'.za' domain name space to undergo major overhaul
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Sweeping changes are being introduced with a view to harmonizing the registration and management of domain names across all of the South African domain name extensions, such as '.co.za' and '.org.za'.
Currently, the South African domain name extensions are each administered by different entities. By way of example, Uniforum SA has been administering the '.co.za' domain name space for some 15 years. Under the current registration system, over 500,000 entities have registered domain names under the '.co.za' extension, and there are no restrictions in place with regard to who may secure domain names under this extension.
Historically, any party that could provide the required technical confirmation to Uniforum would be allowed to register a '.co.za' domain name. Thus, there has never been the requirement to use an accredited domain name registrar.
However, new regulations are soon to come into effect, which will see the '.za' Domain Name Authority hold responsibility for regulating the entire South African domain name space. At the same time, Uniforum is in the process of updating and improving the registration model and system, which will change the way in which domain name applications are submitted.
As part of the proposed changes, any party that wishes to offer domain name registrations under '.co.za' will have to undergo a registrar accreditation process, thus introducing the industry standard model of a clear distinction between the domain name registry on the one hand, and domain name registrars on the other. As a result of this, Uniforum will take on the role of registry and will interact only with accredited domain name registrars.
Uniforum is also in the process of implementing an Extensible Provisioning Protocol (EPP) system, which is in line with the domain name industry standard for interaction between domain name registrars and domain name registries.
Although Uniforum has already started to implement the registrar/registry model and the new EPP system, it is envisaged that these changes will take up to two years to become widely adopted. As a result of this, the two systems will operate in tandem during the transitional period.
Interested parties should ensure that their South African domain name portfolio is smoothly transitioned to an accredited registrar under the new system to avoid any potential loss of domain names.
David Taylor and Tony Vitali, Hogan Lovells, Paris
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