What is the real problem with .ke domain?


(If you don’t have background information on domains, start with the other posts below)
The debate over the uptake of .ke domains has been going on for a while and has been dominated by the issue of cost. Yes the domain is expensive; 3,000 Kenya shillings per year ($40) is expensive compared to $10 for a .com, .net .info etc.
But is the cost the real issue? Are there other problems within .ke and management at KENIC that make it hard for people to take up .ke? Is Kenic’s marketing structure flawed in as far as promoting the uptake of domains is concerned? (Read about Paul in a separate post on why PS Ndemo should convert his soldiers first).
My questions may look obvious but it is hard for me to believe that Paul Kukubo, CEO of Kenya ICT Board, maintains a .com because he can not afford 3k per year, Moses Kemibaro sits on the Kenic board and operates a .com.
I was shocked when he told me that he sits on the Kenic board; my visits to Kenic site are more for the WHOIS data and news. I was shocked because sitting on the board means that you are for the idea of marketing .ke.
How then do you market .ke when you maintain and drum up support for a .com? I recall a huge row some years back when a young man in the US turned up for a Coke job interview or something like that, wearing a Pepsi labeled shirt and he was turned away. It may be the wrong comparison but how do you sit on the board of an organization whose “goods” you don’t support.
I am sure Kemibaro is not the only board member who operates another domain other than .ke but that amounts to double speak. I am sure we have heard of politicians complaining about our education system and how it makes kids this and that but their kids go to the international schools which don’t have the same problems with our schools.
So, the next time you complain about politicians and their perfect act of doublespeak, remember they are not the only ones; there are others who can do it better.
I know its easier to defend this and say people have liberty to buy whatever domains they like and according to their interests and that is ok; but how do you convince me to buy something you are not convinced about?
If the real issue is cost and Kemibaro and Kukubo can not raise 3k per year for a domain, then the guys at Kenic board should change their marketing structure. If selling through registrars is hindering the uptake because Kenic can not sell directly, then let it be that people can buy directly from Kenic, which will force registrars to focus more on the Value Added Services instead of domains as source of profits.
I have never understood the Kenic logic; Kenic has 11,000 or so domains, if they sell at Ksh. 2,300 thats 25.3 million per year and if 10 million goes to registrars, then Kenic remains with 13 million for its annual operations.
The rate of internet users in Kenya is growing and I think the numbers have grown from the projected 3 million users two years ago. This is also likely to drive up awareness on websites and domains.
Assuming Kenic decides to sell to consumers directly or conduct a campaign with registrars to sell the domain at Ksh 150 ($) and allow registrars to make money building websites and hosting? Assuming out of the more than 3 million users, we can convince 1 million with other domains and others who don’t have to buy a .ke, that would be Ksh. 150 million, which is more than what Kenic is making right now.
I know this sounds like a long shot but its doable. South Africa (.za) has more than a million domains .co.za has more than 600,000 domains and the others in education sector are growing by day. (Will look for actual stats from SA; will ask for someone to comment).
Back to the issue of .ke, i recall two weeks ago when i was in Seoul for Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numebrs meeting (ICANN), I met Sammy Buruchara, Kenic board chair and as you can read, I discussed issues about what affects Kenic and whether the cost is the real issue.
According to Sammy, cost is not the real issue; consumers are willing to pay more but the techies who sell the domains make cost an issue so that they can make more money and he had a point.
Look at Kemibaro, he has his company that does web development among other things. If you walk to his offices and you want to buy a .ke but you are feeling the overall cost is going to be so much, he is likely to tell you; this domain is so expensive, look at me, I operate a .com and its cheaper.
Maybe Kemibaro will say that he bought the domain ages ago and that is his brand, which is true but there is something they call redirecting to another page, which I think does not affect the original brand.
Maybe am harping on Kemibaro’s case and I should just let it go, but I thought its better to just use his example because he is famous πŸ™‚ but the point is the same if it was someone else.
Recently, my contact at Google made a comment that made more sense than anything else that day. I was writing about Kenya’s drive towards local content and the source argued that most of Africa’s domain registries view themselves as businesses instead of public service. In this respect, the source felt that domains should cost a dollar or two.
The argument was that if we are searching for content in Kenya, then the pages with .ke appear first on the page. So, if you were searching about registrars in Kenya, the ones who have .ke websites are likely to come first, though that depends on other tech factors, like there was a time one of my pages was not appearing on google and the techie was giving me a long story but he had not done it right.
So, buying a .ke has its advantages in the search but am sure you will find other posts on why you should buy domains useful.


