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Getting to Know .Yu and .Me

Rob Walker

Getting to Know .Yu and .Me

All images via “From Yu To Me.”

Do you know .me?

And while we’re at it, what do you really know about .yu?

As in “dot me” and “dot yu.” These are “top-level domains” — basically  the letters that come after the period in, say, Yahoo.com — and these two happen to have wildly contrasting histories, meanings, and fates.

The contrast comes out in From Yu To Me, a 34-minute documentary by Aleksandra Domanović just released on Rhizome.org, the tech arts site associated with the New Museum.

First, let’s talk about .yu. The film offers a brief history of the intersection of technologies of connection and the politics of a nation-state coming apart. Even before the World Wide Web, the top-level domain was relevant to email, and one category was the country-specific top-level domain. Yugoslavian technologists saw to it that .yu was registered, in the late 1980s.

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From there, of course, the Internet, and then the World Wide Web, and the formal bureacractic infrastructure handling matters like domain-name registration, marched forward.

Yugoslavia, however, began to come apart. After many twists and turns, the last remnant of the nation known as Yugoslavia split into Serbia and Montenegro – and .yu effectively ceased to exist in 2010.

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On the other end of this spectrum, the small European nation Montenegro ended up with .me — a valuable property, it turns out. Indeed, you can peruse the many enterprises that have nothing to do with the Balkans, but that have opted to use .me, over on Domain.me.

Back in 2007, that site explains,  “the government of Montenegro embarked on generalizing the .Me name space,” and as a result awarded a contract for monetizing .me to a consortium of companies, including Afilas, GoDaddy, and Montenegran firm ME-Net.

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When .me became available, the result was described as a “land rush,” with Montegro itself enjoying a chunk of the revenue. According to the BBC, it became “the fastest selling debut top level domain ever.”

All of this is minor footnote to the film’s exploration of technology and nationhood, but it’s a fascinating detail. Bottom line: Better to be .me than .yu.

For more about the “From Yu To Me,” see Rhizome.org.