South Africa’s online landscape is set for huge changes in coming months as new top-level domains, including three “dot-city” top-level domains, are opened for registration for the first time and as long-dormant domains are reintroduced.
In the months ahead, the ZA Central Registry (ZACR), which operates the centralised registry platform for .co.za and other domains, will begin accepting registrations for Internet addresses that end in .africa, .joburg, .capetown and .durban. In addition, it will again begin accepting registrations for .net.za and .web.za addresses, which have been dormant for the past decade.
Local, provincial and national government departments and agencies are being given the opportunity to preregister names in the three new city domains, so the City of Cape Town, for example, could secure tourism.capetown or tablemountain.capetown before registrations are opened to the general public. Companies are also able to reserve their trademarks, helping deter domain squatters.
For the new .africa domain, governments across the continent have the right to reserve certain names of national interest — masaimara.africa in the case of Kenya, for example — before general availability.
High-value generic names — banks.joburg or hotels.capetown, for example — will be reserved and auctioned to the highest bidders.
Large companies that have submitted their trademarks to a trademark clearing house operated by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) — the organisation in charge of Internet governance — will have their domains registered (if they choose to do so), before general registrations begin in April 2014.
For local businesses that don’t operate across national borders, and which only want to protect their trademarks in South Africa, the ZACR has established a mark validation system — available at markvalidation.co.za — which acts as complement to the Icann trademark clearing house.
Vika Mpisane, GM of the .za Domain Name Authority, explains that South African companies interested in protecting their trademarks locally can submit their marks at a significantly lower cost of R798/mark against Icann’s fee of US$1 000. The ZACR also offers a “watch service”, where it alerts trademark owners about domain-name registrations that are similar to their registered marks. The cost of this is R114/year for every 10 variations of a trademark.
However, the dispute resolution process for the dot-city domains and the .africa domain will still be handled through Icann. It costs $1 500 (about R15 000) to lodge a dispute. The fee is not refundable.
“Squatting is already a problem. We strongly advise people to register and put in their marks ahead of time,” says Mpisane.
Domains under .joburg, .capetown and .durban will cost registrants R150/year. The cost of registering .africa domains is yet to be set, but will be “slightly higher”, according to Mpisane.
The ZACR incurred significant costs in applying for the new top-level domains. Registrations with Icann cost $185 000 for each of the four new domains.
Meanwhile, the ZACR will soon relaunch the .org.za domain — until now managed by Internet Solutions — and is also reopening registrations in the .net.za and .web.za domains.
“.net.za, .org.za and .web.za will attract the same fee as .co.za domains — R35/year,” says Mpisane, adding that the new mark validation system will also be extended to these three second-level domains. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media