An Interview with Abibu R. Ntahigiye, CEO of .tznic (Tanzania)

Last month I interviewed the CEO of TZNic, Abibu R. Ntahigiye. He manages the Tanzanian country-code Top Level Domain. I got to visit Tanzania for the Africa DNS Forum and was quite impressed at the industriousness of the country. Besides holding some of the world’s treasures in terms of nature and animal life, it held a vibrant business atmosphere. A few high points, and then, I hope you will enjoy the interview:

  • .tz is a nascent registry with amazing growth potential
  • Mr. Ntahigiye is a continuous learner and leader amongst African top level domains
  • .tz is one of the first African ccTLDs to institute DNSSEC



An Interview with Abibu R. Ntahigiye, .tznic – TanzaniaccTLD
Audio Duration: 0:31:17
Number of Speakers: 2


Joe: The first thing I would like to do is to introduce Abibu. I met Abibu at – well, I may have met you at the ICANN meeting in Johannesburg or was it first time in the Africa DNS forum? I’m trying to remember.

Abibu: I think it was in Johannesburg.

Joe: Right.

Abibu: The first time we met.

Joe: I was fortunate enough to go to Dar es Salaam. In fact, I got a chance to go a little bit for a day or two to Zanzibar which was a wonderful place to visit. I got a spice tour and spent some time right on the sea there. A beautiful country. The little bit I know about Tanzania is it’s a country where they have the Kilimanjaro National Park which is beautiful. I wish I would have been able to spend a little bit more time there.

Abibu: Fun time?

Joe: Yeah, yeah. It’s also – I know that Tanzania has the big five – the elephant, the lion, the leopard, the buffalo, the rhino.

Abibu: Yeah.

Joe: Just an amazing place and I got to spend almost a week there with many of the Country Code operators. And one of them that I met, I had the sense was a leader and somebody who knows a lot of people from all over Africa, was Abibu. And how do you pronounce your last name? I want to make sure I say it right, Abibu.

Abibu: My last name is Ntahigiye. The way it’s just written.

Joe: Okay. Very good.

Abibu: Yeah.

Joe: So he runs the .tz country code. To me, that’s a very interesting one. Tanzania was a beautiful country. It looks like it’s a country that holds a lot of promise. So I just want to ask you a few questions about how you got involved with .tz and also a little bit about yourself and then about the actual ccTLD. Kind of give me a little bit of your own history, Abibu. How did you become involved in the domain industry and especially with .tz?

Abibu: Basically, I’m the graduate from the University of Dar es Salaam. I did an engineering course in electrical and telecommunication. After graduation, I joined an airline telecommunication company called Sita, S-I-T-A.

Joe: Okay.

Abibu: And I worked there for 11.5 years before joining tzNIC.

Joe: Oh, okay.

Abibu: And I was the first recruit of tzNIC.

Joe: Really?

Abibu: Yes. So I joined in 2008. And by then, tzNIC had just been registered. It was registered way back in 2006 in November.

Joe: Okay.

Abibu: So, once they were done, I was the first recruit in March 2008 as the first manager of tzNIC.

Joe: Wow. Excellent.

Abibu: Thereafter, other staff were recruited and currently we have seven staff members.

Joe: Wow. – oh, so you have seven people on staff right now?

Abibu: Yeah.

Joe: Okay. That’s interesting. So how many – if I may ask, how many domains on your management are there on the tzNIC registry now?

Abibu: Currently, we have more than 14,000 domains. It’s a small registry, but we hope with a population of more than 50 million people, with the time, maybe it’s going to grow like other countries.

Joe: That would be very exciting.

Abibu: Yeah.

Joe: You know, I had a sense when I came to visit Dar es Salaam which is – is that the biggest city there?

Abibu: Yeah, it is. But we have other relatively big but not like Dar es Salaa. In terms of population, I’m saying, not in terms of area coverage.

Joe: Right.

Abibu: But we have other cities. We have Kilimanjaro region as well where Kilimanjaro Mountain is. We have Arusha. Arusha, where you have this Ngorongoro Crater, et cetera.

Joe: Right.

Abibu: You have Mwanza.

Joe: Okay.

Abibu: So there are other regions which are beautiful as well, not in terms of population.

Joe: Yeah. I had a sense that it had a pretty fast-growing business community. And I suppose that that’s important for domain names because, obviously, the more people that are running businesses, the more businesses want to share information and sell products. So it seemed to me that it was pretty big in terms of the business community and growing pretty fast.

Abibu: Very true. And I think it is the case with the most countries in Africa whereby you find these capital cities or business cities, you have even more registrars compared to other regions outside of these business cities.

Joe: Yeah. So how is the growth? I mean, I’m curious of your experience there. Okay, so you say you have about 14,000 domains under management.

Abibu: Yeah.

Joe: What are some of the challenges that you have faced and maybe overcome, and some of the challenges that you still are working on today?

Abibu: Basically, there is a challenge on awareness on the values, especially on the competition with the generic domain names. The .coms are very popular.

Joe: Yeah.

Abibu: And most people think that they are international. But we are telling them that had we started at par with the .com, maybe the country codes would be leading, but it’s not the case. So it will take time for the awareness. And, you know, awareness also needs funds, more funds to reach more people so that – and you need also to build the trust because it’s not the matter that use .tz, it’s the matter that .tz works. And the operation of .tz depends on many, many players. First of all, the registry and you have the registrars and the DNS operators.

Joe: Right.

Abibu: So basically, the efforts we are making is the awareness about the values of ccTLD domains, .tz domain, but also making sure that this .tz domain, the web servers and main servers giving the services for .tz domain are operational. And in this regard, we have decided – I hope you know something called AfNOG, African Network Operators Group.

Joe: I’ve seen their website. I donut know too much about them but I have familiarity.

Abibu: It’s about building in Africa. So we have localized the effort so that we build the capacity of the local operators so that in the long run, we brand the .tz and people appreciate that .tz also works.

