While .africa finally went on sale last week after years of legal fights, it seems Africans may find themselves in the minority of registrants.
A combination of awareness, pricing and anticipated interest from Chinese domain investors, means that Africans could account for as few as 1 in 10 .africa registrations, according to Lucky Masilela, CEO of .africa registry ZA Central Registry.
The domain went into its sunrise period last week, and has a multi-phased launch planned out that will last until July 1, 2018.
After the trademark owners have had their crack at the domain — Masilela tells us that South Africa brands such as Nando’s are among the first to grab theirs — there will be five phases in which domains will be open to all but priced at a premium.
Starting June 5 there will be five landrush periods of five day, each a kind of hybrid between the traditional landrush period and the kind of Early Access Period offered by Donuts and others.
Each landrush will see all names priced at a certain amount, with the amount going down at the start of each period — $5,000 to $2,000 to $1,000 to $500 (all USD).
In the event that any name is claimed by more than one registrant, there will be an auction for that name at the end of the period.
Then on July 4 comes the first period of “general availability”, from which point all domains will be first-come, first-served.
But for the first 28 days of GA, domains will be priced at $150, other than domains categorized by the registry as premium.
Domains then come down to a more affordable $18 wholesale.
But that’s not the end. ZACR has baked in a price reduction to $12.50 wholesale, due to kick in July 1 2018. From then on out, it’s business as usual.
Unlike similar TLDs such as .eu, there are to be no geographic restrictions on who can register .africa names, and Masilela said he expects registrants from Africa to be in a minority.
“I think were are looking at about 10% from the continent, growing gradually over the years,” Masilela said. “The next wave is going to be international registrars.”
“We have a big suspicion that we will probably see a huge uptake coming from the east, which is the China market,” he said. “They’ll probably come in and grab a large number of domain names.”
He said that Chinese investment in Africa offline is likely to be mirrored online.
Pricing is also likely to be a factor. While .africa will bottom out, ignoring periodic discounts, at $12.50, that’s still quite a lot more than you’d expect to pay for African ccTLDs. ZACR’s own .za costs about $4 per year.
The relatively high price of becoming ICANN accredited has also meant that while Africa has 50-something countries, there are currently only about half a dozen gTLD registrars based there.
ZACR proposes to counter this by offering a gateway service rather like the one it already offers in .joburg and .capetown, that would help bring its own .za registrars on board.
GMO Registry has recorded one of the most successful new gTLD launch days to date, selling over 45,000 .shop domain names in the first hours.
The company said it sold 45,427 .shop names in the first two hours after general availability started yesterday afternoon at about 1600 UTC.
The total at that point was 51,755, including about 5,000 that were registered during the Early Access Period, during which names carried higher prices.
The latest .shop zone file contains 46,419 domains.
The registry had sold 616 premium-priced names already, GMO said.
The volume is quite impressive given the retail price tags — .shop is not priced for budget Chinese domainers, it’s selling for $20 to $30 at the major Western registrars.
That’s double, triple or even 10 times as much as Minds + Machines’ self-consciously ‘non-freenium’ .vip domains were selling for when it racked up a six-figure volume during its first day of GA earlier this year.
West.cn, the leading Chinese new gTLD registrar, priced .vip at $3 but is selling .shop at $25.
GMO paid a then record-setting $41.5 million for the rights to .shop at an ICANN auction back in January.
There was a small turn-out for the premium launch of .cars, .car and .auto gTLDs, but the registry says it cleared over $1 million in revenue.
The three gTLDs are run by Cars Registry, a venture between Uniregistry and XYZ.com.
They all finished their pricey Early Access Periods yesterday and are due to enter general availability today.
The EAP started January 12 with prices of $45,000 per domain. In GA, they won’t cost you less than $2,000.
While zone files show almost no new domains appearing between January 12 and today — three or four per domain at most — Uniregistry CEO Frank Schilling said EAP was a “success”.
“More than 100 dealers and brands took advantage of sunrise and EAP,” he said.
It appears there are a few dozen domains not appearing in zone files yet.
The three gTLDs combined have brought in over $1 million during EAP, Schilling said.
XYZ.com may be best known for its budget .xyz gTLD, but its portfolio is increasingly leaning toward the super-premium end of the industry price range.
The company entered Early Access Period with its .security, .protection and .theatre gTLDs today, and they ain’t cheap.
.security and .protection are expected to carry retail prices of $3,000 a year, when they hit general availability a week from now.
Today, they’re $65,000 apiece, with the price reducing to $35,000, $15,000, $8,750 and $5,000 over the coming days.
Meanwhile, .theatre starts at $64,000, going down to $32,000, $14,000, $7,000 and $4,000 before finally settling at the GA RRP of $750.
All three gTLDs were acquired by XYZ.com from other applicants.
That was also the case for .cars, .car and .auto, which XYZ runs in a joint venture with Uniregistry, where retail prices are roughly $2,500.
In terms of competition, .security and .protection are probably up against .trust, while .theatre may well find itself in competition with .tickets, which has made inroads in Broadway.
Cars Registry has set pricing for .car, .cars and .auto domains at crazy-high levels.
If you want to buy a domain in any of the three gTLDs on day one, it will cost you a whopping $45,000.
If you buy one during regular general availability, it’s likely to set you back $2,500.
The registry, a partnership of Uniregistry and XYZ.com, has set its registry fee at $2,000, according to an email sent to registrars this week.
That’s a buck higher than .sucks, one of the most expensive new gTLDs to launch to date.
The sunrise fee will be $3,000 — made up of the regular $2,000 fee plus an added $1,000. Again, that’s higher than .sucks.
The Early Access Period — which, as reported yesterday, has replaced the more usual landrush — will run for nine days with prices ranging from $45,000 to $5,000.
Compared to the usual models of XYZ.com and Uniregistry, which tend towards the mass-market, these prices are colossal.
I wonder how much the pricing was influenced by the fact that the registry has the car-related gTLD market almost entirely sewn up.
Its only potential competitor is .autos, which has been delegated for almost 18 months but has yet to even reveal its launch plans and probably isn’t going to be available to the mass market anyway.
Sunrise for all three gTLDS is due to start December 9, ending January 12. EAP will begin that day, and GA will start January 20.