We Interview an Internet Pioneer, Patricio Poblete of NIC CL (Chile)

Nic CL (.cl ccTLD) is a pioneer in the domain name space for South America.

We interviewed Patricio Poblete, who has managed that ccTLD for almost 30 years now. Patricio sent one of the first emails from university to university in Chile.

  • Hear how they started.
  • How did they achieve one of the highest uptake rates
  • What challenges do they face and how did they overcome?


An Interview with Patricio Poblete, NIC CL – Chile
Audio Duration: 42.00
Number of Speakers: 2

Joe A: Good morning. How are you Patricio?

Patricio P: Good Joe, how are you?

Joe A: I’m doing well. Actually I’m having a little trouble with all kinds of technology in the last week, including my Skype this morning.

Patricio P: Yeah?

Joe A: Yeah.

Patricio P: And it’s not because it’s so early there, right?

Joe A: Well, actually it’s not because it’s so early, well, it’s about 7 o’clock here, so are we on almost the same time?

Patricio P: Well, it’s 11 here.

Joe A: Oh it’s about 11. Okay, we’re not too far off. Thank you by the way for being kind enough to take a few minutes to talk to me.

Patricio P: It’s a pleasure.

Joe A: Yeah, I don’t know if you’ve heard about what I am doing, but I started a series of blog posts that I’m going to call Country Code People, and the whole idea is to basically I’m trying to interview Country Code Managers, ccTLD Managers from all around the world and I have already done a couple for a few of the fellows from Africa and now I’m sort of making my way through Latin America or wherever I can find people anyway.

Patricio P: You did Costa Rica, I think.

Joe A: I spoke to the girl from .GT, Guatemala.

Patricio P: Oh yeah, that’s correct.

Joe A: And so little by little I’m making my way through. Yeah, she’s very involved in the ccNSO.

Patricio P: Yes, she’s very active.

Joe A: And she’s just a sweet lady. I think I might have met her before, but I specifically noticed her in the Johannesburg’s meetings and so I called her and tried to get something arranged.

Patricio P: Yeah.

Joe A: Okay, I think I’m pretty well set to start.

Patricio P: Okay.

Joe A: So, to start it, I’d like to say I’m interviewing Patricio Poblete.

Patricio P: That’s correct.

Joe A: Who manages the .CL domain name registry and not only manages it, but he’s actually run it very successfully for a long time. Looking up a little information about Patricio, I found out that he’s definitely a veteran to the internet world and especially to the country code top level domain world. So, I want to welcome you Patricio to CountryCodePeople.info

Patricio P: Oh, thank you.

Joe A: Yes, and to get started. I guess I want to ask you a little bit about how you got involved in .cl and how you’ve got interested in the internet if I may?

Patricio P: Well, our interest comes from a long time ago as you say. My first contact with networks and this was before actually the internet was in the early 80’s when I was doing my PhD at the University of Waterloo in Canada. So, there the university was connected to the world by UUCP and there was also the Usenet, so it was kind of the social network at the time.

When I came back to Chile after getting my PhD and that was at the end of 1982. We started trying to find a way to connect ourselves to the world, and that started happening in around 1984, 1985, I was still done through UUCP, it was a protocol connecting UNIX machines. So, in 85, we sent what turned out to be the first email between two universities in Chile.

Joe A: Really?

Patricio P: Yeah, we did some the very first email. At the time we never thought that one day we would be swamped by emails.

Joe A: Right.

Patricio P: So, it was a rarity, and then a couple of years later in 1987, we got a way to connect to the world originally through our colleagues in France and later through UUNET with Rick Adams.

Joe A: All right.

Patricio P: So then we started exchanging emails and news on a daily basis and it wasn’t until 1992 that Chile was connected to the internet proper. By then we have been doing that for 5 years already. One of the first things that we found out back in 1987 was that to use some of the services like email for instance, we needed a domain name.

Joe A: Okay.

Patricio P: So, we decided to register a domain name for our university, we were doing that as University of Researchers at the University of Chile, and we quickly found out that was no one in charge of managing the list of registered domain names for Chile, the .cl ending. So, we ended up having to do that ourselves and we took charged of that task. The IANA delegated .cl to us, and that was the beginning of what’s now called NIC Chile. We have been doing that ever since, always as one of the functions and one of the services that the University of Chile provides to the community. We are still a unit of the University of Chile.

