Africa fumbles during internet land grab
BUSINESS| July 9, 2012, 8:20 a.m.
By Howard Rybko, CEO, Syncrony
In mid-June of 2012, when the big Internet players revealed their cards in the highest stakes game in web history, the best Africa could come up with was four predictable geographic plays (.JOBURG, .DURBAN, .CAPETOWN and .AFRICA) and a few MNET pals covering their brand names.
At stake is the ownership of the digital real estate represented by the few hundred new domain name extensions that will start appearing in 2013. These include extensions like .ZULU, .WEB, .LOTTO and a possible 1,400 more. The new extensions are designed to unclog the constipation resulting from the lack of availability of dot com names (and the handful of alternatives like dot net, dot biz and dot org).
The problem is that no one really knows how this is going to pan out. It is possible that the new names may cause an online earthquake that will change our digital business models for ever. However some big players like Facebook haven’t even bought a ticket to this movie, by applying for .FACEBOOK. Many others like Microsoft, Apple, Jaguar and Sony have been only slightly more adventurous, and have come up with the $185,000 required for each registration, simply to cover their brands and trademarks.
Closer to home, our entire African continent accounted for a paltry 13 English name applications. Peanuts compared to the enterprising Donuts Inc, who went out on a $65 million limb and applied for a staggering 307 new Top Level Domains. The names that Donuts (Domain Nuts) have applied for run the generic gamut from .RUGBY to .CASINO, .FAMLILY, .BLOG and even a controversial few like .SUCKS. If things turn out as Donuts’ hope, they will profit by making it affordable and simple for businesses and individuals to lay claim to their online territory.
The Google Play?
After Donuts the next biggest applicant was Google. Under the quaint name Charleston Road Registry, they have applied for 101 top level domains. As a long time Google watcher I have pondered long and hard on the possible strategy behind Google’s play. So have many others. (Note that Amazon has applied for 76 largely generic names and may possibly have a similar strategy, since many of their applications are in competition with Google’s.)
It seems to me that at the moment that Google runs a one trick magic show, producing an ocean of cash from advertising that is generated by search. Most of this revenue comes from the millions of small and medium businesses who are plugged into Google via their credit cards and tithed monthly for targeted traffic.
In order to grow, Google needs to be connected to more credit cards. Since about 70% of small companies worldwide are yet to obtain domain names or an online presence, Google needs to find ways to enable these kinds of enterprises to get online.
Domain registration and verification are huge hurdles for newcomers. Finding an appropriate name is tough, but wiring the new domain to email and web content is much harder. This is further complicated by yearly fees and the various service providers who become involved.
What if Google provided a free domain name registration service? A service that would allow users select a meaningful name from a range of possible domain extensions, plug in some basic company info, provide a list of mailbox names and then one click later they could be fully online.
At this point, all the newcomer is missing would be some customer feet, which could easily be provided by a complimentary Adwords voucher.
Time will tell what the exact Google strategy is going to be, but if Google and Amazon get it right, Facebook may well regret the IPO preoccupation that caused it to miss the next Internet tsunami.
Other players bound to be affected by all the new domain name strategies will be many of the niche feeders in the web ecology, like the ISP’s who use the domain registration process as a route to netting fresh paying customers. Also affected could be the huge businesses of Network Solutions, VeriSign and others who rely on revenue from bloated charges for yearly domain registrations and SSL certificate renewals.
The lucrative game of domain investment - which has seen some traders make huge windfalls - is bound to change as well.
It is definitely going to be an interesting year ahead for online organisations.
MORE BUSINESS NEWS
Ringier Africa and Asia Pacific get new structure and leadershipRingier is restructuring its international market set-up for the beginning of the new year, with four dedicated teams established for each of the African business models. Read More
Travelstart secures strategic partnership with MTNAmadeus, the global technology investor, has announced a $40m investment in Travelstart in partnership with MTN, Africa’s leading mobile and digital life services operator. Read More
VMware appoints new Regional Director of SSAVMware has announced the appointment of Matthew Kibby as regional director of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Read More
More than 700 delegates at Sage’s first African Business Partner Conference in South AfricaSage’s first African Business Partner Conference in SA marks a milestone in Sage’s journey towards becoming the global market leader for integrated accounting, payroll and payment systems. Read More
SweepSouth secures funding from top SA Venture CapitalistsVumela Fund has backed online home cleaning services platform SweepSouth. Read More
Smarter use of digital skills, tech, could boost global economy by $2 Trillion: AccentureOptimizing the use of digital skills and technologies could generate $2 trillion of additional global economic output by 2020, according to a new study by Accenture. Read More
Ghana’s real estate industry to benefit from MLS databaseReal Estate Professionals in Ghana will soon have access to a new Multiple Listing Services (MLS) designed to relieve them of the stress of listing properties. Read More
Online shop Dakika launches in KenyaDakika online, a Kenyan owned e-commerce platform, has launched its operations in Kenya to offer a stress free shopping experience to online shoppers across the country. Read More
Chinese tech firm Konka opens shop in NigeriaAnother Chinese technology firm, Konka Telecoms of China, yesterday opened shop in Nigeria with a pledge to deepen competition in the mobile phone market and give customers opportunities to experience the cutting edge technology associated with its products. Read More
Orange to acquire Airtel’s subsidiaries in Burkina Faso and Sierra LeoneOrange and Bharti Airtel International (Netherlands) BV have signed an agreement leading to Orange’s acquisition of Airtel’s operations in Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone. Read More
FEATURED STORYViber Spreads Good Vibes in Africa with the introduction of public chats
Viber, one of the leading messaging and calling apps with more than 664 million unique users worldwide, has opened its latest social channel ‘Public Chats’ to partners in Africa and the Middle East.
BEST READ NEWS
IN DEPTHPoised for greater heights – Roshi Motman, AfricaCom CEO of the Year Winner
Roshi Motman is not your average CEO. Since taking up the reins as the first female CEO of Tigo Ghana in 2014, she has led the Tigo brand through a remarkable transformation.