Joe: Yeah. Do you do any kind of advertising within Tanzania or…

Abibu: Yeah, We do a lot of advertisements through newspapers, through radio, through various media.

Joe: Wow, okay.

Abibu: Yeah.

Joe: So would you say that – you talk about competition with .com, –

Abibu: Yeah.

Joe: – Are there many more .com domains or would you say there are more .tz in the country?

Abibu: Well I can’t ascertain the number of .com domains or other generic key domains, but what I can say is that most of the common people use .com email accounts.

Joe: Okay.

Abibu: Whether you count the domain names and use of .com, there are two different aspects.

Joe: Yeah, that’s true.

Abibu: You might have users, users but it’s a single domain, serving a number of people. So I can’t tell exactly the number of generic key domain names versus .tz domain names.

Joe: Right, okay. Do you have restrictions on .tz in terms of who’s allowed to register it or are they available all over the world or you just offer them mostly to Tanzanian citizens?

Abibu: Well, at the moment, I can say the restriction is there but the conditions are very minimal because we understand that .tz is for Tanzanian entities and Tanzanians as well but also we have other Tanzanians outside of the country. So we can’t close the door completely. So we insist that even if you are a foreigner, when you will register a domain name, we need at least a local contact.

Joe: Okay.

Abibu: Meaning that you can have two administrable contacts, you yourself and someone within the country. So that for the administration purposes, we donut incur any cost when there is any issues related to our domain. So I can say somehow it’s half open or half close.

Joe: Yeah.

Abibu: Something like that.

Joe: So you require a local contact but through a local contact, I guess somebody from out of the country can register domains?

Abibu: Yeah, very true, very true.

Joe: How about with accrediting registrar?

Abibu: Registrars also require a local presence but if you follow the DNS forum, we were discussing this issue and basically and primarily opening up the accreditation outside of the country and had a proposal that at least we can start at the sub regional level like East Africa first, and see how far we can go. Once this is done within the sub region, then it easy to extend outside of the sub region, either to the continent or to the world at large.

Joe: Right. Oh, that makes sense. So you – what is your – what is your primary website?

Abibu: Pardon?

Joe: For your website, what do you guys use over there? Is it or what –

Abibu: No, it is

Joe: .tz. Okay, I was curious of your own website.

Abibu: Yeah. But we have – we have a special registration portal.

Joe: Oh, you do?

Abibu: Yeah, we do. It’s called the Karibu. It means welcome. K-A-R-I-Bu.

Joe: Oh, Karibu. Yeah. Okay, yeah, I can see – I see your tznic site now.

Abibu: Yeah.

Joe: I’m looking at that right now. Passionately Tanzanian, that’s really good. That’s a good saying. I like that.

Abibu: Yeah.

Joe: And then you have the Karibu one as well.

Abibu: Yeah, have we registered it? Basically, it’s a list and now registrars with the registration particulars.

Joe: I like your – I like your saying, “It’s my country and my domain.” That’s very nice.

Abibu: Thank you.

Joe: But it looks like you’re thinking about, you know, ways of helping people to remember the .tz.

Abibu: Yeah.

Joe: And that’s something that’s really important. Okay, very nice. So that’s another question. So are people able to register .tz at the second level or must they have something like .co or .or in front of it?

Abibu: Yeah, currently, we have twelve categories of the second level and we have not opened up the second level. But we are thinking of opening after doing some research if we were to add value or not.

Joe: Okay.

Abibu: Yeah.

Joe: Yeah, I think this seems to be a trend amongst many country codes to begin looking at the second level. Apparently, you know, people like short domain names. So the less restriction, obviously, the easier it is for them and more desirable, I would say, so that there’s –

Abibu: Yeah, it’s true. It’s true but also identification is key because having registration at the third level, it adds more identification that maybe you are a government entity or you are a corporate entity or something like that. So it’s a matter researching, not just changing the policy and we are looking for this learning from nominet – nominet went through the same process.

Joe: Right.

Abibu: Where we are registering in the third level and they have moved to the second level. So we needed to learn from the challenges they got and then we can – we can decide to register on the second level.

Joe: Okay.

Abibu: Yeah.

Joe: Now, that brings up an interesting question also related to that. Do you work with an intellectual property organization such as WIPO?

Abibu: WIPO?

Joe: Yeah, or any of those.

Abibu: Yes. Yeah. Yeah, we do it with WIPO and this is since 2011, if I’m not mistaken. And the reason behind is that we donut have many experts in the continent supporting domain dispute issues. By the time I ask them, they had only one – one panelist from Uganda.

Joe: Really?

Abibu: And so I thought we should start with WIPO, so we got into contract with them but we are promoting our local firms also to do arbitration of domain names. And currently, we have one legal company which can deal with the domain dispute resolution services. So we are building their local capacity also, so that registrants can have a choice, either to international dispute operator or to a local firm.

Joe: That seems like a really smart way to do it. Obviously, there will be companies that want to work with the local arbitration firm and then of course, WIPO has all that experience all over the world and there’s going to be those too

Abibu: Right because we are not certain where the dispute will be coming from.

Joe: Right. All right, tell me a little bit about technology. What do you guys – how do you guys – what kinds of technology are you using? Are you developing your own registry systems, do you use someone else’s? I’m just curious of how you do that nowadays.

Abibu: Yeah, we are using someone else’s. Basically, we are using the open package from Czech Republic.

Joe: Oh, okay.

Abibu: Yeah. It is called the FRED.

Joe: Yeah, I have heard of it, yeah.

Abibu: Yeah. We have adopted it and we are using it effectively. And it has even supported us to deploy DNSSEC.

Joe: Has that already been done or is it something you’re planning now?

Abibu: No, we are the third country in Africa to deploy DNSSEC. We deployed in 2012.

Joe: Wow, very good.

Abibu: Yeah.

Joe: Okay.

Abibu: Yeah, yeah.

Joe: I think that’s becoming more important today than ever before, considering all of the – you know, just so many – so much fraud and so many attacks.

Abibu: Very true.

Joe: Yeah.

