sort of direct connection with that country, said GoDaddy VP Domains Richard Merdinger. “They have to have some sort of nexus” with the parent country, he said. But Laos, a small and poor Southeast Asian country that hasn’t been in the news much since the Vietnam War ended next door, has opened up access to its country code in a bid to generate revenue. The hope is to entice lots of Los Angeles- area companies and people – and possibly some in Louisiana — to sign up for a URL that’s more location specific than one ending in .com, Merdinger said. To further raise money, about 300 of the prime URLs have been set aside for an auction with several verticals, including the one for entertainment names, that GoDaddy is running.
“These are names we believe compliment the L.A. context and the (.LA) extension,” Merdinger said. For less distinctive .LA URLs not on the auction list, the registration price is GoDaddy’s usual $39.99 annual fee (other registries charge different prices for a basic URL signup).
GoDaddy quietly made the .LA suffix a URL registration option in late June before announcing its availability today, Merdinger said. Even without any hoopla, the company already has been registering “hundreds” of lesser .LA URLs.
Laos isn’t the first company to try to cash in on its country code. Several years ago, the island nation of Tuvalu made .TV available, hoping television-related businesses would snap it up. The expected gold rush didn’t quite materialize for the Polynesian country, which is preoccupied these days with its long-term survival amid rising ocean levels.
And the entire business of top-level domains is about to undergo an even bigger change, as ICANN inches toward its biggest expansion of its top-level domain system in nearly a decade.
The new system will allow companies who pay $185,000 to create their own URL suffix. Already, one company has begun the process of claiming more than 300 generic suffixes like .plumbing that it will in turn use to create and sell URLs like, say, Richs.plumbing. ICANN is expected to have the new system in place before the end of the year.