Joe A: Wow. So I always like to ask people like yourself that go so far back, did you actually meet with John Postel in that process?

Patricio P: Only a couple of times and that was later down the road. Our contact at the beginning was more indirect through Rick Adams who was doing a great job at the time of helping people get on board.

Joe A: I see.

Patricio P: Yeah, we spoke to Rick and Rick took care of the details.

Joe A: I see. Yeah I like to ask that because I’ve always heard the stories about John Pastel just basically trying to find people around the world to manage country code domain names. I was curious if that was kind of the situation with you guys.

Patricio P: Yeah.

Joe A: So you sent one of the first emails from university to university. And I guess you’re still using what today would be kind of a very old technology I guess, although it’s probably still around.

Patricio P: That email was sent through UUCP using dial up telephone lines.

Joe A: Right.

Patricio P: We had to actually borrow telephone lines to do that. In Chile at the time it was hard to get a new telephone line installed. So, we had to use what we had, but we were lucky that we were able to do so. Now, it was not inexpensive especially international calls.

Joe A:  I bet.

Patricio P: So, it was a blessing when a new kind of modem came up, it was called Teledict Trail Blazers that were incredibly fast, but for the standards of that time, right?

Joe A: Yeah.

Patricio P: But it was incredibly slow.

Joe A: Oh yeah, yeah, of course by today’s standard. I mean actually I still consider it a miracle that I can have a very personal conversation, see your face online today, I mean it’s amazing what has been accomplished. So, all right then fast forwarding a little bit, just a little bit more about the NIC chile or nic.cl. Is it run like a company? You said that it’s part of the university, do you have employees or?

Patricio P: It is part of the university. It is a self-contained unit within the university. It has, right now there are over 40 people working for NIC Chile.

Joe A: Wow, okay.

Patricio P: And it has, as I said I’ve been doing this job for 30 years now, but for most of the time it was simply one project within the Department of Computer Science.

Joe A: Yeah.

Patricio P: And it’s living recently like a month or so ago that the University approved it becoming a unit officially within the University’s structure, what they called Center.

Joe A: Wow.

Patricio P:  So that’s what we are now.

Joe A: Well, that’s great.

Patricio P: But that’s just a little thing in what we actually do, but we’re more formal now.

Joe A: Yeah.

Patricio P: But it is not a company, it is not. It is a part of the University.

Joe A: Yeah, so it’s a university’s center, so that’s the good way to describe it. But obviously if you have that many people working on it, so it really says to me that Chile is a forerunner in the internet probably in all of Latin America, maybe .br they seem to have done quite well.

But you seem to be one of the earliest to have really got online and got on board with the domain name system and the country codes, would that be true or is there another country that’s…?

Patricio P: Certainly, we were one of the first and I think in terms of domain per capita, we rank very high in Latin America. There is a very high level of adoption of .cl in Chile, which would seem like a given, right?

Joe A: Right.

Patricio P: But that’s not the case in all the countries in the world, there are many countries were people tend to use more the generics, like the traditional ones like .com, .net, .org. or the newer ones. We were perhaps lucky in that system works, probably because we were here so early in the game when people in Chile started hearing about this new internet thing.

Joe A: Right.

Patricio P: We were there already, and a number of universities and some government services had already registered .cl names and we are using them, so some of the larger companies, so the community when they’ve started finding out that there was this internet, they started immediately seeing some addresses that ended with .com and that tend to be international or foreign and also other names ending in .cl that they were local.

Joe A: Local?

Patricio P: Domestic. So, kind of there was this association, if it’s Chilean its .cl.

Joe A: Right.

Patricio P: So, even to this day we have over 90% of the market so to speak in Chile. If you come to Chile, if you visit Santiago or the rest of the country, you’ll see that most of the domain names that you see being used are .cl domain names.

Joe A: Yeah.

Patricio P: That’s not to say that some important names are in other domains like for instance some of the larger newspapers use .com.

Joe A: I see.

Patricio P: Which is okay, they can, but they are kind of the exemption. Most people would tend to register .cl first, and some of these .coms they also have their corresponding.cl. So, that translates as I say into a large fraction of the domains being .cl and a large number of domains per capita for Chile.

Joe A: Yeah, you are so ahead of what I was thinking, because I always like to ask what is the percent of .cl, and I have not to had the chance to visit Chile and I do hope I can visit there one day, there is a lot of places I want to go still, but I like when I drive in a different country. I’m always looking at the billboards to see are they using .com or are they using the country code. So, in your case you would say in Chile a lot more are using the .cl. Is there a percentage?