Abibu: And then basically, registrants are needed to be assured of the security issues.

Joe: Yeah. I was actually going to ask you about DNSSEC. So you beat me to that one. That’s great.

Abibu: Yeah.

Joe: It’s a very important factor, I think.

Abibu: Yeah. And the challenge we are having with the DNSSEC is taking down further to the registrars and the registrant. We have very domains signed because of the capacity of the registrars and DNS operators. But we are also building the capacity of our registrars so that they can complete the chain of trust.

Joe: Right. I think that’s a matter of education. And you should know that even in the United States, the number of domains that are actually signed at the end user level is quite low. I mean, there’s a lot of room for improvement in there. But it starts with registries, doesn’t it?

Abibu: Very true. And basically, the registry has to be in front, you donut have to lag behind. You donut have to be pushed by your customers to deploy something. So for .tz registry, we made sure that we are IPV6 ready and also ready for DNSSEC deployment.

Joe: Okay.

Abibu: Yeah.

Joe: So, okay, talking a little bit about marketing –

Abibu: Yes.

Joe: – so what – you know, I always like to bring up – you mentioned that you are starting to do some business out of Tanzania. How do you feel about what they call domain hacks? Now, I’m thinking with .tz, I mean, there’s possibilities for things it could mean. There’s a lot of words in the English language that end with .tz. But, you know, I mean, just playing around with some ideas, you know, there might be people that would think – I donut know, it’s a really tough one, maybe time zone, twilight zone, training zone or test zone. Well, are you getting people that are registering .tz with English words or as anything other than that meaning, Tanzania?

Abibu: So far, I haven’t such experience. But I remember the first time I visited Geneva for the – a certain exhibition, I heard of a city in Germany ending with T-Z. It’s called Metz – something like Metz.

Joe: Oh, right. That’s right.

Abibu: I haven’t seen such registration but – because we have the second level of, I was expecting maybe more registration from Germany in that city called the Metz.

Joe: Right. It’s a pretty –

Abibu: But I donut have any experience with these English words, just like maybe for the case of Nigeria with NG.

Joe: Right, right.

Abibu: Yeah.

Joe: Do you guys – would you say more of your sales come from your direct channel or do more of your sales come from registrars?

Abibu: Pardon? Come again?

Joe: Do more of your sales come through a direct channel, meaning they register directly through the Tanzanian registry, or do more of your sales come through registrars?

Abibu: We have adopted the three-R model and very few are within our account. Initially, we are the first registrar before accrediting the registrars. And when we took over, there were some domains already registered in the past.

Joe: I see.

Abibu: So there are some domains already registered on our account but most of the registration now are done by the registrars.

Joe: Okay. So, yeah, I mean this is always a big question. Registrars, you know, want to always make sure that they have an equal opportunity to compete.

Abibu: Yeah.

Joe: So, how many registrars do you guys have nowadays?

Abibu: We have more than 50 registrars at the moment.

Joe: Okay, very cool.

Abibu: Yeah. Close to 60 or 65, I’m not very sure of the exact number.

Joe: Okay. Yeah, that’s excellent.

Abibu: But for us, it’s not the issue of a big number. We need performing registrars. So even if we have 10 registrars who are performing, it could be better than 100 registrars, 90 of them non-performing.

Joe: Yeah. Well, it’s interesting, on a worldwide level, you know, I’ve always said even though there’s well over 2,000 or 3,000 registrars that are ICANN-accredited, it really comes down to about 100 that matter. I mean, like 1 in 10 or 1 in 20 actually really do a lot of the business. Is that what you find is –

Abibu: Yeah, yeah. The key issue is performance, not the big number of them.

Joe: Okay. So what are some of the strategic goals that you have for your registry in order to continue to grow?

Abibu: Our concern basically is on publicity and awareness so that most Tanzanians, when it comes to domain names, then the .tz should be the first choice. That is key because even our sustainability depends on the domain volume. We are trying to have the domain fee to be competitive with the .com. So basically, we rely fully on domain volume to be sustainable. But at the moment, we are supported by the regulator in terms of funding. But in the long run, we need to be independent. So, basically, the key strategy is on increasing the number of registrations.

Joe: Right.

Abibu: Yeah.

Joe: Would you say that the registry is profitable, you know, since you mentioned that or is it still –

Abibu: No. It’s not for profit.

Joe: Okay, so it is –

Abibu: It’s not for profit and it’s a member-based company.

Joe: Yeah.

Abibu: And it includes the public and private. It’s a PPP.

Joe: I see, okay.

Abibu: Yeah.

Joe: How many domain names do you think you’d have to have to be able to turn a profit?

Abibu: We need not less than 50,000 domains.

Joe: Okay, all right.

Abibu: Yeah.

Joe: Yeah, that sounds – it does sound reasonable to me. I mean, it is a big country, no doubt about it. And I think you’re on to something in terms of, you know, you need to convince more people in Tanzania to use a local –

Abibu: Very true.

Joe: – a local domain rather than .com. So that makes a lot of sense.

Okay. What about market segments? So, you know, would you say registrations in .tz come more from business community, from personal end users, from educational? I mean, I’m curious of what kinds of market segments you guys have.

Abibu: Basically, it’s from commercial.

Joe: Commercial.

Abibu: Yeah. Even at the moment, the big volume of domains are under

Joe: Really? Have you made any efforts to get like, for example, somebody mentioned at the DNS forum, to try to get your biggest companies within the country to use it, the airline, obviously government – have you guys made any efforts to get some of the larger Tanzanian companies to use .tz or maybe they are already?

Abibu: Yeah, I remember most of the telco companies, they are using and one of them is Vodacom. They are using the and since they are managing their own DNS, they donut have any complaints regarding the .tz registry.

Joe: Really?

Abibu: Yeah.

Joe: And do they advertise it? Do you see their – that domain on billboards or on television ads or any –

Abibu: Yes, they donut use any other domain apart from

Joe: Oh, that’s excellent. So I bet – you know, that’s an excellent thing to have.

