South Africa’s web.za second level domain (SLD) is being re-launched and will soon be available to the public following sunrise and landrush phases where the rights of intellectual property holders will be prioritised and premium names delegated.
This is according to the ZA Domain Name Authority (ZADNA), which has this week provided details regarding the re-launch of web.za. For the last decade, web.za did not accept any new domain name applications, but only maintained already existing domain names.
Following a public consultation process about the web.za charter, which ended last year, ZADNA recently decided to re-open web.za to accept new registrations. The re-launch will closely mirror the timing and nature of the launch of the dotAfrica and dotCities (.joburg, .capetown and .durban) Top Level Domains (TLDs) that the ZA Central Registry will launch in the next few months.
ZADNA’s CEO, Vika Mpisane, elaborated: “The re-launch of web.za has been in the pipeline for a while, and that is why ZADNA ran a public consultation over web.za’s charter to determine how the local community saw web.za fit in relation to the other second level domains. The feedback from the public consultation showed that there was strong support behind re-launching web.za as an unrestricted domain along the same lines as co.za. Accordingly, parties interested in web.za need not satisfy any eligibility requirements.”
The re-launch of web.za means that South Africans now have an unrestricted alternative to co.za. For some time, there have been co.za calls for ZADNA to make available another unrestricted SLD to serve as an alternative to co.za. Until now, co.za has been the only un-restricted domain in .ZA. That meant if a person was interested in a name and the name was no longer available, they effectively had no other option in .ZA, and they would have to go to .com and other non-South African domains.
This is because other than co.za, the rest of .ZA SLDs are restricted to certain groups, and impose certain eligibility requirements. Only eligible applicants can register in the restricted SLDs.
Last year’s public consultation also showed that protection of trademarks should be prioritized in re-launching web.za. ZADNA has given time to the web.za operator – the ZACR – to put in place necessary mechanisms that will guard against trademark abuse when web.za re-opens.
The ZACR is already in the process of launching the dotJoburg, dotDurban, dotCapeTown and dotAfrica domains. As part of this launch, it has developed a robust trade mark protection system called the Mark Validation System (MVS). The system allows local trade mark owners to submit their marks to the ZACR beforehand so that if other parties apply for names identical to their trade marks, the domain name applicant will be warned of the trade mark rights (Claims Service).
Should the applicant still elect to continue with the registration, the trade mark owner will be informed of such registration (Watch Service). The ZACR has extended the MVS to the web.za launch and will also, in the not to distant future, extend these services to the popular co.za domain.
ZADNA considers the MVS to be an important measure that will help limit intellectual property abuse both in the new gTLDs and in .za. “The MVS is an important proactive measure that complements our .ZA Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process”, says Mpisane. “The ADR allows aggrieved parties, after-the-fact, an opportunity to challenge any potential abusive of their trade marks and, if they are successful, to have the domain name transferred to them if the adjudicator decides in their favour. The MVS, on the other side, allows trade mark owners to be more proactive and protect their marks beforehand.”
The implementation of the MVS means that web.za is being re-launched in a phased approach where the first phase – called the sunrise – allows MVS registered mark owners to register their marks as corresponding domain names in web.za before the public is allowed to apply for web.za names.
The first sunrise phase began on 1 May 2014 and should run until July. Next to sunrise is the land rush phase that will allow registration of names considered to be premium. Following another sunrise and land rush phase, web.za will become generally available on a first-come-first-served basis, and this is anticipated to take place around August to September 2014.
The phased approach also allows ZADNA an opportunity to ensure that the ZACR is ready to launch the dotCities and dotAfrica in a similar phased manner as required by ICANN.
Web.za names will be registered through the ZACR-accredited registrars. ZADNA is in the process of finalizing registration and annual fees that will apply to web.za registrations once web.za becomes generally available.