  1. Becky,
    Wow. This post is right on time. Been planning my domains and today I was talking with my techie and told him to register a .com for a short film I recently directed.
    I definitely see the doublespeak aspect of things, though it would be great to hear all sides of the story before coming to a conclusion.
    I must say, though that from the figures here, it seems the techies do eat a handsome amount more on domains that are .com rather than .co.ke and that economic aspect might lead them to persuade us to take .com domains?
    As for my film…I would really prefer a .ke rather than a .co.ke address so it would be dawathefilm.ke. rather than dawathefilm.co.ke
    But as a patriot, I will go with the Kenyan domain… πŸ˜€
    If you’re curious to see the trailer for ‘Dawa’ you can find it here on Youtube (Available in HD) – http://bit.ly/dawathefilm

  2. What about the argument that third-level-domains (co.ke) just aren’t as attractive as regular top-level-domains (.ke)?

  3. I had this conversation with Michuki several times when he ran KENIC and I have to say that his defense was unconvincing. And it is not just domain registration, web hosting and bandwidth are also very expensive by any standards.

  4. This a general problem involving the truth. There is a need for KENIC to live up to its vision of promoting .ke. The price might not be a problem, but why are the guys running .ke still clinging on .com?

    Have you also noticed that even in the govt, the civil servants use .com as opposed to .ke?

    Methinks, we don’t have confidence with our local ideas because we are not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel!

    Nice article though!

  5. Value sells itself, patriotism doesnt override hard core value. The day .co.ke will become cheaper and easier to set up then people will flock there otherwise .com is offering more value right now

  6. Hi Wanjiku. I see from your post you have some valid points. However, you’ll be surprised how much I push my clients at Dotsavvy to buy .KE domains instead of .COM. At a personal level, as much as I use .COM for my Blog, its something I will sort out very soon. On KeNIC its not as simple as you make it sound. The higher prices are key to the fundamental opertions of the registry, at this juncture. This will change in due course as KeNIC gains critical mass to drop pricing.

  7. @JKE, am working the 2nd level and 3rd level part- am reading the new Act and need to talk to a lawyer friend just to make sure my interpretation is right.

    @Moses I think the Kenic’s position will become more complicated once the 2nd level registries are licensed by CCK.
    I think either way, Kenic will have to change the marketing strategy.
    I am working on an article and I need to do a bit of ground work but I think there are hard times ahead.

  8. Perhaps I should move my personal blog/domain to .co.ke πŸ™‚

    Regarding the KENIC pricing – the argument made was one about economies of scale 11K domains is not too many, hence the price.

    But it can be argued that for one to scale to lets say 11M domains, the price must be attractive.

    I also don’t agree that price is the main reason though.

    Most of the projects online I’ve been involved with have the .co.ke and .com as well.

  9. @Moses & @Josiah If you guys decide to move to a .co.ke (hopefully!), remember Maneno as an option – like Wanjiku’s blog here! πŸ™‚

  10. @Mburu:
    I am getting an HTML drive-by virus alert via avira.de on your site (iframe or some sort, i think).

    “Have you also noticed that even in the govt, the civil servants use .com as opposed to .ke? ”

    Yes! And most of them are using yahoo.com or hotmail.com accounts. We’ll also urgently need to change this and get them on a better groupware solution.

