TONGA STRIKES GOLD WITH WEB NAME SALES

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NUKU'ALOFA (July7, 1997 - PIDP/CPIS)---Tonga has found a new and easy way to make bucks. It’s neither tourism nor agriculture but selling the country’s Internet domain names.

Domain names are the addresses of sites on the World Wide Web, which usually end with suffixes such as ".com," or ".gov."

Most countries have their own domains but Tonga, Polynesia’s oldest monarchy, appears to be the first to market names in its ".to" domain to people outside the kingdom.

The venture, dubbed TONIC [Tongan Network Information Centre], is being run out of the Tongan Consulate in San Francisco by two former high-tech executives, Eric Gullichsen and Eric Lyons of California.

Gullichsen met Crown Prince Tupouto’a during a 1993 vacation in Tonga. After that, the Californian embarked on a project to use a few old personal computers and some donated modems to improve fax transmission over the kingdom’s phone system.

In January, the company won a contract to set up a central Internet hub in Tonga, and by April the idea for TONIC was accepted by the Prince.

The company’s site, "www.tonic.to" differs from other registries in that it is automated to allow instant registry. Users can input a name and find out within seconds whether it’s available.

Tongan Consul General in San Francisco ‘Emeline Tuita says the Internet has just recently been introduced to Tonga and only a small percentage of Tongans have access to it. So far, she adds, officials aren’t worried about running out of domain names, as there are less than a thousand computers for some ninety-thousand people in Tonga.

TONIC is charging $100 per domain name for the first two years and $50 for each year thereafter.More than 500 names have been registered since the company went on line more than two weeks ago. (Laumanu Petelo)

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