SA firms chase own top-level domains

MultiChoice has applied for nine new generic top-level Internet domains, including .mnet and .dstv. MTN also wants in on the action. By Craig Wilson and Duncan McLeod.

If DStv-operator MultiChoice gets the go-ahead, get ready for Web addresses such as bigbrother.mnet and guide.dstv sometime next year.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) has released a list of the applicants for new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) that will supplement existing gTLDs such as .com, .net and .org.

The list shows that MultiChoice has applied for nine new domains and that mobile operator MTN is looking to secure its own domain, too — not surprisingly, it’s .mtn. The list also reveals some surprises about the most sought-after gTLDs.

The domains that MultiChoice has applied for are .africamagic, .dstv, .gotv, .kyknet, .mnet, .multichoice, .mzansimagic, .naspers and .supersport. With applications costing US$185 000/gTLD, TechCentral estimates the company is spending just shy of R14m (at the current exchange rate) to secure the names.

DStv Online CEO John Kotsaftis says there are a number of reasons MultiChoice decided to apply for the new gTLDs. For example, he says it will be easier for consumers to enter Web addresses on mobile phones because they’ll be shorter. Also, in the case of .mnet, the company was not able to secure mnet.com, and so it allows it to create a single brand identity for all the markets across Africa where M-Net is broadcast.

They’ll also allow group companies to do clever URL manipulation, such as creating a website at go.mnet, for example.

Kotsaftis says there his research shows that owning a specific gTLD doesn’t have an impact on search-engine optimisation, but there’s no way of knowing if Google will change its search methodologies in the future, so owning the domains helps with future proofing.

He says the costs involved with registering the gTLDs are easily justified.

According to an expert in the registration process, who asked not to be named, the application fee of $185 000 is not wholly binding in that refunds are available should an applicant wish to rescind its application during the evaluation process.

The earlier an application is withdrawn, the larger the refund to which the applicant is entitled. Applicants may wish to withdraw an application where it has become clear they are likely to encounter stiff competition for the domain or opposition to the application.

The expert reckons that where MultiChoice’s key brands are concerned — as in the case of .mnet, .dstv and .supersport — the expenditure makes sense for brand protection and promotion. But it remains to be seen whether the cost will prove justified for gTLDs such as .mzansimagic and .kyknet, he says.

The company may also encounter opposition to its application for .africamagic on account of the geographical portion of the name.

News of MultiChoice’s plans comes after Uniforum SA (also known as the ZA Central Registry) applied for .africa, .capetown, .joburg and .durban.

The .africa application has the support of the African Union and UniForum is applying on its behalf. It seems unlikely that the request will encounter opposition.

Icann says it hopes the introduction of new gTLDs will “increase competition and choice”. There are currently only 22 gTLDs in the domain-name system, but the corporation may introduce thousands more in coming years.

In its announcement on Wednesday, Icann reiterated that no applications have yet been successful, even those lodged right at the beginning of the process.

The application period closed at the end of May and Icann now begins the lengthy and administratively intensive process of vetting the various applicants, resolving conflicts, and ultimately deciding which gTLDs are granted and to whom.

Icann has an enormous task ahead in terms of deciding between competing applicants. Where one party has an obviously strong claim, the process may prove straightforward, but where there isn’t, it may eventually settle disputes with auctions that see the highest bidder winning.

The list published on Wednesday shows the most popular prospective gTLD is .app, with 13 applicants vying for it. Other popular extensions include .home and .inc with 11 applicants — including search giant Google — .art with 10 applicants, .blog, .book, .llc, and .shop with nine apiece, and .design, .movie and .music each with eight.

Other popular names include .cloud, .hotel, .love, .store and .mail. Further down the list are the likes of .pizza, .play, .poker, .radio, .realestate, .gay and .search, with four applicants each.

Icann has received three applicants for .sucks, and one from toy and game company Hasbro for .transformers — an application that is unlikely to meet with opposition unless it’s from a power utility.  — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media

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  • Muzi Mohale

    why didn’t uniforum abbreviate cities?  it would have been smarter for them to apply for ctp, dbn & jhb…

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