  11. @jke,
    I am getting an HTML drive-by virus alert via avira.de on your site (iframe or some sort, i think).
    OT: The blog is opening well on my end! I’ll check it out
    Yes! And most of them are using yahoo.com or hotmail.com accounts. We’ll also urgently need to change this and get them on a better groupware solution.
    I also find that even our good embassies use hotmail.com or yahoo.com. Check this link and find out: http://www.embassiesabroad.com/embassies-of/Kenya#8265

  12. Couple of questions here:

    1. Is the purpose of a domain name to be found on the internet or to be patriotic about the source of your content?

    2. isn’t the overall idea of being on the web, having the ability and capability on being able to compete with global markets? If thats the case how many users overseas will think of searching “land prices in Kenya” and expect to find co.ke URL extensions as the authentic source as opposed to a .com?

    3. I think we are exerting some unrealistic pressures on ourselves as a community and as a tech professionals. NEVER compare Kenya to South Africa.. thats bad. Let SA do what SA feels is right for their ecosystem and let Kenya define its own. The US has the .us domain name extension as an option but people still opt for .com which is the globally accepted and recognized domain name extension. I personally don’t think there is anything unpatriotic or unreasonable about a Web development company like Dottsavvy promoting .com vs .co.ke.

    4. More importantly sometimes its okay to not utilize services or products put in place by Kenyans if they work poorly. The DNS/ IMAP schema for .co.ke hosting and name assigning still sucks and still needs a lot more work. The system is not even automated yet in terms of purchasing and establishing online presence. Today you can set up a webstie in minutes buy a domain name at Godaddy, host and build in less than 15 minutes. I bet if I had to purchase a .co.ke regardless of cost this would be a FEAT. So to many of us its more about ease of use, flexibility and integration rather than it is a naming convention.

    I mean heck Kenya/MOI build the Nyayo Pioneer vehicle but it didnt work for us. I didn’t see patriotic Kenyans going to buy the Nyayo pioneer or the Uhuru cars just because they are Kenyan made.

    5. Lastly I think organizations like Kenic and or ICT need to stop trying to focus on marketing in terms of telling people what to do or how to do it. I think a lot of effort is spent on communicating in Kenya and trying to find means and ways of communicating benefits and advantages. While more resources can be utilized on developing and allowing people to see the benefits without telling them. We tend to push things to market and more over push the market to do things. I saw it happen the same way with the Kenyan national dress – money and resources were spent to push an idea of patriotism that just didn’t exist. I think let people develop the web, let the few who understand what SEO means rip the benefits of having a .co.ke in the interim… (lets face it, no one is looking for local content locally, people are going online in Kenya to get content thats available outside Kenya). So until that point reaches.. .com still sounds very lucrative to many businesses. I for one wouldn’t jeopardize my business by getting a .co.ke for the sake of patriotism or local recognition.

    Anyway am rumbling.. with little knowledge on the local framework.. so I will stop here. But I enjoyed your post. Especially because its taken me almost 4 months to buy a .co.ke domain name and or even park it… πŸ™‚

  13. I’m sure prices can come down. I’m involved with “co.za”. We initially charged R200 for a domain (€20) then dropped to R150…. R100 and now charge R50 (€5) per year for a domain. (The ‘Yearly ‘ was R50 for ages). There is a sense that anything much less than this will persuade the domain squatters to hoard.

    We seem to be well developed regarding content, my ISP business works on a 3:1 ratio of Local:International (ie 75%local and 25% international). Joke is – Local connectivity costs almost the same as international.

    The CO.ZA Brand has done very well. I’d like to think that that is partially from the result of running a system that works with consistency and is reasonably fast (takes ten or so minutes for a new domain to be active around the world and 24 hours to have a domain updated). I’ve tried to move .COM domains from one ICANN accredited registrar to another – that can be a nightmare!

