What is a domain?

Domain names are registered under top level domains (TLDs). There two types of TLDs:

  • country code TLDs (ccTLDs) such as .za (for South Africa) and .us (for the United States). A ccTLD is autonomous and sets its own policies, principles and regulations based on its country’s own laws. It submits to the jurisdiction of its country’s courts.
  • generic TLDs (gTLDs) such as .com, .net and .org. gTLDs account to ICANN and have to comply with ICANN’s policies, rules, procedures and requirements. By virtue of accounting to ICANN, they also are subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States of America (USA). There are different gTLD sub-categories as well, as the Table below shows with some examples. There are different categories of gTLDs:
Geographic gTLDs Community gTLDs

For example:

.africa

.durban

. capetown

.joburg

For example:

.cancer

.church

.gay

.hiv

Brand g TLDs Truly gTLDs

For example:

.mtn

.dstv

.supersport

.africamagic

For example:

.app

.bank

.com

.music

It is up to the person wanting to register a domain name to choose a TLD in which they want to register, but they may first have to satisfy the eligibility criteria of that TLD.

Is there competition between .za and other TLDs?

In its origin, the DNS provides a platform for competition, innovationentrepreneurship and economic development. Competition occurs at various levels between ccTLDs, between ccTLDs and gTLDs and between registries and registrars. For example, a company that operates in SA may choose to register a .com or .biz domain name instead of a.za name. If the same company has offices in the UK or Australia, it may also choose to register a co.uk or com.au name instead of .za.

This competition therefore requires that each TLD has a fairly robust and effective marketing strategy to attract domain name registrations. Due to the ad-hoc nature in which .za originated, not all .za domains are able to compete effectively.

Why does South Africa have the top level domain name of .za and not .sa?

The country codes were established by the International Standards Organisation (ISO) before the domain name system. At the beginning of the DNS in the USA, computer scientists chose to adhere to all International standards, and therefore allocated .za to South Africa because .za was the country code already listed for South Africa.

What is a second level domain?

Second level domains (SLDs) are domains immediately below. za. For example, co.za and org.za are SLDs of.za. The SLDs are primarily divided into open (un-moderated or unrestricted) SLDs and closed (moderated or restricted) SLDs. For example, co.za is an open, un-moderated SLD, whereas ac.za is a moderated SLD that caters only for academic and research institutions in South Africa.