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
Barclays Africa launches RiseA new global start-up community has been launched to pioneer financial services and unlock Africa’s potential. Read More
JUA Energy enters Nigeria after success in KenyaAfter successfully entering the Kenyan market in April 2014, solar-powered systems and technological electronic accessories manufacturer brand JUA energy has launched in Nigeria to sell through e-tailer Jumia. Read More
Fundamo founder joins Nomanini’s advisory boardFundamo founder Hannes Van Rensburg, generally considered the father of mobile payments, has joined the advisory board of Nomanini, a South African-based, enterprise technology transactions platform provider. Read More
Airtel sponsors Indo-Africa ICT Expo 2015Airtel is sponsoring the Indo-Africa ICT Expo 2015 being held at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) now underway in Nairobi. Read More
MTN acquires Smart Village to enhance its foothold in the fibre network spaceMTN has concluded a deal with MultiChoice to acquire Smart Village, which will accelerate the mobile operator’s fibre to the home (FTTH) strategy to be the provider of choice for high speed fibre network across South Africa. Read More
Agilitude opens East African office on the back of mobility and cloud growthSalesforce reseller and Consulting Partner Agilitude has announced that is has opened an office in Kenya, making East Africa its next target for growth. Read More
MTN gets ethics management committeeMTN Nigeria has set up an ethics management committee with the sole responsibility of managing ethics risks. Read More
200 entrepreneurs to launch innovative businessesOver 200 entrepreneurs from across Africa are set to receive resources, networking opportunities and mentorship from Microsoft 4Afrika and AMPION. Read More
Airtel Ghana MD named Marketing Woman of the YearThe Managing Director of Airtel Ghana, Lucy Quist, has been crowned Marketing Woman of the year at the Chartered Institute of Marketing Ghana (CIMG) Marketing Performance Awards. Read More
FEATURED STORYInnovative designer takes e-waste to another level
Gladys Muyenzelwa is a Gaborone based artist and designer who has an eye for ethnic and contemporary design. But unlike other designers, Muyenzelwa has found a way of using e-waste to make her creations.
BEST READ NEWS
IN DEPTHHigh tech homes: Just press play
High tech, digital homes where everything is automated and connected aren’t the stuff of science fiction any longer, says BNC Technology.
COMPANY NEWSLuba Freeport streamlines its sea of paper with Sage X3
Luba Freeport has implemented the Finance and Distribution modules of the Sage X3 business management solution to automate its business processes across finance and operations.