Abibu: Yeah. Basically, I was looking forward for them to be like a accredited registrars of .tz. Probably it would have been a good idea.

Joe: Yeah, is there –

Abibu: Yeah, because they can provide the reliable DNS services to the registrants.

Joe: Right. No response yet or ?

Abibu: Well, approaching them is difficult, you need some people to convince them some stuff who can approach the top management and convince them about their business lines. You know, it’s like a normal registrar can perform more than an ISP because an ISP thing that maybe domain registration business is not a cash cow business line.

Joe: Yeah.

Abibu: So to convince them you need some effort.

Joe: Yeah.

Abibu: So even for the telco companies, they might think maybe domain business is not an issue – that is not a business line that can become a cash cow.

Joe: Interesting. Yeah, how do – you know, people – a lot of businesses if I go back five years in the United States, used to advertise in yellow pages. Nowadays, the yellow pages have gone from being this thick to being like that thick. Is that happening – is that happening in Tanzania as well?

Abibu: Well, I haven’t looked at the yellow pages for some time now. But I remember I made some advert through the yellow pages sometime but about four or five years ago.

Joe: Uh-huh.

Abibu: Yeah.

Joe: You’re looking for your yellow pages, right? I know it’s –

Abibu: But I donut know how big it is at the moment but, well, I think it’s online as well.

Joe: Yeah, I think more people are just finding information online and that has made it a lot less useful to kill all the trees.

Abibu: Maybe.

Joe: Yeah, okay.

Abibu: I always even recall in the past years when we had no mobile phone services whereby with a landline you are given a very big address book –

Joe: Right.

Abibu: – but not – you donut have many institutions or individuals requesting for landlines so this address book for the landline numbers should not expect to grow.

Joe: Yeah, in fact even –

Abibu: Almost all the people are using cellular phones.

Joe: Even here we have a trend where people are turning off their home phones and just using their cellphones.

Abibu: You can imagine.

Joe: That brings up one other issue I wanted to ask you about. In terms of the access to the Internet, is – do you have any data as to how many people access the Internet via mobile phones in Tanzania versus desktops?

Abibu: I donut have the exact number but for sure that number has grown.

Joe: Yeah.

Abibu: I donut have statistics. Maybe from the regulators webpage, it can be obtained but I’m not very sure of the current figure because the mobile phone services has grown up to remote areas.

Joe: I see.

Abibu: So people can access Internet over there using the mobile phone. They can also send money through mobile phone so basically mobile phone has been a very, very useful platform.

Joe: Yeah. I think –

Abibu: Currently – the only option for myself to send to my grandfather or my father in remote areas is through mobile phone and mobile phones are – most people can achieve buying the mobile phone for their relatives.

Joe: What is the payment technology that you’re using there in Tanzania? Is it the same like Kenya’s? I know they have, what, M-Pesa.

Abibu: Yeah, we have the same. We have M-Pesa through Vodacom. We have Tigo Pesa through call… a company called Tigo. We have Airtel Money through Airtel. And there is a new company called the Halotel. They have HALOPESA. So most the options are coming through all the mobile phones in operation.

Joe: So I guess their competition helps to move some money around so people can buy things –

Abibu: Very true. And even at the moment, you can send money across various network like the Tigo Pesa, M-Pesa and Airtel Money. You can send across those different networks.

Joe: Wow, that sounds really good. I’m glad to see that because I think that’s one of the keys to unlocking the value of the Internet within each of the countries in Africa.

Abibu: Yeah. Yeah.

Joe: Okay. All right. Well, listen, do you have anything else that you want to share while we’re on the interview?

Abibu: The challenges in terms of marketing, you know, these services are very technical so even marketing it is challenging.

Joe: Yeah.

Abibu: And from participation in various DNS forum, I have attendant all of them. And for the time being at least a way on which are the best marketing options. In the past, people are thinking that if you give a domain for free then you’re going to have more registrations but in the end we end up with more deletions especially to people who are knowledgeable to domain, they will register them for free with a hope that they’re going to sell them. So there is a lot of experience in regarding marketing and we hope maybe will the time when the communities’ knowledge upon the opportunities then more domains will be coming.

Joe: Yeah.

Abibu: But I can see a lot of challenges to people who are not used having their brands or domains now maybe they might be taken by some other people and this has been my message whenever I meet a certain community or when I attend some annual general meeting or some groups. Yeah, but in the mentality that the .coms and have domains that are international is still in our people’s minds and this will change with the time.

Joe: Yeah, okay. Well, listen, I’ve been talking to Abibu Ntahigiye. I pronounced it right? And he’s the CEO of tzNIC and it looks like you have plenty of challenges but it also looks like you’ve met a lot of the challenges and I definitely want to wish you a great success as you move forward with the .tz –

Abibu: Thank you so much. Thank you so much.

Joe: – domains. All right, thank you very much. And thank you for coming out to

Abibu: Thank you.

Joe: All right. Bye-bye for now.

Abibu: I’ll see you next time.

[End of transcript]

Posted in ccTLDs, Country Code People, Domain Name News, ICANN, Registries | Comments Off on An Interview with Abibu R. Ntahigiye, CEO of .tznic (Tanzania)

My Cousin Kristy’s Book

I didn’t know that my cousin, Kristy Alagna, wrote a book! I’m so excited for her and have already ordered one. This is a part of my family’s history and we do have some fun and crazy stories and memories as kids growing up in a Sicilian family during the seventies, in the Chicago area. I can’t wait to get the book.

Our family is all dispersed throughout the country now. But when we had our family reunion two months ago, it was like we never left my cousin’s basement.

This was a place we visited as often as possible as kids. But what stands out is that each year, we gathered on New Years eve, almost every year for as long as I can remember. And our parents played cards, shouted and laughed all night… and my uncle blinded us with movie camera lights, and we pounded pots and pans at midnight, and we all fell asleep on some floor in some bedroom throughout their home, and we had breakfast and dinner the next day with pasta and every kind of strange fish or cephalopod squirming around in sinks (which most of us kids didn’t really like – at least I didn’t). It went on and on. And, as kids we usually fought with our parents to go and hang out with our friends instead on New Years Eve, and they mostly did not let us, which was great, because we ended up having so much fun with our cousins and we bonded so closely with them.

