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What are they on about?

David Newnham gets blown off course while surfing the internet

It begins with a radio-controlled car. Push the lever and off it goes. It does cartwheels, it bounces off walls, it cracks the front of the video recorder ("I told you it should be on a proper shelf"). Then, after 15 minutes, it stalls.

A blessing? Not when the batteries cost nearly pound;5. Is that what they call a "long life"? I resolve to ask the manufacturers. But as I search for the company's name on the internet, I am driven off course by a message on my screen. "Duracellusa," it says. "This domain name is for sale."

What is Duracellusa? A marine invertebrate? A skin cream? Something that Alan Titchmarsh would prick out in his greenhouse ("If you're looking for autumn colour, look no further than Duracellusa").

Then the penny drops. Duracellusa equals Duracell USA, or so the vendor fondly imagines. "If you want to see the rest of our domain names for sale, click here," says the hypertext. I can never resist a junk shop.

The list contains more than 300 names, and these are divided into "best short names", "visual, easy-to-remember short names", "miscellanous short names", and so on. After these comes a section called "adult". Here, it seems, size is unimportant. Best short names include www.W3L.com, with a note explaining that W3=www. Similarly, www.BZmy.com is supposed to convey the message "Business My". Jolly useful, that.

But what's this? In among www.sicco.com and www.cum-in.com (I did say we were in the adult section) is a common girl's name. Can Helen still be up for grabs? My surprise turns to confusion when I spot that it's not helen.com that's on offer but helen.ws.

The explanation isn't hard to find. It seems that "ws" was the national domain name allocated to Western Samoa (the equivalent of our .uk) until the Samoan government sold it to an American company called WorldSite.

WorldSite is now selling "ws" domain names to people who missed out in the initial rush for a unique cyber-moniker. I don't know how much the Samoans got, but WorldSite will let me register newnham.ws for $50 a year.

Alternatively, I could spend the money on enough batteries to run that damned car for another 100 minutes. It's a tough choice.

newnham@danecroft.demon.co.uk


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