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New local domains see breakthrough

Acting CEO of ZACR Neil Dundas says a breakthrough has been made in the process of introducing new local domain names, .africa, .joburg, .capetown and .durban.

Acting CEO of ZACR Neil Dundas says a breakthrough has been made in the process of introducing new local domain names, .africa, .joburg, .capetown and .durban.

The launch of new local domain names – including the long-awaited .africa domain – is finally approaching, following headway made at a recent public meeting held by the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), in Beijing.

According to Neil Dundas, CEO of the registry operator chosen by the African Union to administer the continent’s official domain bidding process – the ZA Central Registry (ZACR, formerly UniForum) – .africa is set to be launched later this year. In addition, says Dundas, three new city domains – .capetown, .durban and .joburg – are also anticipated to be available around the same time.

Dundas says .africa, the proposed name for the African continent's generic Top Level Domain (gTLD), has been undergoing an evaluation process in terms of ICANN protocol over the last year.

“Now we are finally moving out of the application phase, thanks to government support, and are ready to start planning the launch and marketing of the new local domain names.”

DotAfrica was given the nod by the Governmental Advisory Committee at ICANN’s 46th public meeting in Beijing, China, earlier this month.

Expected to cost around $18 per year (excluding the fees that registrars will charge end-users), the new domains – once publicly available – will be open for address registry by companies and individuals both within and outside of Africa.

Next rung

“Now we are finally moving out of the application phase, thanks to government support, and are ready to start planning the launch and marketing of the new local domain names.”

Dundas says the proposed domain name is an opportunity for locals to forge an identity that will enhance an African digital presence. “We want the domain name to represent a considerable value proposition for those who register.”

The next phase, which the ZACR is now entering, he says, involves giving brand owners (“mark holders”) the opportunity to claim their own domains. “We need to educate the intellectual property and brand communities about the value of [the respective] domains.”

Dundas says this process needs to be followed to ensure genuine trademarks are protected and sold to the valid entity. The trademark holder will need to register their trademarks with the Trademark Clearing House.

This, says Dundas, is called the “sunrise” phase and will be followed by a “landrush” phase, which means a first-come-first-served process, whereby domain names that have not already been reserved may be registered.

“The sunrise phase may take between 60 to 90 days and by the beginning of next year we are hoping to be at the landrush phase.”

Social impact

ICANN launched the new TLD application process in 2012. The ZACR believes the outcome of this process will ultimately alter the landscape of the Internet forever.

“The dotAfrica gTLD will bring the continent together as an Internet community under one umbrella, allowing e-commerce, technology and infrastructure to flourish. A truly African initiative created for Africa, by Africans.”

Social impact has played a large part in the ZACR .africa bid. Dundas and his team have also pushed for a portion of the R50 paid annually for every .co.za domain to be used for projects aimed at boosting the growth of the Internet in SA.


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