Sorry for the strange, run-on sentences above, but that’s how I remember it and that is why, when we all got together a few months ago in Chicago, it was like we never left my cousin’s basement. That is something that will never change for any of us. It’s the coolest thing.

I can’t believe I didn’t already post this picture!

Anyway, seeing Kristy’s video and hearing about her book, I could not help but to write this post and let you know about her book.  The way she reads just a few lines makes me anxious to see the rest.  She’s awesome!  I know I use this blog mostly to write about business stuff.  This is something really close to my heart; one of my beautiful cuz’s (I have a lot of them :-).

So check out her video below.  I know you’ll be touched.  And then visit her website and get her book, “Suitable for Framing”.  I’m sure you’ll love it.

Only Seven Lines – Kristy Alagna, May 12, 2017

Posted in Inspiration, My Family, Personal, Plain Interesting | Comments Off on My Cousin Kristy’s Book

I Interview Alejandra Reynoso, CTO of the .GT Registry

Don’t let her sweet demeanor fool you, Alejandra holds BSc and MSc in Computer Science degrees from the University of the Valley, Guatemala (UVG), and has been a professor of the Computer Science department in UVG since 2004. She has taken a nascent registry and grown it to over 18,000 registrations. This is a woman who knows her stuff.

In 2011 she joined the ccTLD .gt, as a researcher and technology developer and has been deeply involved with ICANN’s fellowship community, volunteering as a newcomer coach. As an active member of the ccNSO Ms. Reynoso has joined the Guideline Review Committee and the Programme Working Group. She is also working closely with LACTLD and the LAC technical community, participating in several committees such as: technical workshop program committee, LAC Strategic Plan Implementation and a program to support a study to develop a business vision of the registry according to each of the ccTLDs needs.

I had the privilege of interviewing her this past week and share the video (and transcript) below:


JA: I’d like to introduce Alejandra Reynoso, who I met at an ICANN meeting last month. What struck me abnout Alejandra is the hard work she is doing on behalf of the CCNSO. For those of you unfamiliar with that it is a country-code organization, part of ICANN that is working to help improve the experiences that people have with country-code domain names around the world. So besides your smile Alejandra, I noticed that you were working very hard on behalf of that organization. I’d like to start out by asking you a little bit about yourself. Let’s start with how did you get involved in the .gt registry?

AR: The .gt registry is located at the University of Guatemala. I was working at the Computer Science Department at the time, working as the Representative of the department for some time and I wanted to do something new. So I talked to my boss. told him I’d like to do something else besides teaching and he said, “You know, I have this little project…”

JA: Oh, he called that “a little project”?

AR: Well, yes, He said, “If you’re interesteed we may create a new job position because there wasn’t actually an “open position”. He told me that they were in need of a technical person for .gt. So that was it. It was requested and fully documented that there was a need for the position and that’s how I arrived at .gt.

JA: Excellent, so your telling me that it started as somewhat of a college project?

AR: Well, that was a long time ago.

JA: How long have you been at the registry now?

AR: Since 2011, so about six years now.

JA: I’d like to ask a little bit more about Guatemala, I know where it is, below Mexico, above Nicaragua… I’m curious, are from there, born and raised in Guatemala?

AR: Haha, that’s an interesting question. Because I am Guatemalan although I was not born here. I was born in Mexico City.

JA: Oh really, okay.

AR: That was because my mom was working at the Guatemalan embassy in Mexico City at the time. And then well, I was born there.

JA: And you came home?

AR: Yes.

JA: Very cool.

AR: In short, yes.

JA: Very cool. Yeah, I don’t know too much about Guatemala except for that I do want to visit there someday.

AR: Well I can tell you that we have the nicest weather throughout the year. Of course, we have good days and bad days but for most of the year it will be a temperature between maybe 20 degrees and 25 degree Celsius for the majority of the year. And that’s the Guatemalan city because we are 1500 meters above sea level.

JA: Wow.

AR: We also have hot weather at the beach at the sea level and we have even cooler weather up in the mountains.

JA: Yeah.

AR: We have very beautiful places to go. We have lakes, beaches, mountains, forests, volcanos.

JA: Yeah. So, its one of the larger of the central American countries obviously. So, looks like it’d be a great place to visit. I’ve been to Costa Rica, I just haven’t made it to Guatemala. So, I hope someday I can do that.

AR: Well maybe now that there will be some ICANN meetings near at Panama or Puerto Rico, then you will have the chance. Its very very beautiful.

JA: Yeah, I have friends who live in Panama and they say that’s really nice there too. So, okay were going to some of the business questions. So you manage the GT registry, .GT. Are there any restrictions at the registry? Related to usage, I mean I’m curious of how you, where do you market and are there any restrictions. I’m curious of some of the rules.

AR: Well, we do have a first level and a second level domain names.

JA: Okay.

AR: On the third level, we do have some restrictions. For what we call the closed domain names, as in it will be the government domain names. We have also a branch for military domain names, or defense and a branch for educational domain names. So, these three categories, you do need to provide documentation that you are actually.. ah…

JA: Yeah, you have to verify your position in essence.

AR: Exactly. Then we do have a better level The .com.GT, .org.GT, .net.GT, .ind.GT, that is because it was thought that IND is for individual.

JA: I see.

AR: They goal for that domain name branch is for people to use them for personal domain names. But it was not very popular.

JA: Okay, that happens.

AR: So, it has very few domain names there but that was the idea. And also we have the second-level domain names that means right under .GT and those are the open domain names that we do not require any sort of physical documentation or that you need to prove that you’re you in that way. And we do allow registrations from, of course from Guatemalan people, and from international as well.

JA: That was my question. So you do reach outside of Guatemala. You don’t restrict it to people that are only in country.