Patricio P: As I say, well, it’s hard to come up with exact reliable numbers, but it seems to see over 90%.

Joe A: Wow that is excellent. Okay, good. To me, go ahead.

Patricio P: Yeah, perhaps one other decision that we made very early could have helped in this. We decided not to sub-divide the domain name’s space. Many of our colleagues did use a sub-division for instance you have com.ar for Argentina or edu.ar or in the UK you have co.uk, right?

Joe A: Exactly.

Patricio P: So for many countries internally they reproduced most of the structure of the generics at the time. But that kind of meant that if you were using a com-dot-your country, it was kind of a second-rate version of the real .com, right?

Joe A: Right.

Patricio P: While in our case since we did not subdivide and all the research where at the second level using the .cl was like putting that in an equal footing with the .com, right?

Joe A: Right, right.

Patricio P: That may have helped the public perception of the domains. Now, if you fast forward to the current day, many of the countries that use that subdivision have moving away from it and opening up the second level for registrations, okay? Which has been good for their income because they can sell domains there, there is a whole virgin territory to be explored.

Joe A: Right.

Patricio P: We cannot because

Joe A: You’ve already done that. How many .cl domains are there?

Patricio P: As, oh there’s a little over half a million.

Joe A: Oh it is?

Patricio P: Or five-hundred thousand I think.

Joe A: Yeah, that’s actually really, really good among ccTLDs and it sounds to me like you have a pretty good number of the businesses in Chile using that cl., so wow that’s excellent. And you are right a lot of the country codes are going now to release their second level domains. It is pretty interesting to see that. Well, obviously it says something about the idea. It’s the right way to do it, if you’re really going to be serious about country codes. Okay, so are there any restrictions on .cl in terms of who is allowed to register them?

Patricio P: Not anymore. We used to have one restriction that said you had to have a tax id number for  Chile, we don’t require that anymore. When that was in place, what that meant is that people from abroad, they had to find a local point of contact that will kind of lend their tax id number, which well, a few years ago we decided to eliminate that requirement, so nowadays you can register your .cl from anywhere in the world. You can be a natural person or company, whatever.

Joe A: Okay. So even if somebody in the United States or Europe wants register to .cl there is no blocking them based on their?

Patricio P: No problem at all.

Joe A: Okay. How about in terms of intellectual property? So, do you guys have in Latin America a similar organization to the World Intellectual Property Organization or do you use that WIPO itself?

Patricio P: We do not use it. We believe that the first country, the first TLD in the world to use a resolution system, concrete resolution system based on arbitration. We started it in 1997, two years before the UDRP was introduced.

Joe A: Wow, okay.

Patricio P: And actually UDRP was approved at the ICANN meeting that was held in Santiago in 1999.

Joe A: Oh no kidding? Wow. You guys are ahead of the curve here.

Patricio P: Yeah, we started in 1997 because we realized that a system was needed to decide when there was a conflict, and it needed to be fast and low cost and the Chilean judicial system is neither of that.

Joe A: It’s common everywhere, yeah.

Patricio P: So, we chose a system of arbitration and we’ve been using that ever since, so it’s a local dispute resolution system. It’s not UDRP, it’s an LDRP.

Joe A: Right.

Patricio P: We have a number of arbitrators that are independent from Chile, so we just managed the system, but the arbitrators themselves are independent.

Joe A: Do they do work for other Latin American countries as well or is it just for?

Patricio P: They work for us, but quite a few of them are also panelists for the UDRP with WIPO.

Joe A: I see.

Patricio P: So that has been working pretty well and that has been, has become part of the way the system works in Chile. The local intellectual property community and the community in general know that’s the way you solve this kind of disputes in Chile.

Joe A: Right, okay. And I imagine.

Patricio P: Also, it’s been a system that works completely online, which for a country like Chile with a very conservative judicial tradition, it’s quite an innovation that you can do everything through the web. And by the way, there’s one thing else. The UDRP system WIPO, those are arbitration panels, but they do not have the force of law, while in Chile an arbitrator it’s actually a judge.

Joe A: Oh really? So, they do this on the side?

Patricio P: The rulings have the force of law and they are under the supervision of the appeals court, so they are very much part of the judicial system, even though they are arbitrators and those are not trials.

