Pros and cons of Mali’s upcoming free domain registration
Starting in July 2013, Internet users anywhere in the world will be able to register a Malian web domain. The free .ML domain registration process is a good idea in certain regards, but it is less likely to pan out as intended. The goal seems to be positive branding for Mali as a country instead of the empowerment of Malians to create web content.
We’ve divided up some pros and cons, broken out further by potential international and Malian viewpoints.
- The international community has a non-violent story about Mali to embrace.
- Mali has achieved something no other African nation has ever done
- Domainers will no doubt register thousands of .ML domains to add to their stockpile (in hopes the domains will appreciate in value).
- Companies that can tie an actual word into a “ml” suffix could indirectly promote Mali’s brand as a country (think “ani.ml”).
- Mali needs its own websites. Currently, Mali ranks 177th globally in terms of number of total country-code top level domains (there are only 286 .ML domains in existence).
- The fact the domain suffix is free will certainly remove a major hurdle for tech-savvy Malians who have little disposable income.
- The ability for Malians living abroad to create informative cultural and news websites is exciting!
- New-found nationalism around tech innovation could fuel government investment in ICT and/or business processes.
- Global users only will save a few dollars a month, so the benefit here isn’t cost savings, but grabbing a domain unavailable in a .com suffix.
- The country suffix of .ML doesn’t tie in with many brands or words.
- Widely cited is the example of Tokelau – a small group of islands that released the .TK domain suffix for free years ago. The .TK domain is widely popular if measured in terms of registered sites, but there are relatively few brands relying only on this ccTLD.
- Lucrative domains (shorter than 4 characters) may or may not be free.
- Over time, .TK domains built a poor reputation due to the prevalence of spam or phishing attacks (such claims are not necessarily true anymore)
- Mobile Internet is expensive! (cheapest was US $0.38 per 5MB as of July 2012)
- Traditional websites are difficult to build on mobile devices
- Even if a domain is free, web hosting is quite costly, especially on top of Internet access
- There is a heavy reliance on international social media sites instead of local apps
- A lack of electricity in many areas poses a major challenge
- ICT skills remain low due to general lack of facilities and tepid government emphasis on ICT training and education
The move to release the domain names for free is orchestrated by Mali’s Agence des Technologies de l’Information et de la Communication (AGETIC) and operated by Freedom Registry.
A portion of our ideas also appear quoted in a recent The Guardian article.