AR: Yes, but we do try to benefit, of course the Guatemalan people, so they have a lower price than the ones outside of Guatemala.

JA: Right. So the.. Can I ask how many domains are under the zone now or I’m just curious if that’s public?

AR: Well, yes, it is. But you can go to our website and we can, we tell you how many domain names are registered. Not all of them are in the zone file. Because companies are just register them to …

JA: To save them.

AR: Yes, exactly. So, nobody else will take them from them. So, we have right above 18,000 domain names. I think its 18,200 something like that.

JA: Yeah, that’s not bad. Is the Internet usage.. How is the Internet usage in Guatemala, is it a very high penetration, is there a lot of work to do in terms of connecting people there?

AR: Well I would say in Guatemala City its very widely spread but rest of the country not so much. So, we do need some work to do regarding the Internet penetration in the outside of the city.

JA: Do most people connect to the Internet through mobile phones similar to what’s going on in Africa?

AR: I would say yes. Because the mobile companies are very creative in that way. Because sometimes you do not have the infrastructure you like so, you cannot go with cable to some places in Guatemala, so they will go by mobile.

JA: Yeah. Going back to, so you register, you said you register domains right at the top level, if you were going to give advice to other country code registries around the world related to that and related to nexus rules and restrictions and registrations. What advice do you have for some of the ones that are nascent. I just came back from Africa and there is a lot there that haven’t even.. hardly started. I’m curious of what advice you might have for them.

AR: Well, I think what other ccTLDs do with the top level domain names and I think they’re doing a much better job than us. In being more enterprising maybe? Because the diversity, we don’t see the, that side of the story. We want to provide a good service and to let people get access to it more than to profit of it. So I’ve seen that in other countries those domain names are.. more.. restricted in accessibility and making them premium even. So, charging a lot much more than the other domain names. So I would.. my advice would be to analyze the strategy regarding profit. Not that we are doing a bad job but I think if your aim is to make more money then you should think this through before opening it.

JA: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And I usually.. I always say you know whether a CCTLD is operated by a government, an individual or company, that profit is always important even if its non-profit they still try to fund things with the money that they can raise. So , it is important to think of it in an enterprise level as you put it. I think that’s a good advice.

AR: And going with that line of thought, to us its also amazing that are some country code top-level domains that do not charge at all for their domain names. They’re free, so there’s everything in this ccTLD world.

JA: You kind of see everything from every different level in terms of cost I guess.

AR: Yes, and another advice that I would.. that, this is true advice coming from experience I would say, to think through the strategy that they will develop to release them. There are several ways to do that. For example, one is to give us a Sunrise period and let everyone know that you are going to do this, so the ones that already have a registered domain name have access to the top-level domain name, the second-level domain names first.

JA: Right.

AR: In a way that’s the way we did. We announced it to the world and if you had for example, lets say and there was no other then you will have preference to get joe.GT

JA: So, you give them the first right of refusal in essence.

AR: Yes. So, you might say I want it or I don’t. that’s one strategy. Another, that’s the one that the .UY ccTLD did it, its that they granted the second-level domain names to everyone that already had a domain name with them. So, they will give it to them for a year, lets say. If they renew it than it was theirs otherwise they lost the right to have it rightful.

JA: Right, yeah that makes a lot of sense. And its really considerate because those are the people who supported you and that helped you to get a start. So, you want to give them at least consideration. I think that makes a lot of sense.

AR: It’s also to stop any kind of legal battle according to who has the right to have a domain name or not. So, yes, I do think that people who already have a domain name should be the first to know that these will be available.

JA: You bring up a good point. The legal aspect is certainly important to consider. Especially since intellectual property interests are lobbying all over the world to make sure the rights are protected. So, I think that’s something you shouldn’t ignore. Its a good point. How do you feel, I’m curious of your philosophy. So you talked about free domains and you talked about some that charge a lot, what is your philosophy related to pricing? Do you think it matters in terms of acceptance of the CCTLD in the country, out of the country? What are your views on that?

AR: Well, we have done some research regarding domain name fees around the region and since were very close to the United States, that’s an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time. Because well you can have a .com domain for less than ten U.S. dollars. And our lowest fee would be twenty dollars. So people think we are too expensive. But also compared to what, because if this is twenty dollars per year its not like a lot of money, that you will be unable to eat for a month if you pay the fee for example. I was exaggerating. So we do think that we have a, I would say a fair price. Because its not too expensive and its not cheap. Because as you say, we need to pay our bills also. And we do believe that its important that Guatemalan people has a .GT domain name so they feel identified with it. that’s why we have the lowest price in the region.

JA: I see.

AR: So that’s our view on fees.

JA: Actually, I would have agreed with it. Because I look at it that when a business.. to me a domain name is really important to a business. Its actually the foundation. I always say if you don’t know how to do business on the Internet today you really almost don’t know how to do business. Because its so important to most companies and so a domain name becomes their identity. Its almost, I think its as is important as, if not, more important than a trademark. Although I’m sure that trademark attorneys might disagree, but I think it really matters, because you know its so integrated with your company identity. So, you know, I don’t think prices, if something is ten or twenty dollars, I don’t think that’s going to matter. If a company likes the name, they’re going to want to get it, they’re going to want to keep it and use it.

AR: Yes, our main interest though, is to have an accurate information of the domain name holder. Because then we do have issues of people try to make changes on their domain names and then not being able to do so. Because they face information that they were not really sure yet. Because they were thinking of making this business and in the end, they didn’t do it. But they based a domain name on that business. So, then we have to find legal ways to make this happen. I think, they could of course change the domain name information.

JA: Yeah, I always tell people, if you think of a good idea, you better get your domain name right away.

AR: Exactly, we agree.

JA: Okay, what else. That is the next question I guess. We talked a little bit about the legal aspects. Do you guys work with the World Intellectual Property Organization? Do you have your own similar type there? I’m curious of how you handle that. When it comes to trademark claims or those types of issues.

