A good .com domain name is impossible to register since late 90’s. It is almost the same for other top level extensions – .net and .org. Five years ago, all words that mean something in English were registered with other non restricted domain extensions such as .co.uk, .to and other popular names as well.
I remember that the release of .info for public registration in September 2001 have been considered as a “fresh start” for the dot-com economy and web site industry in 2001.
Only 3 years later anyone could register some very attractive words or phrases in under an English speaking domain – co.za.
I remember that the first time I’ve found there were many attractive names under South African Domains was in march 2003. I was searching for web hosting related domains and I found that there were many vacant popular keyword combinations unavailable under .com, .net, or .org domains.
One of the reasons that .Co.Za Internet and web site market experienced slower growth in the recent years was that until late 2005 there still was a monopoly in South African Telecommunication sector. Because of the country’s specific economic and demographic situation and the transition to modern society only 7.4% of the 48.8 million population are Internet users.
Even there is a stable trend that shows a growing number of people who has an Internet access, under conservative estimates the South African web users are not expected to reach 50% of the population within the next years. The statistics of Internet usage worldwide shows that there is a strong online economy only in countries where about 50% of the population actively uses Internet.
The expectations for growth in Co.Za Internet market however are very lean compared to those in Europe, North America and most of the Asian countries. The average percentage of Internet users in Europe including those in countries like Ukraine, Belarus and Albania is 36.1% (49.8% for European Union), a number that might not be reached in South Africa within the next decade.
At the same time with its 3.6 million users the country’s Internet market is as big as those in some smaller European countries like Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary and Ireland! The South African Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) currently has 114 members.
According to Marc Furman, an Executive Committee member of The Communications Users Association of South Africa (CUASA), South African access to international bandwidth via the SAT 3 cable is “considerably more expensive than similar bandwidth costs overseas”.
“In South Africa, there is no real option. Telkom holds a de facto monopoly over the supply of Internet bandwidth and other providers have no option but to cap bandwidth usage owing to the high cost of South African bandwidth,” said Mr. Furman in July 2005 when an Internet industry and pressure groups took on Telkom’s pricey and limited ADSL service at an The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) public hearing.
Ray Webber from CUASA says that competition in the South African broadband arena is “effectively limited by South Africa’s archaic and restrictive legislation and regulation which is designed to protect Telkom (telkom.co.za)”, the country’s biggest telecommunication company. CUASA expert explains also that the international experts and a numerous examples indicate that “only effective competition” ultimately solves South African bandwidth woes.
One of the South African web hosting providers, Afrihost.com has been ranked this year among Top 50 listings in Google on the most competitive keyword in the hosting industry – “web hosting”. That is probably on account of the good SEO strategy of the company, but it is also because of its relevancy. Afrihost targets African market and sells in SA rands.
The liberalization of the South African Inernet market is still to come but the countries dot-com industry does well. A study conducted by World Wide Worx, Razor’s Edge Business Intelligence and Trigrammic, shows that the growth in the Soth African information and communications technology sectors is 30% in 2004, compared to 10% in U.S.
More good news for the country came this summer, in June when another World Wide Worx reported that 5.3 million Osuth Africans will have access to personal computers by the end of 2006. Factors that drive the growth are continued strong economic growth; the emergence of a middle class of black people; improved education levels, including computer literacy; the evolution of the distribution channel; improved affordability of PCs; convergence of voice and data and etc.
At the same time the online advertising revenue in South Africa for 2006 is expected to be only $26,3 million, which makes. This financial record is very poor compared to Canadian $801 million online advertising market.
The World Wide Worx‘s reports says that Rich media banners – ads that allow web users to interact with them – have increased from 7% in 2003 to 15% in 2005, while sponsorship and subscription content have maintained around 7% to 10% each, of online revenue for the past three years. New technology developments that allow content syndication (RSS) and development of community-driven content are seen as some of the key future trends for the success of online media in South Africa.
The South African online economy has produced good results, but the analysis show that the industry needs to push hard to achieve its potential and educate users on new Internet technology and usage trends.
When it comes to web hosting, there are still some very attractive co.za domains such as hostdir.co.za, cheapwebhosts.co.za, hostingforums.co.za, hostingreview.co.za and a lot more.