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What happens to the internet when your country disappears?

Watch a new film exploring how the Balkans went from .yu to .me

Tuvalu, a tiny Polynesian island with a population of 12,000, receives millions of dollars a year for allowing non-Tuvaluan companies to use their registered .tv domain name. Other luckily named countries receive a similar windfall – Djibouti has .dj, which is handy for, you guessed it, DJs, and Libya has .ly, a domain name mostly associated with the URL shortener

.yu, which remained in use until March 30, 2010, was the domain name for Yugoslavia, a west Balkan nation that dissolved in the early 90s. One of the countries that emerged from its break up was Montenegro, which borders Croatia and has a coast on the Adriatic sea. Montenegro's domain name? .me. The Wikipedia entry for the domain name even states that it replaced .yu. And thus the poetry was born – From Yu to Me.

The film From yu to me by the artist Aleksandra Domanović, is about the history of the internet in Yugoslavia, and opens questions about what happens to the internet when a country disappears. While it's easy to imagine that the internet is as accessible as air, an omnipresent cloud exempt from the confines of cables, in reality it exists in physical form – in a building somewhere there are metres of wires, leads and servers that can be disconnected. This concept is known as internet realism.

Computer scientist Borka Jerman-Blažič registered the domain name in 1987 in order to establish international email at the Digital Technology Department at the University of Ljubljana. She describes the intense political history of .yu – transmitters being bombed during the Balkan wars and servers being shut down.

When the country split, the domain name became a digital relic of a virtual Yugoslavia. Watch the eerily soundtracked film From yu to me below and read The Unfinished Business of a Yugoslav Internet here.

h/t Rhizome