AR: We do have to use the UDRP with WIPO. So, when there’s someone that has an issue with another, we tell them okay please refer to these UDRP process, let them know and let them outline what they say. So, we do not handle it at all. Because we don’t think that’s part of what we should do.

JA: I think that’s a good philosophy, certainly they’re recognized around the world and they make the legal aspect a lot easier so that makes a lot of sense. I wasn’t aware that you worked with them because not all country codes do, some do their own some of them work with WIPO.

AR: Yes, well we do this because in Guatemala you can also have a brand name for many things as in the same name. So, we are not anyone to decide who has the right between these names. For example, our national beer is called Gallo, and of course this is a very huge company with a lot of money and there’s also… this of the same brand of a soap and there’s a brand for matches. But they are not from the same company.

JA: Right, so there are different classes.

AR: Yes, so they’re all Gallo but they are different products from different companies. So then who should get it? The beer industry, the soap industry, the match industry? We cannot decide.

JA: Right, right. I can see you’re pretty knowledgeable about the intellectual property aspects. Okay, tell me a little about the technology of your registrar, I mean did you guys develop it, did you? I’m curious about how you guys manage that.

AR: This is an in-house software that we use so far. And it was built a long time ago, when I came into the picture I just did a little bit of an update, an upgrade of the system. And now we are developing a brand new one that will have the capabilities of the registry/register model.

JA: Really? I was going to ask you about it. So, I’m sure you have registrars now though, do you not?

AR: No, we don’t.

JA: Oh, I wasn’t aware of that.

AR: Not officially I would say. Because of all the hosting companies they will sell a whole package to their customers but they will buy their domain names from us. But there is not a system to communicate these transactions.

JA: Oh, I see.

AR: For example, we know this happens but we don’t have a deal with them or a contract.

JA: Right. So, in other words do they have to register domains manually today, or are you automating it?

AR: Well, its sort of manual that you have to fill in the information for your domain name. that’s the only manual part. Otherwise, everything else is automated. You can pay with your credit card and you can register and put in an ongoing domain name in less than a minute if you are quick to typist.

JA: Doesn’t take a lot of time or anything like that.

AR: No, no, no. You just fill in the form and once the form is confirmed by you that everything is okay. Then the screen for credit card payment appears and if you want to pay it right away, then you pay it right away.

JA: Okay, that’s pretty good. How are you guys dealing with the challenges of security today in ccTLDS? I know that’s a big issue.

AR: As in what?

JA: Well, have you signed the .GT zone yet?

AR: No, not yet. It’s in the plan, but the security is a very wide area. That’s what I meant, what do you mean by security? Because we do have our systems as secure as we hope they can be. We haven’t got any incidents regarding our systems.

JA: It’s certainly is a big problem you know around the world. It seems like in the Europe, U.S., you almost can’t read a newspaper every day without seeing somebody doing a DDOS attack or something going on, I was just curious about that. But you are planning it though?

AR: Yes, it is in our plan, strategy to make it possible in near future.

JA: Oh, that’s good. One of the questions I also wanted to ask you, so we talked about selling within and outside the country, do you have more customers in Guatemala or do you have more customers out of Guatemala?

AR: We do have more customers in Guatemala.

JA: Oh, you do. Oh okay.

AR: I would say, I don’t remember right now the specific statistics. But in my mind, I would say %70 it’s in Guatemala.

JA: Oh, wow. So, I imagine if I do come down there which I hope to do one day, and I’m driving on the freeway I will see something, some names maybe on the signs or billboards using .GT. Is it more common to see .GT or more common to see .com domains down there in the country?

AR: You re asking the wrong person because I’m biased. Whenever I see .GT, I feel like the light just turned on. So, when I see .com I just go like ugh. I’m sorry. But, yes, it is widely used though we do have an issue with the generics since again, the closeness to the U.S. It makes people want to be more available not only inside but to the outside world, so, .com is very common. I wouldn’t say you will see it everywhere, but it is used and we know that at least half of our customers are in a gTld like .com.

JA: So, people.. You’d say its probably half and half .GT and half .com

AR: Yes, or they will have both.

JA: Oh, they will have both. Which makes sense.

AR: The only thing I don’t like is they redirect to .com not to the but anyway it happens.

JA: I certainly, understand how you feel about that, I would probably feel the same way. You know its a funny thing in the United States, very few people even use .us. It is used but it is much less common than .com and it is our country code so, that’s a question I have to ask the U.S. registry at some point in time.

AR: I think so because for me, and I’m saying this as a person that now knows about country codes, to me whenever I see a .com I think U.S. No matter where in the world it is I would think U.S. So, I think that’s maybe what’s happening there, that they are just assuming it’s their own country. But they should know that they should have .us at the end.

JA: How about in terms of marketing, do you have any special strategy that you use, that you think has been helpful or most successful for .GT?

AR: Well, yes, we try to reach to Guatemalan people as in saying .GT is Guatemala. So, they should identify themselves with .GT as their own country and their own culture. So, that’s what we strive when we do any marketing campaigns or any.. I don’t know, promotions for example. But we have our independence day on September 15th. So, in the month of September we try to make things, for example do some offers on domain names or letting people know that we’re doing this games, commercial, or social media, so they can win a prize. Like a t-shirt or some souvenir from .GT. So, that’s where we aim right now to make them aware that they’re from Guatemala and if they’re from Guatemala they should have a .GT.

JA: It makes a lot of sense. Do you think people trust the .GT if they’re in Guatemala, do you feel like they trust it a little bit more or? Some people say they trust .com more, some people say.. I don’t.. Every country is different, some people like the idea of a local domain.

AR: Well, we haven’t done any formal research on this but my sense of talking to people would be that sometimes they feel.. Its not a trust issue, maybe its that they think .com is just better because it was first maybe or everyone uses it in a way in their environment. So, the people surrounding them use .com so they should use .com. It depends, like I wouldn’t say that’s a trust issue if its made in Guatemala then its not trustable for example, because sometimes it happens that, if someone from your family tells you something is not worth it, it seems not true but if somebody else comes along and tells you the same then it seems it is true, something like that.

