Books.com, toys.com, yourname.com—two years ago, Eric Guilichsen realized that the best Web addresses were quickly being gobbled up. So he set up shop with an ingenious solution to the cyberscarcity problem: Web names that end not in .com but in .to, the code assigned to the South Pacific island of Tonga.
Since teaming up two years ago with Tonga’s ruling Crown Prince Tupouto’a (whom he met on a 1993 vacation), the long-tressed techie from Winnipeg, Man., has reeled in nearly $2 million peddling 18,000-plus site names to wannabe Webmasters. “Dot-com names are like real estate in Manhattan,” says Gullichsen, 38, pointing out that more than 5 million have been registered with a U.S. government-designated company (which now charges $35 a year); the names can resell for thousands of dollars. “They’re all gone, crowded, expensive. Who wants to live there now?”
Not clients of Gullichsen’s Tonic Corp., who pay $50 a year for addresses ranging from the racy (nudes.to) to the groan-inducing (pota.to, Toron.to) to the merely practical (furniture.to). Meanwhile, the computer entrepreneur—he started up and sold two software companies—shuttles between a San Francisco Bay houseboat and a geodesic dome he is building in Tonga. (Girlfriend Heide Foley, a magazine art director, visits often.) Gullichsen “lives about 10 years from where’ most people are thinking right now,” says Tonic partner Eric Lyons.
“I’m placeless,” agrees Gullichsen, who now contends with Web-address rivals in the Pacific islands of Niue (.nu) and Tuvalu (.tv). “It’s what the Internet is all about.”