I love technology. I practice it. And I love the open source side of it. As such, I will veer off the main course of economics and discuss the best practices insofar as domain names are concerned. For most part, I will be focusing on Kenya and the wider East Africa for case scenarios and examples.

Domain name is an identification string that identifies you (an individual or an organization) across the internet. Think of it as an ID on the internet. What the name represents in essence is an IP (Internet Protocol) address. That way , it becomes easier to remember the name as opposed to the IP address. For instance, this blog is written on a site with the domain name http://tote.co.ke. The name is a representation of the IP address that points to the server where it is hosted which happens to be 107.180.50.228.

Several categories or levels of domain names exist. There is the first level domains that consist of top-level domains (TLDs). The sub groups in TLDs are generic top-level domains (gTLDs) which includes .com, .net, .org, etc and the country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) with examples like .ke, .jp, .uk. The second and third level domains are used typically used to connect computers in an organizational Local Area Networks (LAN).

ccTLDs are not inferior to gTLDs

I have time and again heard people intuit or suppose that ccTLDs are inferior to gTLDs. To put it into context, the notion that a .co.ke domain is inferior to a .com domain is far fetched and downright misleading. Since both gTLD and ccTLD are names that just point to an IP address, there can not be a basis of discrimination based on the name. Take for instance the google.com domain. It points to the IP address 197.232.44.19. Assume we come to an agreement with Google to host the domain name tote.co.ke and therefore point to the IP address 197.232.44.19. This action will not in any way make tote.co.ke superior to google.com in the long run, assuming google takes time to redirect their traffic to a new IP address. The relative weighted value of a domain name is based on the content which drives traffic rather than whether the domain name is a gTLD or a ccTLD.

Short is better

The shorter the domain name the better. This is based on ease of readability and memorizing on the part of the user. Take note of these domain names; safaricom.co.ke, tote.co.ke, google.co.ke, microsoft.com, cnn.com …. They are short and easy to remember. With short .com names becoming scarce and ever more expensive (some go for thousands or even millions of dollars), it is only reasonable to use a short version of its ccTLD type. Consider a company, let’s name it Deltacorp Technologies and Automation Ltd. A search of deltacorp.com indicates the name is already taken. The owner of this company will therefore be forced to either include a long name for the .com domain say deltacorptechnologies.com or resort to using a ccTLD, say deltacorp.co.ke. The latter is bound to be easily remembered by a user, client or partner faster than the former.

Domain names do not necessarily need to conform to the company registered name

This is in line with the need to have a short name. The domain name does not need to be an exact replica of the name that is registered by the registrar of companies. Using the above example of Deltacorp, if the domain name were to be created as an exact replica of the company name, it would be very long and not so fancy.

Avoid initials

Unless it is absolutely necessary, avoid initials. The rule of thumb restricts the domain initials to a maximum of three. Four initials would be overstretching it but then again I insist, unless you have no option at all. A good example in this case is cnn.com. In the event that the initials will be more, it is better to use one of the names for the domain subject to availability.

Avoid using ‘LTD’ in the domain name

The case in point is ebrahimelectronicsltd.com. The name itself is already long and adding ‘LTD’ potents to naivety on the part of the owner, unless of course there was no other option. I also suspect that this domain name is a case of mimicking the company name as it was registered. I bet a search of ebrahim.co.ke can be available for registration other than having the long name for the domain. Take the case of big IT corporations of this world. The thought of Google having their domain as googleinc.com sounds awful. Or better still Microsoft branding their domain MicrosoftCorp.com. I would therefore advice that you avoid the word ‘LTD’ in your domain name as much as possible.

Use the right domain name extension

ICANN created a variety of domain names to cater for different industries or sectors of the society. A .com, .co.ke and such domains are primarily meant for companies or corporations. A .ac.ke, .edu and such are primarily meant for educational entities. A .org, .or.ke domain is mainly reserved for non-profit organizations. A case in point is apainsurance.org. This is a profit making company based in Kenya doting the .org domain. I do not know what the rationale is but it just sounds ‘wrong’ to use a .org domain. Additionally, the use of .or.ke domain is better suited for non-profit entities hose area of operation is confined within the borders of Kenya. A good example is guzo.or.ke. If this organization happens to grow beyond the borders, they may consider adopting a .org domain name like in the case of kalamuafrica.org

Yet another good practice for companies that have branches across borders is to have a single domain name, preferrably a gTLD domain and assign sub-domains to the countries which they operate in. A good illustration for this case is Nation Media Group. The parent domain name is nationmedia.com. They have created ke.nationmedia.com, ug.nationmedia.com and tz.nationmedia.com to cater for their East Africa interests. This is a better way than having the subsidiaries in each countries create their own domain.

Lastly, I would like to touch on domain names of the universities in Kenya. There seems to be an obsession with the word ‘university’ in their domain name. If going by global trends is anything to go by, most top universities do not have the word ‘university’ in their domain name. A case in point is Stanford and Harvard. Those seemingly getting it right include ku.ac.ke, pu.ac.ke and jkuat.ac.ke, the latter having no option other than use initials. Consider if the University of Nairobi had their domain as nairobi.ac.ke or uon.ac.ke instead of their current uonbi.ac.ke. And University of Eldoret adopting the same. And what if Kibabii University just called theirs kibabii.ac.ke instead of the long kibabiiuniversity.ac.ke? Or Maasai Mara University rocking a mara.ac.ke domain instead of the current mmarau.ac.ke!

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