Several years of campaigns have resulted in a marginal increase in the number of registrations for Nigeria’s top-level domain name. Aside from other factors, many have cited the high cost of registering the .ng as reason for their preference for foreign domain names. However, the managers of the domain name are wooing more Nigerians by introducing discount programmes. SAMSON AKINTARO reports
Nigeria’s country-code top-level domain name (ccTLD) is seen as one of the most under-utilised resources in the country. With millions of domain names available for registration under the .ng domain name, the country has been able to register only 183,195 as of August this year, according to data from Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA). While web owners in the country often blamed their choice of a domain name on the web developers who choose on their behalf, developers have hinged their decisions on the fact that the cost of registering the country’s domain name is higher than that of a generic domain .com being managed by an American company, Verisign. For instance, while a .com domain name can be registered for as low as N2,000, a cheap .ng registration is sold for N11,000, while the premium names are sold for as high as N1 million. Between January and August this year, the .ng database grew by 6,474. Compared to last year, when a total of 28,976, were added, the growth for this year has been very slow.
To encourage more Nigerians to sign up for .ng, NiRA had, in July last year, announced discounts on new registrations for three months. The .ng promotion commenced on August 24, 2020 and ended on November 21, 2020. According to NiRA’s report at the end of the year, the promo period witnessed an increase in the registration of .ng as more businesses took advantage of the offer. Speaking on efforts to promote the .ng this year, the President of NiRA, Mr. Muhammed Rudman, said the association kicked off another promo for this year on October 1. “The non-premium second level. ng domain names are available from participating registrars at the same offer price as during the .ng promo of the year 2020. “The same price offered in the year 2020 to interested members of the public for registering non-premium second level .ng domain names are on offer to the public this year,” Rudman said. While advising businesses in Nigeria to take advantage of the internet to achieve better sales, NiRA urged them to take advantage of the opportunities in the .ng namespace. “This means using the .ng domain extension for personal and business websites and online platforms. It offers tremendous benefits. Using the .ng domain name for your website provides the opportunity for businesses to reach the Nigerian market more easily. “If your business is intended for the Nigerian market, using the .ng domain extension improves your local search engine optimisation (SEO) and helps your audience to discover your business easily on search engines,” he said. He added that the association was committed and dedicated to rewarding the entrepreneurial drive of Nigerians that have been successful online and contributed to the growth of Nigeria’s economy. “The adoption of the .ng domain name is a channel to support our effort in growing the Nigerian digital economy,” he added.
Benefits of .ng
A domain name is an identification string that defines a realm of administrative autonomy, authority, or control within the Internet. The right to use a domain name is delegated by domain name registrars who are accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) – the international organisation charged with overseeing the name and number systems of the Internet. According to Mohammed, businesses that register the .ng domain name in Nigeria have the advantage of being ranked first on the search engines during a search online. This, he said, would, over time, lead to an increase in local traffic.
“Why do you think that Google would rather serve you results using google.com.ng when you search for stuff within Nigeria and if you travel to, say, Ghana and use the same device, it will go ahead and serve you results via google.com. gh? “It is because they want to give you result based on your location. What is even interesting is that in the case of Nigeria, Google has both .com.ng as well as .ng, an example of a forward-looking company.” The NiRA boss added that the .ng domain gives those that do business with Nigerian companies an air of confidence and trust in doing business with them. “This is because the domain is managed by NiRA, which is a Nigerian outfit where clients can lodge complaints in case they have issues with your website,” he noted. He said that payment for registering the .ng was in naira as against trying to source for forex for registering a foreign domain, adding that on the aggregate, this will go on to save businesses and the country huge resources in foreign exchange.
On the uniqueness of the country’s domain name, immediate past President of NiRA, Sunday Folayan, described the Nigerian domain name as one of the most unique names on the Internet. He explained that “if you look at domain names like .tv, most people think it is for television registration, which is not. It belongs to Island Tuvalu, but you see televisions stations registering with it. “The same goes for .fm, it belongs to country and not frequency modulation, but you see so many radio stations registering with it. Similarly, .ng belongs to Nigeria and it is very unique because most action verb in the English language ends with ng, for example running, shopping and many others. So, these names are attractive. It is also attractive to Asians, cheng, Chung, Samsung, they all end with ng, so we have a unique string that appeals to a cross-spectrum of people all over the world. So, the .ng domain name can be sold everywhere, not only in Nigeria.” While urging other Nigerians that are still using foreign domain names to join the .ng train, Folayan noted that popular and global brands were now using .ng for their websites, as well as e-commerce platforms and many critical service-oriented businesses.
A gold mine
Several reports indicated that countries across the world are making billions of dollars from the sales of country-code top-level domain name ccTLD, which are national identities in the Domain Name System (DNS). Germany, for instance, is reported to have sold 20 million of its ccTLD .de and, according to global prices, each is sold for at least $100. Also, Tokelau, a tiny island with a population of about 1,400 people, is said to have sold 21 million units of its ccTLD, .tk, and that alone is seen as the economic mainstay of the island. As of December 2017, a total of 332.4 million domain names was said to have been registered globally. However, Nigeria with a population of about 200 million had registered just 142,476 of its .ng domain name as of the end of July this year.
Speaking on the value of the country’s domain name, the Dean of NiRA Academy, Mr. Sikiru Shehu, said Nigerians would gain a lot if they embrace the country’s ccTLD. According to him, the preference for foreign domain names is already denying the country revenue it could have realised from selling its own and Nigerians are putting more pressure on the forex situation with their demands for dollars to buy the domain names. He pointed out that if well exploited, the domain name business is a huge market that could create a lot of jobs for Nigerians if embraced. “We currently have 65 registrars who have been able to register 142,476 .ng domain names. Let’s assume that each of the registrars has one staff, if you multiply 65 by two you know the number of jobs that have been created. You can imagine what would happen if we have one million registration” he said. “With a population of about 200 million and about 30 per cent of this population are Internet users, it’s a strong pointer to a world of opportunities and wealth creation for domain name entrepreneurs and the general economy. If, however, a greater percentage of the population decide to go for non (.ng) domains, it could also cause capital flight and affect the economy negatively,” Shehu added.
From the foregoing, Nigeria, no doubt, has a lot to gain from promoting her online identity. And for this reason, NiRA would have to do more in its current efforts at deepening the growth. Beyond discounting the price of registration, there is a need for more awareness to bring the .ng domain name to the consciousness of many Nigerians.