The recently completed “dot ZA market survey” of the dot ZA Domain Name Authority (ZADNA) shows that South African businesses and people prefer to use co.za to dot com.
The survey, which began in November 2009 and involved thousands of online and telephone interviews with .za domain name holders (registrants), business people and non-profit entities, was concluded in late February this year.
ZADNA intended to use the survey to better understand the dot ZA market and in particular to ascertain what improvements were needed to make dot ZA more attractive and so better serve the interests of South African organisations. According to Vika Mpisane, the GM of ZADNA, “the research results are very important as they provide answers to most of the questions we and our stakeholders had about improving the .za space. These answers clarify what interventions ZADNA or its stakeholders need to make to improve ZADNA.”
What was very noticeable from the results is that 83 per cent of South African businesses choose to use co.za for their online presence. This effectively means only around 15 per cent of local businesses confirmed having dot Com website names. When asked if they considered having both co.za and dot Com names was necessary, 58 per cent of businesses interviewed answered “yes”.
“This must be put into a correct perspective: the perceived need for registering your product and brand names across multiple domains results from the ever-increasing instances of trademark abuse online. To counter the potential for such abuse, a growing number of local and international businesses now register in as many domains as possible.”
The survey also shows that dot Com still ranks better than the rest of other dot ZA domains, such as org.za and gov.za. This is understandable because the rest of dot ZA domains are more focused on a smaller communities and sectors.
Providing an example, Mpisane said, “The growth of gov.za will always be limited as government and its organisations cannot be expected to grow as radically as business organisations, plus some government entities, such as parastatals and municipalities, register their website names in co.za and dot Com, instead of gov.za.”
What the survey results also show is that most South Africans are patriotic and loyal to South Africa when they choose their online presence. Fifty percent of the interviewees chose this as the main factor influencing their choice, while affordability of dot ZA domain names came second.
Pitting co.za against dot Com, 83 per cent of the interviewees chose co.za ahead of dot Com as giving them superiority locally. Co.za also outscored dot Com by a great margin when it comes to affordability of registration – 93 per cent chose co.za here – and 75 per cent percent felt that co.za gives their business most online credibility. Probably as expected, dot Com outscored co.za when it comes to global appeal. Most Internet service providers (ISPs) and registrants felt that the process of registering dot ZA domain names should be made easier by automation.
“The need for more automation can never be over-emphasised, and ZADNA will answer this through the licensing of dot ZA domain registries (i.e. operators of domain name databases) and registrars (i.e. ISPs registering domain names), and the introduction of a central registry that can standardise such automation across most .za domains.”
The survey also tested South Africans’ awareness of the new generic (i.e. non-country specific) domain names that ICANN, the entity managing the global Internet domain name and IP numbering systems, is planning to introduce in due course. Most South Africans are not aware of such plans, but ISPs showed substantial awareness (at 44 per cent), as expected because they are the entities that sell domain name registration services.
Interviewees were asked about introduction of new 2nd level domains such as city or region-specific domains. When tested on this, respondents felt that city-specific domains were not as attractive as they could because of the potential for changing city and region names in South Africa. There was also very little enthusiasm shown for registering names directly under dot ZA (i.e. yourname.za instead of yourname.org.za) and for introducing biz.za to compete with co.za.
“The feeling is that allowing registrations of names directly under dot ZA will lead to a potential for abuse of trademarks and brands. It will lead to an unnecessary cost as a result of putting measures in place to try and protect known brands, something which sometimes may be quite a challenge to do,” says Mpisane.
What the results showed was that mobi.za, fam.za (for families) and shop.za (for retailers) were seen as potentially the most attractive additional options. Music.za also showed support by some.
In the light of attempts by some Western Internet companies to apply to ICANN to open up new top level domains using local city names, such as dot Joburg, dot Durban and dot Zulu, the respondents overwhelmingly felt that South Africa did not need to have multiple identities online.
“ZADNA is aware of frantic attempts by non-South African Internet companies to abuse local city, heritage and tribal names as new top level domains. This survey shows that not only are such attempts unfounded, but they go right against the feeling of South Africans. South Africans are happy with dot ZA as their online identity. Any attempts by non-South Africans to give us multiple online identities, without support of the South African population, are baseless and driven by greed and ambition for profit,” says Mpisane.