Not too many know, that I’ve been involved with ICANN’s process of setting up new TLDs since 2009. With 24 days left to register and no initiative in sight to establish a .CAPETOWN for them I sent out this letter to the city and the press and hope to see a .CAPETOWN Top Level Domain come true in 2013, so the city can establish itself at the forefront of digital. This opinion of mine was printed in the Cape Times yesterday, but as it hasn’t yet been published online, I’m publishing it here.
Please comment, forward, tweet & Facebook this posting, if you support the establishment of this new TLD!
In the future, city governments, businesses and organizations will use web addresses that end with intuitive, localized domain suffixes like .joburg, .lagos and .denver rather than .za, .ng or .com. But for the moment, this opportunity can only be realized by a handful of the most innovative and forward-looking metros, such as .berlin, .london, .nyc, .tokyo and – if our leaders have the vision to join this exclusive club – .capetown.
For a limited time, until mid-April 2012, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) – which manages the registration of top-level domains (TLDs) – is accepting applications for new TLDs. Once the deadline has passed, it is not expected to open up the process again for many years.
I believe that the City of Cape Town should take this opportunity to spearhead the application for the .capetown domain. A successful bid will lead to significant branding, community-building and economic opportunities for the city, its businesses and its residents.
As a branding device, the early adoption of the .capetown domain would signal our claim to being a world class city. It would also say that we’re a cutting-edge creative hub of digital innovation and a uniquely worthwhile destination. These qualities would help the city compete for travelers, conferences, foreign direct investment and international knowledge workers. It would also add to the city’s growing brand profile, revealing that we are aware of our own value and are keen to enhance it.
The world is starting to wake up to the Cape Town brand as more films are shot here, more tourists visit and as we host more international events. Initiatives like the Silicon Cape, the World Design Capital and the Cape Biotech Initiative are all enhancing the city’s brand as well.
Unfortunately, everything online about the city falls under the .za domain, a suffix that has none of the branding benefits that .capetown does.
The main reason is because it is not intuitive. The .za suffix for “South Africa” does not make immediate sense for the online community. (The .sa domain belongs to Saudi Arabia, so we got stuck with .za, from the German “Zuid Afrika”.)
Second, the .za referent is too broad for activities, organizations or businesses that are based solely in the Mother City. These should enjoy a city TLD, matching their actual unique location, such as waterfront.capetown or myciti.capetown. The City, by applying for and adopting this virtual platform, would then be able to incentivize the local use of the .capetown brand in all digital communications.
As a community-building device, the .capetown domain would also allow people to proudly declare their membership in the metro. Businesses and organizations would gladly do so of their own volition, but the City could also democratize this possibility by offering every resident a free .capetown email account. Consider the impact: hundreds of thousands of emails each day would assert residents’ claims to the City. That would be a powerful statement of community.
Moreover, the .capetown domain promises greater commercial opportunities for local businesses and clients. Many companies already use the word “capetown” or “cpt” in their website URL, usually followed by .za. But the .capetown domain would render the overly-broad .za redundant.
Think about it: city TLDs make sense because cities provide the natural limits for most people’s everyday movements. It is in cities that people form communities, send their children to school, go to work and hang out with friends. It is also the natural unit for various work sectors, including the creative industries such as film production, graphic design and biomedical R&D. The .capetown domain makes better sense for most businesses as they operate from highly particular locales.
At some point in the future, when ICANN opens the application process again, other South African cities should seek their own domains, such as .joburg and .durban. But right now, the application process requires not only the support of each city’s governing authority and business community, but significant technical, administrative and financial capacity. ICANN’s requirements are formidable, guaranteeing that only the most far-sighted and administratively capable cities obtain them.
At this stage, due to the City’s energetic leadership and financial stability, Cape Town would likely be the only South African city that would be able to lodge a successful application.
Thus I urge Patricia de Lille and her team at the City of Cape Town to take advantage of this unique opportunity and apply for the .capetown domain. We would all benefit together from her decision to solidify Cape Town’s place in the digital age. With this act, she would confirm our status as the Gateway to Africa and promote our aspiration to be part of a globally connected citizenry.