Shortly: It’s no secret that many people and companies are getting rich from the AI boom. But among companies like Nvidia and OpenAI, there’s an unexpected beneficiary: Anguilla, a tiny British Overseas Territory. And it’s all thanks to the .ai country code top-level domain, which the company has been responsible for since the 1990s.
Anguilla, an island in the Caribbean with around 16,000 inhabitants, is responsible for the country code “.ai” and has been issuing web addresses with this domain since 1995.
Given the way AI has exploded this year, there has been a lot of interest from industry tech firms in the .ai top-level domain.
Bloomberg reports that artificial intelligence startups that have recently taken over the .ai domain include Stability.ai, Elon Musk’s X.ai and Character.ai. According to Vince Cate, who manages the .ai domain for Anguilla, the total number of .ai registrations has doubled over the past year to 287,432. Cate estimates that the island’s domain registration fees will bring in $30 million in revenue this year.
The onslaught on .ai domains began on November 30th, the day ChatGPT was publicly launched. Demand peaked between December and March, but has since weakened.
As with other domains, the price of an .ai domain can vary, but registrars like GoDaddy or NameCheap have to pay Anguilla a fixed price of $140 per two-year .ai domain registration. That’s up from $120 in mid-April and the price is expected to bounce back.
There’s a lot of money in the AI business – Microsoft has invested over $13 billion in OpenAI – so $30 million isn’t a big number. But Anguilla’s economy is primarily based on tourism, a sector that has felt the effects of the pandemic. According to insiderThe country had an annual GDP of $288 million in 2021, so the .ai domain could account for about 10% of the total domestic product.
Other small nations have benefited from their country codes. Tuvalu, a Pacific island nation of 11,000 people, has the .tv domain used by several websites including Twitch. The country earned $7.1 million from leasing the domain in 2019, about 8% of the government’s total revenue.