Joe A: Right, it’s not the same kind cost-structure as well, I imagine.

Patricio P: Yup, that’s right.

Joe A: Wow that was really good. And what about if somebody from out of Chile, like let’s say somebody from the United States makes a claim to about a .cl domain, do they still use that same process or they still use the Chilean Arbitration System or would they?

Patricio P: They would have to use the Chilean Arbitration System and that’s one of the reasons why we moved to a fully online system, to make it possible for you to participate from anywhere in the world.

Joe A: Yeah, and I imagine that it does a lot to reduce costs as well because it shortens the time and it just makes it a lot easier for people to process, right?

Patricio P: Exactly. And there’s a very well defined flow of events that happened during the process.

Joe A: Wow. Okay, let’s go to another idea. What about technology? So, obviously it sounds like you guys really go way back, so I’m sure you’re doing something very amazing down there, but do you have a self-developed registry system? Do you use something out of another one or I’m just curious of what you do there?

Patricio P: We use a system that was developed in house. The system replaced our very old system that we started developing and using in the early days.

Joe A: Yeah.

Patricio P: The current system implements EPP, so we’re fully ready to work with the registrars.

Joe A: Oh, okay.

Patricio P: Until a few years ago, we did everything ourselves, the only place where you could go and buy a .cl domain was with us, NIC Chile.

Joe A: Oh I see, okay.

Patricio P: Now, we keep doing that, but you can also go to a number of registrars that can sell you a .cl and they communicate with our registrar system by EPP.

Joe A: Do you have registrars that are directly accredited only within Chile or do you accredit registrars in other nations?

Patricio P: So far we are using mostly international registrars, and we are trying to develop, help companies become registrars in Chile, from Chile, but that’s just starting, so what we have done so far, what’s actually working is that the registrars that are registered accredited with ICANN, if they are accredited with ICANN they can immediately become accredited with us without any additional requirements.

Joe A: Right and that makes a lot of sense since they have already gone through the rigors of becoming accredited and now that you’re doing EPP, it all seems it will go together very well, wouldn’t it?

Patricio P: Yeah, that’s what we do.

Joe A: Yeah. Okay. How about in terms of, many of the country codes are signing their zones or using DNS sec now, have you made that move as well?

Patricio P: Oh yeah. The .cl zone has been signed for a few years already and so we have made that available to our customers.

Joe A: I see.

Patricio P: A few of them have their zones signed.

Joe A: It takes time.

Patricio P: The adoption of DNS sec in Chile hasn’t gone very much further than the zone itself, but cl zone is definitely being signed.

Joe A: The truth is I think that’s a problem that all not only country codes face, but even .com or .org, I mean they are signed but it seems the end user adoption is quite slow all over the world, so it’s just going to take some time I suppose. Are you doing anything in terms of trying to encourage them or marketing in terms of making them realize the value that they can get from that too?

Patricio P: We have a number of seminars for them, and we are trying to work with communities that may benefit from signing their zones, but it’s very slow and they don’t immediately see the value of that.

Joe A: Yeah.

Patricio P: The banks for instance. We are trying to work with the bank association.

Joe A: Right.

Patricio P: But as I’ve said it’s slow, they have to see what value, they don’t even see the value, but we have to work hard to help them understand it.

Joe A: One of the new top level domains the .banks since you bring up banking has actually instituted all these rules. Now, these guys are selling their domain for a pretty high number, but in the US it seems that many of the banks have taken advantage of it and they are actually requiring them to sign the zone, they are requiring them to use DMARK for email and all the standards are like kind of forced upon them if they want to use a domain, but you can’t do that just with a standard country code or a generic domain, I don’t think, but it’s interesting to see.

I suppose with all the news about security being a problem and all these big companies that are being taken advantage of through a lack of security, I think that it’s just going to take some time, but as people see that they’ll hopefully become more active, I would think.

Patricio P: Yeah.

Joe A: All right, so I guess one of the other things I wanted to ask you about marketing. Do you actually have people within .cl that their job is marketing or how do you guys go about that?

Patricio P: Well, Margarita is in-charge of marketing; do you know Margarita of marketing?

Joe A: Yes, I do.

