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The dark side of .io: How the U.K. is making web domain profits from a shady Cold War land deal

The dark side of io How the U K is making web domain profits from a shady Cold War land deal Tech News and Analysis


The rights for selling .io domains are held by a British company called Internet Computer Bureau (ICB), which also holds the rights to sales of .ac and .sh domains — indicating the South Atlantic islands of Ascension and Saint Helena respectively — and others. The .io domains each cost £60 ($102) before taxes, or twice that if you’re outside the EU.

The British government granted these rights to ICB chief Paul Kane back in the 1990s. ICB gets to run .io “more or less indefinitely, unless we make a technical mistake,” Kane told me. (ICB has so far run a stable .io namespace. It should be noted that Kane is a respected veteran of the infrastructure scene, and has beenentrusted by ICANN with one of the 7 so-called “keys to the internet”.)

Kane would not disclose the number of .io domains that are sold each year, nor how much of the revenue go to the government. However, he said a fixed amount per domain goes to the “Crown bank”, with the rest being reinvested in the Domain Name System (DNS) services he operates, such as CommunityDNS. “We are a for-profit company that has elected to make sure that the monies received go into infrastructure investment,” he said.

As for the money going to the British state, “profits are distributed to the authorities for them to operate services as they see fit,” Kane explained. “Each of the overseas territories has an account and the funds are deposited there because obviously the territories have expenses that they incur and it’s offsetting that.”

In other words, a cut from the sale of every .io domain goes to the British government for the administration of a territory whose original inhabitants should arguably be getting that money, and whose only current inhabitants are 5,000 U.S. troops and spooks, their civilian contractors, and a handful of British personnel who are there for policing and customs purposes.

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That does it, no buying .io domains.

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