In the vast world of the Internet, it is all about localising. And it starts with your domain name. A country code top-level domain (ccTLD) not only provides your visitor an immediate recognition on where you are based out of, but is also favoured by search engines for local searches. Here in the UAE, the country code is .ae and one that TRA has been pushing on local businesses to adopt. We got the opportunity to have a quick chat with Munir Badr who has been in the business of registering .ae domains for quite some time and find out how it all started.
Tell us a little about how you got started.
AEserver.com was one of the first domain names that I ever registered back in the year 2005. Starting up a hosting/domain business was a very random idea while I was back at school in Dubai. I loved to read about technology and have come around many great business ideas of starting a website and becoming a “reseller” of web space.
The first few customers were friends of friends. One day, I installed a domain lookup system that was able to look for available .ae and .com names and offered the option of making an online payment via paypal. That is were it all started- the website was indexed by Google and apparently AEserver was the only website offering online .ae domain name registration. Back then, online for us meant choosing the name and accepting the order online. Following that, I prepared all the manual paperwork and submitted the application to Etisalat – the only .ae registrar back then.
We did the “dirty work” for them and at the same time the remuneration was very good as we offered one of a kind service.
Quickly I realized that there was a huge potential, especially for companies that are outside the UAE and needed to book a name quickly online without the hassle of physically travelling and standing up in queues. We did the “dirty work” for them and at the same time the remuneration was very good as we offered one of a kind service. Then came the Emirate’s boom, when thousands of companies from abroad and in the UAE needed to reserve not only an office but also the online namespace.
Later in the year 2007, the Telecoms Regulatory Authority (TRA) set up a new authority called the .ae domain name administration (aeDA) which would become the policy make and regulator for .ae domain names. They migrated all existing domains from etisalat and offered companies with adequate experience and commitment to join and become a registrar. We were one of the fortunate ones to be invited to the program and this was a turning point in our history. AEserver was transformed from a home business into a company with a registered office and investment partners. After obtaining our license, we transferred our existing names from Etisalat and started offering new value added services. Until today, we pride ourselves as being a specialized team that knows the .ae namespace and the digital industry in the UAE in an out.
How has the process of registering .ae domains evolved over time?
We’ve seen massive changes with the process. In the past, there was a pen and paper application form which was submitted to Etisalat and the staff member would re-enter the details into the system. This method was prone to many typos that can be a disaster for domain names. Moreover the domain registrant must provide an ID or be represented by a third party in order to claim a domain name. This is why companies abroad used our services so that we can represent them here.
On the other hand, with the relaunch of the .ae with aeDA, the system became completely online and backed up with the EPP protocol which is industry standard for the domain name framework. Therefore, a domain name can be booked online with any provider and it is instantly provisioned at the registry and can be used immediately.
What has the growth in registering .ae domains been like?
The growth in .ae domain names has been tremendous after the inception of aeDA. Those who could not register a domain name in the past due to limitation such as geography and lack of online methods could then book as many names as they needed in a matter of a few clicks. This also opened room for “domainer” – those who invest into high quality and keyword domain names such as business.ae or short 2 letter domains. As of 2012 stats, there are over 100,000 .ae domain names registered (Source - we also commented for them, you can see at the end.)
they end up registering asuperlongcompanyname.com which then beats the purpose of having a website
Do you recommend using .ae over .com?
Yes! When it comes to customers, they tend to say that they want to have a global image and get a .com. However they end up registering asuperlongcompanyname.com which then beats the purpose of having a website – to make it easy for your customers to find you. This is due to the fact that .com is mature and over saturated. All good names are taken and are being sold in after markets.
We recommend .ae to all our local customers as the first choice- there are some super quality names up for grabs. We usually advise them to make it short, simple and easy to remember and then choose a matching .com/.net just to secure the brand’s identity.
Your thoughts on custom TLDs
Its the future of the internet! In terms of business, if in the past a company wanted to book or buy a premium domain name, they could spend millions to get the name they want. Now, the company can invest some funds and buy the whole “namespace” and create as many domains as they want. As far as social factors are concerned, it will take some time for the Internet generation to get familiar with the new domain names. However we are pretty sure that they will work side by side with the old names and will have a more focused usage. This in terms will make it even easier to find the resources. Finally, the prices of the domain names should go down.