The .za Domain Name Authority (.zaDNA) is taking its first steps to formalising the Internet space in South Africa and has tabled a policy document – which aims to establish and formalise various role players in the growth, maintenance and security of the South African Internet domain space – for public comment.
Businesses and individuals with websites registered in South Africa’s top level domain (TLD) name space (websites ending in .za) stand to benefit from the standardisation of registration processes as well as increased competition and entrepreneurial opportunities within the South African Internet domain space.
The public consultation process is scheduled to run until Friday, 14 September 2007 after which implementation of the policy will begin.
The policy comes after a public discussion document released in late 2005, which managed to generate views and comments from some of the major Internet industry stakeholders in South Africa, pertaining to the way the local domain name space has been managed.
As a result, the policy aims to address a number of key issues:
* Domain name registrations will continue to be limited to second level domains only (abc.co.za or abc.org.za etc.). The Authority will not adopt a hybrid model to include direct registrations under .za (abc.za);
* .za domains will only be permitted to operate if they comply with licensing and technical criteria as outlined by the Authority ;
* A single operator will be licensed to manage and oversee ‘open’ domains as well as ‘closed’ domains that are not managed according to the policy’s guidelines;
* Registrars will be licensed to submit domain name registrations directly on applicants’ behalf, and will be permitted to appoint ‘resellers’ to submit applications;
* Physical presence in South Africa will not be a prerequisite to register a .za domain name.
In order to determine the viability of changing the existing registration structure, an extensive best-practice benchmarking and modelling exercise was undertaken – drawing from the experience of leading country code top level domains (ccTLDs), including countries such as .au (Australia), .uk (United Kingdom), .jp (Japan), .br (Brazil), .fr (France), and .no (Norway).
Having considered a hybrid model closely – whereby registrations would occur under the second level domain (i.e. abc.co.za) and directly under the top level domain (i.e. abc.za) – the Authority has decided to restrict registrations to the current practice where registrations as abc.co.za, or abc.org.za, etc. are only permitted.
“We realised that, although the hybrid model has its benefits, it did not prove a strong enough business case to justify changing the existing domain name registration model as yet,” comments Dr Hasmukh Gajjar, chairperson of the .zaDNA.
“We have decided to rather focus on optimising the current structure and also on setting clear domain and registrar technical standards, while creating an environment where the .za domain name system can grow significantly."
According to draf tpolicy, .za domains, both existing and new, will be allowed to operate only if they meet the licensing and technical requirements set by the Authority.
The Authority will also license all ISPs who are currently registering domain names as soon as licensing rules and regulations have been finalised.
“The policy primarily provides a framework, which will guide the licensing process. This means that the core work of the Authority in terms of the ECT Act can begin in earnest,” Gajjar explains.
Dormant and poorly-functioning .za domains will be reviewed, and if there is no need for these domains, they will be deleted.
Gajjar explains: “There is significant competition amongst ccTLDs and from generic TLDs such as .com, .org and .net, and there is now a need for the .za space to grow exponentially."
There are currently around 400 000 .za registrations but, as more South African organisations and individuals realise the value of e-commerce and having an Internet identity, the .za DNA expects this number to increase steadily into the future.
The policy proposes that a single operator be licensed to ensure the effective management of .za domains. This will be a departure from the current situation where each second level domain, such as .co.za or .org.za, have their own operators.
Those domains that are considered to be ‘open’ (or not restricted to certain communities such as education or government) will be managed by the single entity. However, ‘closed’ domains will also be considered for inclusion if they are not operated according to standards to be set by the Authority.
The single operator will ensure standardised registration processes and adherence to globally accepted domain name standards and practices across all .za domains.
In order to promote competition amongst registrars (or licensed ISPs) they can now register domains directly by making use of the registry applications from those wishing to register a domain.
Registrars may also elect to appoint resellers who submit applications on behalf of those who wish to register a domain.
The policy does not restrict .za domain name registrations to SA citizens only.
In its policy docukment, the .za DNA has opted against the ‘physical presence’ requirement supported by country code TLDs such as .ca (Canada) and .us (United States).
“The Board did not feel this should be a requirement to register a .za domain name. The only requirement is that all .za registrants consent to jurisdiction of South African courts and nominate a 'domicilium' within the country,” says Gajjar.
The Authority may also consider the restriction of certain names such as city names, heritage sites, and even certain family names.