How many web addresses do you know that end in .us? Not many, right? You're not the only one. Nominet, the official registry for UK domain names, recently created a map based on the number of registered web domains for each country. And, uh, the United States is tiny. Like, really, really small. My, how the tables have turned, no?
So what's the deal with all those country-specific URLs? Well, when the Internet first began being a thing around 1985, the powers that be — otherwise known as the Internet Assigned Numbers Assembly — assigned each country a two-letter code within the Domain Name System. The first three given out were .us (the United States), .uk (the United Kingdom), and .il (Israel). Eight more were given out the following year; as it currently stands, almost every recognized country in the world has their own domain code.
When Nominet set out to reshape the world map based on the number of registered users per each domain code, with the size of each country reflecting their number of registrations, it may have seemed fairly obvious that there would be a link between Internet adoption, economic strength and domain registration rates. And for the most part, yeah, they were right:
But here's the thing: Americans don't really like using .us. We prefer to use .com, which, with 123 million registrations, is the Internet's most popular domain. This preference, as well as its world-wide popularity, reflects the United States' early dominance throughout the worldwide web.
On the other hand, .uk is the fourth most popular, with a new registration occurring approximately every 20 seconds. four out of five UK citizens reports accessing the Internet on a daily basis, which explains their super-sized appearance on the "Internet map."
The other major anomaly you may have noticed is .tk. Any guesses as to what country that could possibly be representing smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? Well, that is Tokelau, a tiny South Pacific island. Tokelau has a population of 1,400. Its domain, .tk, has 31 million registrations. No, the people of Tokelau are not Internet fiends; rather, .tk domain registrations are free, with revenue being generated through advertising. Some reports clock that revenue as generating up to one-sixth of Tokelau's total GDP.
Weird, right? The Internet is a wild and crazy place, dudes. You learn new stuff about it every day.