Decision Nears on Who Will Control Web's .nu Suffix

Niue says the issue goes to its sovereignty
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 21, 2024 7:30 PM CST
Decision Nears on Who Will Control Web's .nu Suffix
The coastline in Alofi, Niue   (Getty/LisaStrachan)

Niue could use a revenue stream. The population of the island nation is about one-third what it was in the 1960s, after people left for places with greater economic opportunity. The remote nation would like to be less dependent on tourism and foreign aid. A ruling by Sweden's Supreme Court could help with that, the New York Times reports, by restoring to Niue the .nu internet suffix. There's more at stake than money, leaders say. "This domain, the .nu, recognizes Niue as a sovereign country," Prime Minister Dalton Tagelagi said. "This is how important it is to our identity."

Bill Semich, an American businessman, connected Niue to the internet in the late 1990s in exchange for the right to control the suffix it was assigned: .nu. The suffix turned out to be highly profitable for Semich. "Nu" means "now" in Swedish, Danish, and Dutch, and thousands of Scandinavians registered .nu websites. In 2000, Niue ended its arrangement with Semich and began trying to gain control of .nu and the money it believes it's been cheated out of. A court victory could bring the country up to $2 million a year, an expert said. Niue also wants about $30 million in damages. A ruling could be issued any day now, per the Times.

Semich says he's done nothing wrong, and his company has turned over the operation of .nu to the Swedish Internet Foundation. If Niue wins, the South Pacific nation of 2,000 or so wants to use part of the money to fund its bid to join the United Nations. But analysts find the outcome tough to predict, with some observers saying the web suffixes are an administrative thing not tied to a nation's sovereignty. (More Niue stories.)

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