The Sri Lankan flag as a color ASCII art. I created it. Share if you want to.

Disclaimer: this is a discussion on the .lk domain, Sri Lankan web presence, and also includes some thoughts on how it might better serve Sri Lankan netizens.

A .lk domain is a uniquely Sri Lankan thing. Targeted primary at Sri Lanka (if you’re a foreigner, you need a contact address in SL to register),  the .lk country code top-level domain (ccTLD) usually makes it clear that your site hails from Sri Lanka. The registration is handled by the LK domain registry, which is housed in the Department of Computer Science at the Moratuwa University.

Personally, I applaud the .lk concept. It shows to all and sundry that Sri Lanka is here to stay in the field of IT. My diatribe is against the management behind .lk.
Firstly, the pricing.
A .lk domain, with second-level domain functionality, is Rs 5000 + 12% VAT (at the time of writing). For a business, for a legally registered entity, that’s not a big deal.

But Sri Lanka’s greatest web presence lies not in its often poorly-maintained corporate websites but in blogs. Most (not all) Sri Lankan websites are of the “startup-and-forget” variety, with very little content being pushed out. No content = no presence. (Web admins: why were the LTTE websites so successful? Content. They pushed out content by the bucketloads and grabbed international attention. Food for thought!)

But yes: we have bloggers. Put together, Sri Lankan bloggers attract more views from all over the world than the rest of … well, everybody else. Head over to sites like Kottu (or use Google) and you’ll see over 1200 avid bloggers determinedly pushing out content to the ‘net. It’s these homegrown sites that contribute most to the internet. Bloggers are Sri Lanka’s first true net-aware citizens – born and bred with technology, and as such they make up the largest apart of Sri Lanka’s web presence. Give a blogger a .lk domain for cheap and he/she will gladly embrace it, driving .lk usage.  But Rs 5000 + VAT a year isn’t cheap for most bloggers.  It’s ridiculous when one can buy a .com, .org or .net for as little as 9 dollars a year.

I run one of Sri Lanka’s handful of game development blogs / sites, called 4250, and also IndependentGaming. The first thing I did was check out a .lk domain. The total cost for both came to over Rs 11, 000. No, thank you: I’m a student and I’d Rs 11,000 is an investment I’d rather not make. I bought and for just Rs 2000. International presence at a fifth of the price.

A lot of Sri Lankan bloggers are students. All the way from Grade 9 to university. There’s simply no incentive in .lk for most of us. National pride is wonderful but no substitute for empty wallets.

My last and final criticism is the Sinhala / Tamil domains names (.ලංකා and .இலங்கை). The whole point of a website on the Internet is to get the ENTIRE WORLD to notice you. How many of the 8 billion people on the planet type in Sinhala? Or Tamil? Even in the crowd that is the Internet, we Sri Lankans manage to come up with a way to isolate ourselves and make sure nobody sees us.