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
ITC urges governments to increase public procurement from women vendorsThe International Trade Centre (ITC) has launched an initiative to increase the number public procurement contracts being awarded to women-owned businesses. Currently only an estimated 1% of public-procurement contracts globally are awarded to WOBs or women entrepreneurs. Read More
Orange launches start-up accelerator programme in Ivory CoastWith “Orange Fab Ivory Coast” and “Fab Israel”, Orange’s network of start-up accelerators is now present on four continents. Read More
Safaricom shareholders agree yuMobile buyoutShareholders of Kenya’s leading telecom Safaricom voted in favour of the company’s acquisition of the network, IT and infrastructure of smaller rival yuMobile at the firm’s annual general meeting (AGM), meaning the deal now only requires regulatory approval to proceed. Read More
TLcom achieves second profitable African exit of 2014 with Movirtu saleVenture capital firm TLcom Capital (TLcom) has announced its second profitable exit in Africa this year with the sale for an undisclosed fee of virtual identity solutions provider for mobile operators Movirtu to BlackBerry. Read More
Why CWG is re-strategisingNigeria’s Computer Warehouse Group (CWG Plc) is re-strategising to take the company in a different direction. Read More
Green accelerator programme launched in KenyaImpact Amplifier, Growth Africa, VC4Africa and Hivos have joined forces to launch an accelerator programme for green entrepreneurs, looking to help these entrepreneurs scale their innovations across Africa. Read More
Nigeria will drive West African operations, says Asseco chiefEuropean software giant Asseco Group has decided to open shop in Nigeria to drive its presence in the sub-region from the country. Read More
Eaton Towers acquires Airtel towers in 6 countriesEaton Towers and Bharti Airtel today announced an agreement for the acquisition of over 3,500 telecoms towers by Eaton Towers from Airtel. Read More
TNM first quarter net profit jumps to K1.8 billionMalawi's mobile telecoms network service provider TNM continues to realise an increase in net profit from operations. Read More
FEATURED STORYMFarmer SMS redefines market access for Ugandan farmers
Ugandan smallholder farmers are benefitting from an ambitious innovative ICT mobile phone initiative that offers weather reports and up-to-date market information about changes in prices for agricultural commodities, thus granting them lucrative returns from their farming ventures.
BEST READ NEWS
IN DEPTHNIG President speaks his mind
Bayo Banjo, CEO, Disc Communications and President, Nigeria Internet Group (NIG) says the proposed licensing of infrastructure companies by the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) will breed corruption and entrench monopolistic practices. Kokumo Goodie reports.
COMPANY NEWSSAP innovation transforms how Governments conduct business
SAP Africa kicked off its public sector innovation roadshow in Johannesburg, to highlight how the SAP innovation solutions portfolio including, cloud and big data, supports all levels ...