Looking around the web-sphere of Zambia the lack of locally registered domains is frightening. By locally registered I mean have their domain registered in Zambia, using the ccTLD. Maybe I need to backtrack and answer a few questions; What is a domain? What is a ccTLD?
A couple of definitions before I proceed:
gTLD – Generic Code Top Level Domain
ccTLD – Country Code Top Level Domain
Registry – Runs the ccTLD
Owner – Owner of a Domain
Domain – Internet name
Registrant – Person domain is Registered to
Registrar – Person/Organisation that registers a domain on behalf of
Traditionally a domain is a territory under the control of a ruler or in the modern context a domain is the piece of the Internet a company or individual owns. The part of the internet they own is in turn under the control of a larger entity; think sub-dividing a plot of land. Domains are part of the Domain Naming System (DNS); the global namespace responsible for translating human friendly names Google to an IP Addresses 126.96.36.199 and thus rendering the web useable for humanity.
The Domain Naming System is a hierarchical namespace starting with a ‘period’. Below the period are the gTLDs and TLDs – .com, .org, .net, .za and .zm as seen in the following image.
When the brains that be came up with this naming space the idea was to have an ordered filing and registration of domains. The order meant better localisation of content and search engine optimisation at a very basic level. If your domain ended in .zm it meant you had registered it in Zambia and had an interest in ensuring your content was pertinent to the Zambian viewer.
Now onto the crux of the issue with the web as defined by Zambian web designers and companies; the dearth of .zm domains. Whilst 49% of the blame of an empty ccTLD has to go to the early registrars (Coppernet and Zamnet), 51% of the blame must go to local web development companies and their clients. The hierarchical naming idea was good but the implementation in Zambia was horrible! To register a .zm domain you have to fill out forms, physically go to an office and hand over a close to exorbitant sum of money. This is not conducive to building the .zm namespace and filling it with domains!
Web companies are taking the path of least resistance and preying on the lack of knowledge by the customer by registering gTLDs (.com’s and .net’s). The problem with gTLDs is that they are spectacularly popular with a combined total of 130 million registered domains for .com and .net; good luck getting your company name. A misnomer exists that a .com is more important than a .zm, I would suggest the reverse is true. I do not deny the registration process is difficult and more expensive than a .com but are the additional few extra dollars worth sacrificing the brand identity? In the hunt for the elusive gTLD web development companies have come up with what I call the in-domain suffix of company-name-zambia.com. Users now accept *zambia suffixes as normal. Let me set the record straight, the suffix is horrible – do not do it!
In addition, the problem may persist because web design companies do not have a grasp of the underlying nomenclature of DNS. The hierarchy for the .zm ccTLD is:
organisation.zm – for Internet Service Providers
organisation.co.zm – for commercial/for profit entities/general
organisation.com.zm – for commercial/for profit entities/general
organisation.ac.zm – for academic/higher educational institutions
organisation.sch.zm – for primary/high schools
organisation.edu.zm – for educational institutions
organisation.net.zm – traditionally for ISP’s/Network entities
organisation.gov.zm – for governmental institutions
organisation.org.zm – not for profit
Companies whose web presence has been built with the in-domain suffix have lost their brand identity to Company Name Zambia. Is that your company name? I am tempted to dishonourably mention the many but the internet cat got my tongue!
If Google geolocates and redirects your browser to www.google.co.zm, we must all do the same. Yes, hosting a website in Zambia is a challenge with the high cost per MB transferred, cost per GB stored and archaic hosting packages but you can register your domain in Zambia and host your website with your favourite international hosting provider.
To all the companies out there with a *zambia.com domain name fix it. To the web development companies advising companies to get *zambia.com domains stop it! If we want customers to support us and buy local, we must should do the same. Let us grow the web sphere in Zambia together. By registering locally, we will reduce the cost by keeping our bits in Zambia. I wish PACRA (why are they a .org.zm?)and ZICTA would make it a law that the 30,000 locally registered companies who submit tax returns must have a .zm domain.
In closing a few truths:
- You can register a .zm domain and host it with GoDaddy, Hostgator, 1and1, etc
- A .zm domain allows you to register your formal company
- A .zm means any patent infringements can be resolved in country
- A .zm enables you to protect your IP
- ccTLD does count towards SEO
- Registering a .zm is cheaper than a billboard, get one
- Go register a .zm domain and point it to the company-name-zambia.com web host