A technological revolution in the making, new health capabilities, a possible drama in employment, crimes that were previously impossible. The entire world is looking straight or askance at the ship of artificial intelligence (AI). Whoever can, buys a ticket: the investment of funds in companies or securities related to this technology has skyrocketed, as has the creation of firms with ideas to exploit that capital. Like piracy, this golden age of artificial intelligence also has a secret base in the Caribbean Sea, although this time it is not Tortuga Island.
It’s Anguilla, a British Overseas Territory about 250 kilometers east of Puerto Rico. 26 kilometers long and just five at its widest point, the island has become the most desired residence for countless crews of both startups and digital ocean liners. The secret is your web domain: pages registered in Anguilla are the only ones that can carry the .ai (acronym in English of artificial intelligence).
Until its potential begins to be realized, the battle of artificial intelligence is being played in the field of image. For this reason, .ai has become a fundamental domain for anyone who wants to be a relevant player in the industry. From Google.ai, Microsoft.ai or Facebook.ai to smaller players, such as Character.ai or X.ai (Elon Musk’s new artificial intelligence company). They all anchor on the beaches of Anguilla.
In 2021, before the AI boom, .ai domains brought in 6.7 million euros to the island’s economy, according to their public records. The budgets of the Government of Anguilla anticipated that income would continue to grow by 2023 to 7.9 million. But that was before the emergence of ChatGPT and the rest of the generative artificial intelligences: now, it is expected to exceed 28 million euros, as explained by its regulator to Bloomberg.
That figure would place the registration of .ai domains close to representing 30% of the island’s administration’s income, as well as 10% of the entire GDP, which the United Nations estimates at around 280 million euros. With the boom in investment and patents related to artificial intelligence, the island’s predictions are that this source of income will continue to multiply in the future.
In total, new .ai have doubled in the last year to almost 300,000. Despite this great growth, it is still very far from what the main domains register. According to data from Red.es, the Spanish institution that manages .es, there are two million pages on the Internet in total with this Spanish flag. The absolute leader, the .com, is registered on more than 160 million websites.
Until now Anguilla’s economy is based on tourism, driven by its white sand beaches and coral reefs. Since 1995 it has managed the .ai registries, after this was assigned to it by Icann (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers).
Icann is a non-profit organization made up of government representatives, the digital industry, universities and technical specialists. Although it is practically unknown, it is responsible for coordinating a large number of key aspects of the Internet infrastructure at a global level.
One of them, perhaps the best known, is the assignment of domain names. Although this has not been the case for Anguilla, which is reaping the rewards of a popularity of .ai that was difficult to foresee in 1995 — a stroke of luck that small territories such as Tuvalu, a Pacific island nation that manages .tv, have also enjoyed ; or the British Indian Ocean Territory, a set of 60 very sparsely populated islands but of great military importance for Great Britain to which .io was assigned, very fashionable among technological initiatives—, this work has not been far from free of controversy.
One of the longest was that of Amazon with the eight countries of the Amazon basin, which battled for seven years for control of the .amazon domain. The multinational claimed the use for its businesses, but the states managed to freeze the request by claiming that .amazon should have shared governance Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization, which defends the interests of the region and its native peoples.
After that long impasse, Icann granted the .amazon to Amazon, which provoked angry complaints from South American countries. “The name of Amazonas, in any language, is part of the cultural heritage and identity of the Amazonian countries,” said Colombia, which denounced that Icann’s unilateral decision called into question “its credibility” and threatened to support alternative institutions to Internet management. This did not come to fruition, while Amazon promised a series of gifts to the residents of the Amazon, such as several million electronic books.
Currently, Icann is negotiating the standardization of new high-level domains, such as .barcelona, .surf or .pizza, so that they can be used in any language and alphabet in the world. The .ia, the Spanish acronym for artificial intelligence, is not assigned to any country.