On your marks…get set…buy!

The great Nigerian internet land grab has begun. Or will begin in a few hours, it’s all the same. The party could start early…or we could be up all night and no show…you never know.  Anyhow, it is finally open season on .ng domains, and I swear that I can literally feel the interwebs buzzing. Are you good to go? Please take it easy and try to not crash NIRA’s DNS servers while you’re at it.

First the rumour…then the confirmation that the 2nd level dot ng TLD would finally be released to the public really took the wind out of my sails. I’d been planning to write a long-ass article about the matter, the summary of which I was going to call NIRA out as e-diots — not “idiots”, mind you — for hoarding dot ng and trying to shove the near useless .com.ng down our throats.

Well barring any last minute reversals, unthinkable at this stage, I won’t get the chance though. Now that we know that there’s indeed a few sensible people up in there, I won’t waste anybody’s time inquiring into why NIRA has been sitting on dot ng all this while, slowly apportioning them like they were oil blocs, to rich customers, and at atrocious prices. Instead I’ll say well done, and about time, NIRA!

It’s all jolly great news, to be sure. But I do have some mixed feelings about the whole thing.

These things are going to cost N15,000 a pop – that’s about $100. Considering that they used to cost the hand-falling sum of $40k precipitous is a silly way to describe the price slash. It’s crazier than if you suddenly teleported yourself from a fancy baroque antique action in Italy into a crazy fire sale in Yaba.

But the benevolent price of 15k isn’t particularly reason to start rubbing your pennies together. Many tech entrepreneurs and “ideas people” have unwittingly acquired the DBA syndrome —  domain buying addiction. Many will typically own at least 20 domains (I know I do). So while the dot ng is now perfectly within reach for most, the prospect of servicing even a few of them at 15k per annum is one you should really have a good long think about, if you’re acquiring them for all those brilliant ideas you might or might not eventually get to doing. Over time, they could burn a hole in pockets that don’t reach very deep

Having said that, I’ve heard some people cry “too expensive!”. And I tend to disagree. Between 75 – 100 dollars is the going rate for 2nd level TLDs like .ly, .st, .al and more, so at N15k, the price is just about right.

Of course, cybersquatters are going to have a field day – but you know this already. There’s no “what would Jesus do?” in this matter, the people that can afford to will scoop up these domains, hoard, resell, and make a killing. There’s roughly 1,900  percent more risk to the business than with regular domains — but dot ngs are guaranteed to be hot commodities and the potential upside of re-selling a few of them should cover the annual maintenance costs for the remaining left in the arsenal. I expect there’ll be quite a few trademark disputes not too far from now.

How many have been bought already? Is this a level playing field, sans “insiders”? How do we know that they didn’t start selling them yesterday? Or last week? Like I already said, we have no way of knowing if any of this stuff. This is Nigeria afterall. Collusion in high places, and a few under the table deals aren’t something you’d put past…you know what, never mind.

Non-Nigerians will be too interested. Finally, we’ll be exporting something valuable that is not oil or Yahoo Yahoo. In fact, some of the first to buy — Google, Samsung, Microsoft — were non-Nigerian.

The reason is obvious. Dot NG has crazy domain hacking potential. That’s why we’re all crazy about it in the first place. And it’s not just the gerunds — words ending in -ing. The .ng suffix spans an immense lexical range that covers past past tenses, participles and other stuff that would require an expert linguist to identify in detail.

There’ll be all kinds of people beating down our doors with foreign money — Silicon Valley startups with crazy ideas, for one. You’ll know they’ve been here when they start launching startups like poopi.ing or humpi.ng. Of course, there are thousands of other benign names to choose from, but you get the idea. I’ve also heard that Asians are really gung ho about it too — just ask the Changs, the Zhangs, and the Wongs. And that’s just the ones we know. It’s gonna keep getting better and better.

Hopefully, there’s no one who bought a .ng domain at the regular old $40k price recently. Like in the last few months. In the unlikely event, could they ask for their money back? Jamb question, I know.

Prepare to be heartbroken. Some of the names you’re coveting have already been scooped up by insiders — by insiders, I mean people who either have plenty of money (enough to buy twenty names at 3 million a pop in 2011 — I’m writing the post), or they are well…insiders.

Dot com dot ng is now for the birds. No offense to people who own .com.ng, but you’ll either be upsold and pay 15k for life, or you’ll feel inferior the rest of your life. If someone goes and buys the .ng of the name of which you currently own the .com.ng, then you’re screwed for eternity. Brand-wise, SEO-wise. In short, .com.ng will be a very worthless commodity from tomorrow. They might as well give you one free with the .ng

Whatever the case, NIRA will make a shitload of money before this is over. No, they  made a shitload already, it’s just about to blow the fan away.

Are you going to buy dot ng? Don’t tell me, I know you are. Me? I couldn’t care less.

UPDATE, 16.04.13, 5:30am – Did anybody buy yet?

It just occurred to me to congratulate all the Nigerian registrars who are probably going to land enough recurring cashflow to retire by the time the dust settles. Two years ago, things weren’t so hot, and webhosting businesses were selling/folding left and right. For the ones that managed to stay in the game, today is payday.

Bankole Oluwafemi Author

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