Bizarre twist in .africa tale

DotConnectAfrica claims that both it and UniForum have legitimate claims to the forthcoming .africa domain, even though the former failed to apply for it. By Craig Wilson.

Neil Dundas

Mauritius-based DotConnectAfrica is laying claim to the .africa generic top-level domain (gTLD) for which SA’s ZA Central Registry is the African Union’s endorsed bidder. This is in spite of the fact that DotConnectAfrica inadvertently applied for the wrong domain, at a cost of US$185 000, and is unlikely to succeed in meeting the stringent requirements for geographic gTLDs.

The ZA Central Registry, also known as UniForum, says it intends to administer the .africa domain on behalf of the African digital community as a whole. Its bid to run the .africa domain system is backed by the .za Domain Name Authority and SA’s department of communications and has the support of the African Union Commission.

Domain Incite, an industry website, reported in July that the African Union Commission had explicitly endorsed UniForum to “administer and operate” the .africa domain “on behalf of the African community”. Furthermore, the commission said its endorsement of UniForum was “the only formal endorsement provided by the African Union and its member states”.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers (Icann), the international body that will evaluate applications for new gTLDS, requires that geographic names be supported by 60% of the states within the applicable region.

The application process for new gTLDs closed at the end of May and a list of applications and applicants was made available in early July. On that list there was only one application for .africa, namely UniForum’s. However, DotConnectAfrica is now saying it intended to apply for the gTLD, too, and that its application — for .dotafrica — was an error.

DotConnectAfrica claims it, too, has African Union endorsement and that this endorsement precedes UniForum’s. But UniForum SA director Neil Dundas says he understands that the endorsement of DotConnectAfrica’s bid had been formally withdrawn.

He says UniForum’s application is a “geographic name application” and that while DotConnectAfrica’s technically is not, UniForum wants it to be evaluated as one because of the potential confusion the .dotafrica domain could cause.

Also, if DotConnectAfrica is allowed to change its application to apply to .africa, then it has to be considered as a geographic application. This would also require more public comment as geographic gTLDs can be opposed by members of the region they represent.

TechCentral was unable to reach DotConnectAfrica for comment.  — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media

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