Patricio P: In that area, we do have some marketing. Basically its ping at generating more name recognition or brand recognition for NIC Chile that people would know where to go to register a domain or what the domain is good for. It’s not like trying to convince them to go us instead of the competition, but it’s just so that they would know why should they register their domain and where they should go, and we do that through various channels, we have some presence in the Metro system, when you ride the Metro in Santiago, you’ll see some large panels with our advertisement.

Joe A: Oh okay.

Patricio P: We have ads in some of the most popular radio shows, especially those people listen to when they are driving to and from work.

Joe A: Right.

Patricio P: Caught in a traffic jam.

Joe A: Yeah, yeah.

Patricio P: And also we sponsor many events in the community. Actually a lot of them, we give them some money, we help them with some of their expenses, and so we have a presence in events related to the internet, but also related to technology in general.

Joe A: I see.

Patricio P: And we have also have been supporting a number of events that are trying to increase the participation of women in technology.

Joe A: Right, right.

Patricio P: So that all helps us get visibility for our name and for our logo, and sometimes, a colleague once was telling that are ads were everywhere, and I said what do you mean by everywhere? You are in the Metro, you are in the radio. And I said we’re only in the Metro and in the radio.

Joe A: Well, they must ride the Metro quite a bit I guess. So, that’s good. Well, it certainly is a sensible way to do it. I mean and by the way because you got that early start, you also get the added benefit of larger companies advertising their business with .cl on the end. That’s kind of a secret hidden value that you get.

Patricio P: Exactly, exactly, that’s a free advertisement for us.

Joe A: Right and that’s because you were early to the game. What about in terms of, I guess I want to ask, one of the problems I see in some of the countries where I have done these interviews is let’s call it the penetration rate of internet access. Is it really strong in Chile, and also do they access the internet more through mobile phone or through regular desktop computing?

Patricio P: Off the top of my head, I don’t have the figures and the numbers, but it’s very high and nowadays it’s mostly mobile. Almost everyone has a smart phone in Chile, and through their smart phones they access the internet. Before that it used to be also very high relatively speaking when people used mostly desktops and laptops, but it’s been shifting to mobile very fast.

Joe A: And I guess you have the advantage of being on the coast and with the long coast that you have there, it’s probably easy to bring in cable and international internet access and get everything really well connected, wasn’t it.

Patricio P: Yeah, but we were also very far from everywhere, so.

Joe A: Well, that’s true.

Patricio P: It took a long time for fiber, for the undersea cable to arrive, but nowadays we have it, and the country is now trying to reach the southernmost tip of the country with fiber, which is still not there.

Joe A: Well, it’s like any country even the United States doesn’t have really fast or broadband access to every part. The remote areas are always very difficult I would think, and I’m sure you have the same situation down there. Do you find it that a lot of people are registering domain names in terms of the sectors of the market in Chile, are they more for personal, more for business? Are people running blogs like they do here in terms of just their interest and hobby’s and things like that or mostly just business?

Patricio P: Well, I think the answer is yes to all of them.

Joe A: It is, ha?

Patricio P: Yeah, our customers are about half natural person, about half businesses or corporations. But we believe that the fraction of business is a bit higher, because a number of the domains registered by persons are probably startups. People that are trying to launch some small business and they are still doing it in their own name without incorporating as a company, they’ll probably do it later if they succeed.

Joe A: Yeah.

Patricio P: A number of persons probably are also trying to do some kind of business on the internet.

Joe A: Yeah, we find that many of the new registrations comes from startups here as well, so I think that makes a lot of sense to target them, and I’m always trying to think about where the next million registration is going to come from and I do think that startups are a big part of that.

Patricio P: A large fraction of the small and medium enterprises in Chile are still not on board, so that’s one place where it could come. I’m not sure that it will, but that’s one possibility.

Joe A: Yeah. Well, I mentioned this in the previous interview, but I’ve always kind of joke about how the yellow pages have disappeared at least in the United States, and so even restaurants and small stores, clothing stores, that haven’t gone online, it’s really important for them to somehow get online. What would you say is the most predominant just speaking about Chile in general, market, where is most of the business done online? Like of course we’ve got Amazon here, I think I’ve heard in South America that there are a few places where most people gather to buy things. Is there something like that in Chile that’s especially predominant?

Patricio P: Well, Amazon isn’t yet here locally.

Joe A: Okay.

Patricio P: Of course I’m working to buy from Amazon or Alibaba.

Joe A: Alibaba?

Patricio P: Right.

Joe A: Yeah.

