Over the past month, I went through the process of registering a large set of latin american and caribbean country code domains for an online car marketplace which I am a cofounder at. The process was tedious at best, and after carrying it out, it became clear to me that latam ccTLDs are not really commercial or easy to access at all, and taking into account the changing dynamic of the domain name industry, that they will soon become obsolete.
Why am I so harsh? Let me show you some examples of what it is necessary to go through to register country code domains in Latin America. Bear in mind that most of these extensions have no special requirements for registration and that they are intended to be commercial and easily accessible.
A Puerto Rican* .PR domain costs $1000 USD, while a .COM.PR is $100 USD! You would think that for this amount of money in exchange for a service which requires no effort and almost no cost to offer, that they would be running to help you register a domain. Caveat emptor! Quite the contrary, to register a Puerto Rico domain name, you need to carry out the signup on their website, after which a phone call verification is required (which could take days or weeks while they reach you and basically ask you for your name over the phone), then you have to call them back to get your IP verified so that you can login to the account and finally pay, and then manually setup your nameservers. This can take weeks.
But .PR is amazing compared to most of the other ccTLDs, which give little or no information on how to register a domain name. Those that have websites at nic.cctld, have limited or no information and only work occasionally. Searching Google reveals little information on how to register most of these domain names and it is impossible to find links to the official ccTLD websites - if they exist. The registration process is difficult, and in most cases paying involves working with foreign banks, doing via wire transfers and then carrying out complicated processes to verify customers and setup nameservers.
While the cost of registering a domain under most of these extensions is close to $100 dollars, and that the organizations behind these ccTLDs are in charge of running a country’s domain name system, it is ridiculously ridiculous that they don’t even have something as simple as a website with complete information, or accept payment via credit cards. Putting information on the internet costs nothing. Setting up a simple website with Logicboxes and/or CoCCa and a payment gateway costs under $5000 dollars and takes a month at most. The plane ticket to the next ICANN meeting (that representatives from all latam ccTLDS will probably be attending) is probably more expensive.
If after having worked with registries and registrars over the last years and having registered over 1000 domains in my life, registering latam domains was tolling for me, I cannot even imagine how incredibly complex this is for an average internet user.
But when there is no alternative, people will stand in line, wait weeks for an email or a phone call, navigate all over the web for information, pay a lawyer to help them, or do almost anything to gain access to a domain which they need for their business. And right now, there is no alternative**. For most names the .COM, .NET and .CO versions are taken, the aftermarket domains are incredibly expensive, and the other extensions aren’t suitable.
Next year though, there will be alternatives, hundreds of them. It is expected that over 500 new domain name extensions will launch per year as the result of the nGTLD process, and most of them will probably be popular, easy to register via any registrar and cost about $50 dollars. It is hard to think that amongst hundreds of new alternatives it won’t be possible to find a good alternative.
I will probably register the names I need for any future venture under one of these extensions and drop my latam ccTLD domains which are costly and hard to renew, and so will most people.
Not only will latin american ccTLDs stop growing like any organization should; they will slowly disappear.
Hopefully this post will reach the hands of latin american and caribbean ccTLD managers and make them aware this problem, as seen from the perspective of one of their paying customers, albeit one which knows a bit about the domain name industry. With a little effort, they can execute big changes, which will make things easier for their current and future customers, and save them from facing technological obsolescence.
* - The .PR extension technically corresponds to the North American region, although it participates in Latam domain associations. Thanks to Eduardo Santoyo of LACTLD for pointing this out.
** - There is another alternative to looking for the information from the registry or admin, and it is directly using a registrar (like My.co, Marcaria.com, etc.) for finding information and carrying out the registration - still, I consider that registries should at least have the information about accredited domain registrars somewhere on their websites. Thanks to Gerardo Aristizabal of My.co for pointing this out.