JA: I would think just the opposite but I do know what you’re referring to. In the U.S. we have a saying, “familiarity breeds contempt”. So, if you believe other people before you believe your own people, its kind of strange but it is that way.

AR: It is strange but sometimes… I don’t know, you explain it better.

JA: It’s the way people are.

AR: Yes, but I do believe that they like it, its more of an educational thing. Some people just don’t know it exists.

JA: Right.

AR: .GT has been assigned to us 25 years ago.

JA: So, is it… I guess I did want to ask you that question, so every… I always have this thing I like to say, every country code has really three characters, it has the two characters that are part of the string and then it has the character of the registry or characteristics of the registry.

AR: Okay.

JA: So, in Guatemala, .GT, is it really controlled by you guys or the government? How is it organized legally?

AR: No, but by assessing the people that works at .GT, the university is the organization that manages it. But there is an office that specifically deals with everything that is domain name related. Of course, if there is any legal thing that needs to be signed then it needs to goes to the university authorities. They’re the legal representatives of .GT. And for the government, we do have a, I would say, a very good relationship and they don’t tell us how to do our things. They ask for advice, and they will consult things but they are not interested in managing it.

JA: Yeah. Well, they don’t have the kind of resources you do either, so I totally understand that. One other thing related to marketing, how do you guys feel, does it bother you, do you not care, you know I workrd for 101 domain for many years and we sold .GT in the United States. And believe it or not people buy the for different meanings, so you know maybe they buy it for thinking global trading or Gran Torismo, I think is a game, even the city like Georgetown or you know people kind of made up their own meanings. Do you guys get any feedback on that, how do you feel about this, does it bother you?

AR: Well, we do think about it. Would like to make more campaigns out of it. We even know that for example, in Chinese letters G and T are popular together. We don’t know what it means but we’ve been told it by Chinese people so, since we are a very small operation we will need to focus our resources carefully. So, what we do is we decide what comes as a priority so, right now we are aiming to build these registry/registrar projects. And when we launch it, then we’ll have more stability with it then we want to, well, with the help of the registrars, have these marketing campaigns, where we can reach out further than we can right now. So, yes we are thinking about these. And speaking of Georgetown, that’s the city in Guyana? And I know the technical Manager there, I think he is also the CEO of GY? And he said that he should have managed .GT because that’s Georgetown. So, I’m like, no. But he could be a registrar for us then. So that’s what we are aiming right now. To establish a more robust system and then spread.

JA: Makes sense. So, I saw how hard you worked for the CCNSO so, maybe this could be a little commercial for the work you guys are doing there so what do you want to say about the CCNSO? What would be interesting for people to hear?

AR: Well, the CCNSO is the name supporting organization for our country codes and its built by CCTLDs for CCTLDs. The main philosophy is that all CCTLDs are different in many ways, in sizes, in the kind of organizations that host them, the policies, everything. We know were different and its very well respected. So, the aim to have these CCNSO meetings and gatherings is to network, to make contacts and to support each other. As in maybe there is someone who is very good at marketing, so, maybe were not and then we can exchange views and strategies and help each other out. that’s the main goal of the CCNSO,and you don’t have to be member of the CCNSO to participate. That is very important, its optional that being a member and doesn’t require any payments. Only that the administration of the CCTOD requests to be a member, check with IANA that it is the person that they have in their files and if everything is okay then that’s it. Its not difficult. We do understand that, we
know every CCTLD is different. But some belonging to other organizations maybe in internal policies or something so, that does not interfere with the work. So, if someone in CCTLD wants to participate and then become a member, they can do so.

JA: That’s really good. Yeah, I had a great sense of cooperation and you guys have a lot of fun and you seem to work really well together. I think you get some stuff done, at least in the short time that I’ve observed it. So…

AR: Yes, I believe that we do have a very good environment. Since we will move things forward. So, if you have anything you can put into the table for anyone else to grab, then you do it. So, there is no competition.

JA: Alright, well we’ve come around to about the time for us to end, I just want to say thank you. You did stand out to me at the CCNSO, and I really appreciate that. And I think other people do too because they want to feel welcome, they want to feel a part, and that’s something that you did very well over there.

AR: Thank you very much.

JA: I look forward to see you again at other ICANN meetings. And this Alejandra Reynoso, of .GT and we really appreciate you coming on to country code people.

CCNSO = Country Code Name Supporting Organization (within ICANN)
ccTLD – Country-Code Top Level Domain Name

Posted in ccTLDs, Country Code People, Domain Names, Registrars, Registries, Tech News and Views | Comments Off on I Interview Alejandra Reynoso, CTO of the .GT Registry

Domains – 1 | Hashtags – 0 | Hashtag Use Waning in Ads

Godaddy Ad

Image from an old Godaddy advertisement.

I’ve always wondered why a company, big or small, would use a hashtag or a Facebook page as part of their advertisements. It doesn’t make sense.

A domain name is the one digital brand asset that you have complete control over!

I was glad to see this article, backed by research and data, pointing out that hashtags are waning in television advertising. Advertising Executives seemingly continue to forget the lessons shown by this data. Put better, they don’t seem to realize how important domain names are in their overall strategy.

Some of the high points (in case you can’t read the article: it is a subscription service):

“TV advertisers have vastly expanded their attempts to drive people to their websites but are rarely pushing hashtags anymore, according to a study of more than 500,000 commercials since 2012 by, which closely tracks ads on TV.

The biggest change was the increase of brands urging customers to visit a domain, from 1.6 billion in 2014 to approx. $3 billion this year.

“…advertisers have gotten smarter…”

Unfortunately they seem to learn the hard way.  Here are a few stats also from the article:

Use of Hashtags in national ads:

2012 = 2%
2014 = 8%
2016 = under 2% again

Read the story…  (may require a subscription)| Source: Ad Age | Date posted: 7/19/2017

Posted in Aftermarket, Domain Name News, Domain Names, Inspiration | Comments Off on Domains – 1 | Hashtags – 0 | Hashtag Use Waning in Ads