The .CO began life in 1999 under the direction of Colombia’s Universidad de los Andes who quickly understood that the shortened extension might have some commercial value.
It soon found it self in the cross-hairs of the Colombian government who rejected their bid to treat the domain like a .COM extension. The government viewed the domain as a public asset and exerted extreme pressure on the University to relinquish its control or at the very least refrain from commercializing the domain.
The University had intended sub-contracting the domain out to an independent registrar via an international bidding process. To do this it had to get the permission from ICANN, the international body controlling all domain names.
Meetings took place between the University, Government and ICANN, resulting in a mixed outcome. At one point it looked like the Colombian government had decided not to override the University’s control.
However unbeknownst to the University, the Colombian government passed a resolution to put the domain under its partial regulatory control and gave notice to ICANN about the law and it’s new parental guidance. The University was still allowed to administer the domain, but the Government basically had final say over any domain action, including commercialization.
This resulted in more disagreements between the University and the Government, until a defining moment in 2006 when Colombia issued Law 1065, which ordered that full administration control be placed under the Ministry of Communications.
ICANN initially attempted to influence the Colombian government as to how re-delegation of the domain should proceed, including a bottom-up rather than top-down selection process. However, the government held firm in its wish to exclusively administer the domain under the Ministry of Education, despite objections from ICANN throughout much of 2007.
ICANN then issued the statement in 2008 that “that unless there was a proposed operator for .CO the “due diligence [for redelegation process] could not be made”.
Eventually a bidding procurement process took place between .CO Internet SAS and VeriSign Switzerland SA for the right to delegate the domain on behalf of the Government. The Government elected the former due to VeriSign’s apparently lacking “specific experience”.
By 2010, the administration of the .CO domain was transferred from the University to .CO Internet SAS, under the regulatory and policy supervision of the Ministry of Communications of Colombia.
In July, 2010, the .CO domain was open for worldwide business. By 2012, nearly 1 million .CO domains had been registered and this number is expected to reach 5 million by around 2017.
By contrast the .COM domain now stands at around 84 million, probably more.
Thus, .CO domain registrations looks set to exponentially surge upwards which is why registrars like Go Daddy are spent upwards of $3 million for a 30 second commercial spot on Super Bowl Sunday.