Patricio P: But locally I think some of the large department stores that have opened up there online channels for selling.

Joe A: Really? Okay, that’s interesting. So a lot of the bigger stores are doing it online then?

Patricio P: Exactly.

Joe A: Yeah.

Patricio P: Now, compared to how Amazon does it, they are still, they have a lot of homework to do to be really efficient especially in the legality of the goods.

Joe A: Right, that’s probably always the biggest challenge in retail. So, what would you say are the most important goals for .cl moving forward now?

Patricio P: Well, we have to keep working to make our user experience better. Our system is now due for a total review and some revamping. We also need to work more on providing additional services besides just domain name registration. Our traditional view was that our business was to sell domain names and we didn’t want to interfere in other people doing the rest of the work, like providing hosting for the domain name resolution or website hosting or what not.

Joe A: Right.

Patricio P: And that’s the way it’s developed all these years, but nowadays that all of the markets are much more mature we think we should go a little into that too. At least in providing DNS, domain name services for our customers.

Joe A: Okay.

Patricio P: We’ve always done something in that line, which is providing secondary. We are I think one of the few registries where you can get secondary service for free just by clicking on that check box.

Joe A: Really? Okay.

Patricio P: We did that because in the early days it was hard for people to find where to host their primary domain name service and it was even harder to find additional ones like to secondary. So, we said, we’ll do it, don’t worry. Just check here and we’re the secondary for your domain. You just worry about getting a primary, and that is a service that we keep providing. But now we are planning on providing primary services for customers and also offering some of our domain name resolution infrastructure for companies that may want to use that where we have a network of servers that we manage with servers in Chile and abroad, and besides that we also hire services from third parties to increase our coverage, adding all that up we have over 100 domain names resolution servers around the world.

Joe A: Wow! Yeah and that is certainly important for dependability, redundancy, everything, right?

Patricio P: Yup.

Joe A: Okay. Well, I think that’s about it. I don’t want to end this interview without mentioning however congratulating you on your recent award from ICANN, for your long-time service. I think they call it the Multi-Stakeholder Ethos Award.

Patricio P: Exactly, exactly. I have to say to people what that means.

Joe A: Well, why don’t explain that to me. I think I kind of have a feel, but I’d like to ask you.

Patricio P: Well, if you are in the internet community you probably know what that is. But maybe my friends don’t have anything to do with the community, they say, congratulations on whatever prize you’ve got. Yeah, through the years the multi-stakeholders model has been taking fold and it’s the way we work in the community, giving the voice to everyone, everyone that wants to be involved can be involved, it’s not like you’re in a multilateral model where only governance have a say.

Joe A: Right.

Patricio P: Here everyone has a say, governance of course and that voice is very important, but also civil society and us in the technical community, the IT community, everyone, so that’s the multi-stakeholder model, and probably because of having been involved in build process for so long, my colleagues kindly thought that I deserve this recognition which is something I’m very grateful for.

Joe A: Yeah. You know I’ve been out of the ICANN world because for the last 4 years, I’ve been focused on the retail registrar over working at 101 domain, and I was going out to customers and end users and not attending ICANN meetings, but prior to that I probably attended 20 ICANN meetings when I worked for a different registry and I remember you. I wasn’t always involved in all of the policy meetings and things like that, but I would watch and I do remember you always being there and always being involved, so I think that this is a well-deserved award and I do want to congratulate you for that.

Patricio P: Thank you.

Joe A: You’re welcome. Is there anything else that you would like to share in this interview before we call an end to it? Is there anything on your mind that I might not have talked about?

Patricio P: I think we’ve covered more or less everything.

Joe A: Yeah.

Patricio P: So yes, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you.

Joe A: Well, thank you very much for taking the time. I’m talking to Patricio P Poblete, and he manages the .cl registry and we want to thank him for coming onto CountryCodePeople.info and we wish you the best as you move forward. We’ll see you at the next ICANN meeting.

Patricio P: Thank you very much. See you.

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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 yahoo.com users, gmail.com 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 niz.tz or what –

Abibu: No, it is tznic.or.tz.

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? Karibu.tz. 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 .ne.tz, 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 .co.tz.

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 .co.tz and one of them is Vodacom. They are using the Vodacom.co.tz 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 vodacom.co.tz.

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 coutrycodepeople.info.

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… dot.gt”

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 joe.com.GT and there was no other joe.net.GT 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 .com.gt 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