In brief: It’s no secret that a lot of people and companies are getting rich off the back of the AI boom. But among the likes of Nvidia and OpenAI is an unexpected beneficiary, Anguilla, a tiny overseas British territory. And it’s all thanks to the “.ai” country code top-level domain it has been in charge of since the 1990s.
Anguilla, an island located in the Caribbean populated by around 16,000 people, is responsible for the “.ai” country code and has been assigning web addresses with this domain since 1995.
Given the way that AI has exploded this year, there has been a huge amount of interest in the .ai top-level domain from tech firms within the industry.
Bloomberg reports that some of the artificial intelligence startups to have grabbed the .ai domain recently include Stability.ai, Elon Musk’s X.ai and Character.ai. The total number of registrations ending in .ai has doubled in the past year to 287,432, according to Vince Cate, who manages the .ai domain for Anguilla. Cate estimates that domain registration fees will bring in $30 million in revenue for the island this year.
The rush for .ai domains started on November 30, the day that ChatGPT launched publicly. Demand peaked between December and March, though it has leveled off since then.
Like other domains, the price of a .ai domain can vary, but registrars like GoDaddy or NameCheap must 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 rise again.
There’s a lot of money in the AI business – Microsoft invested over $13 billion in OpenAI – so $30 million isn’t a huge figure. But Anguilla’s economy primarily relies on tourism, a sector that has really felt the impact of the pandemic. As per Insider, the country had an annual GDP of $288 million in 2021, so the .ai domain could make up around 10% of its total domestic product.
Other small nations have benefitted from their country codes. Tuvalu, a Pacific Island nation with a population of 11,000, has the .tv domain, used by several websites including Twitch. The country made $7.1 million from leasing the domain in 2019, about 8% of the government’s total revenue.