Meet the man who owns his own piece of the internet – The Register

In the ultimate sign of online vanity, the billionaire chair of Hong Kong telecoms company PCCW, Richard Li, has bought his own internet address: .richardli. for $250,000

While most are willing to settle for their name under a dot-com (he also owns richardli.com) Mr Li has used the opening up of the internet’s namespace to register himself as a top-level domain, and this week it was officially added to the internet’s global address book.

On the plus side, Mr Li will now be able to create hundreds or even millions of domain names featuring his name and potentially host a website on each: home.richardli, or work.richardli.

Maybe he will get inventive: he could snaps pics of what he’s eating and post it on lunch.richardli for all those millions of souls that want to know everything about his daily activities. Or create his own URL shortening service for links back to himself.

On the downside, there really is no point in owning your own personal top-level domain and it has cost Mr Li at least $250,000 to acquire it. It will also cost him at least $25,000 annually in dues and running costs. A little excessive when $100 a year will buy and host a dot-com domain.

Not that the cost is likely to bother the Hong Kong businessman and billionaire – who is himself the son of one of the wealthiest men in Asia, Li Ka Shing (pronounced “ka-ching!”?). Li’s net worth is valued at $4.7bn, putting him in the top 500 richest people on the planet. His father is worth $27.1bn making him the 20th richest man on Earth.

Savvy?

While it may be tempting to place Mr Li in the role of being accidentally ignorant about the difference between owning a domain name and running a piece of the internet’s infrastructure, he can put claim to being tech-savvy. He studied computer engineering at Stanford University (although he left after three years without a degree) and he’s a member of the Global Information Infrastructure Commission.

Not that opinion of Mr Li’s skills and insight is universal. He acquired PCCW back in 2000 from British-owned Cable and Wireless Hong Kong Telecom when the territory was handed back to the Chinese. The deal was struck only after Singapore Telecommunications’ bid was turned down for political reasons. It was also the high point for Li: with the dot-com boom he was spoken about as Asia’s Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.

But Li infuriated the Chinese government and a range of business leaders when he tried to sell it to outside parties several years later however without seeking their approval and repeatedly backtracked. Just last year, his efforts to buy 49 per cent of video site Dailymotion fell apart.

It is possible of course that Richard Li has seen a personal branding opportunity that everyone else on the planet has missed. The official application for “.richardli” says its main goal is to “safeguard the intellectual property right of our Chairman’s name”. Perhaps there’s a clothing line or shoes collection in the offing (watch out Kanye). Or it may be the case of an ego gone mad.

Either way, at a time when hundreds of companies are letting their name-brand top-level domains lapse because of a lack of interest, it’s good to see one man standing up for new internet domains – and himself. ®

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