    At the end of the day, the domain portion of any web business is usually financially insignificant. I do admit though I still get a kick out of seeing and hearing “Domain-dot-COZA” whether on the Radio, TV or in printed matter (ie. on the back of my “Savanna Dry” bottle!)

  14. Dear Beloved one in Christ

    My greetings to you and your lovely family, I am Mrs. Winifred Johnson, suffering from cancerous ailment.

    I was married to Mr. Raphael Johnson who migrated from your country. My husband worked with Chevron/Texaco in London United Kingdom for twenty years before he died in the year 2005. My late husband deposited the sum of $7, 500, 000. 00 Million (Seven Million Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars) with a financial institution in London before his death which I am soliciting your assistance to claim and use for the up keeping of widows and charities in your country.

    I am a single mother suffering from cancerous ailment. Recently, my Doctor told me that I have limited days to live due to the stroke and cancerous problems I am suffering from. I have decided to donate this fund to you and want you to use my husband efforts to fund the up keeping of widows and charities in your country. My husband told me a lot of good things in your country but is unfortunate that I have not visited with him before his death and based on that I have decided to donate the fund there for the up keeping of widows and charities.

    I took this decision because I don’t have any child that will inherit this money and my husband relatives here are into radical organization and I don’t want a situation where this money will be used in an unholy manner. Therefore, child of God, if you are honest and faithful enough to use this fund strictly for the work of God, your response will be highly appreciated. I awaiting your urgent reply and God blessed you as you forward your reply for more details.

    email mrs.winifredjohnson@hotmail.com

    Sister in Christ
    Mrs. Winifred Johnson

  15. I had read this thread some time back, but I have stumbled upon it again and I have felt I should comment.

    @Moses Kemibaro: Instead of KEnic proposing to drop prices as the uptake of .co.ke domains increase, which don’t they reduce prices to encourage uptake. I think someone else had said something to this effect, and although I do not wish to double-post, I think that is the way to go.

  16. I operate a mobile site http://kenyawap.net
    I also believe am a patriotic Kenyan not using the .ke or .co.ke name. I only pay for hosting, my domain name is free and everything else is “unlimited” so how is someone ever going to make me understand that i need to transform to more patriotic and splash KES3000 yearly on a domain name and still hosting charges aside?

  17. I couldn’t agree more…especially on the pricing not that is over priced but you cant’ really blame them considering that as of now(now being the actual time and date I’m posting this comment)they’ve only got 16,216 domains registered but most of all you just saved me a weeks’ load of research thanks again.
    Crazy *8*

  18. I always hear the same argument whenever I complain about the high .co.ke prices: “It’s not that simplistic”. What’s not simplistic? The truth is that the domains are overpriced! Why doesn’t KENIC borrow from the examples of other nations like South Africa, Tunisia, Morocco etc where the domains are quite affordable?

    Believe me , we all want all those .KE domains. There are thousands of attractive generic keyword domains names still available in .ke namespace. We covet them but we can’t afford them. They are just too costly for a local entrepreneur. When Kenyans build more quality websites using .ke names instead of .com or .org, it will add value and more visibility to the .ke namespace!!

    It’s quite telling that those sitting on KENIC Board are not using .ke names. Why do they insist on selling to Kenyans domains that they can’t even afford themselves???

    KENIC does not even try to offer advantageous pricing and marketing promotions to Kenyan web users. The last time I saw a promotion, they were offering red KENIC branded bags. Do we need bags or domains? In Singapore, they were celebrating their independence month in August and the Registry was selling domains at $3.90 for the whole month to ensure mass adoption and enable citizens to express themselves online using their identity.

    Why doesn’t KENIC try these promotions and see if we won’t take up these domains? They can launch promotions for example for Madaraka Day, Jamhuri Day etc and offer even 10,000 .ke domains at Ksh.750 and watch what happens! Like Wanjiku says, if they lower prices, they still get sufficient revenue because of mass uptake! Why aren’t those registries offering low-priced ccTLD domains elsewhere going under? By its stubborn refusal to listen to the local internet users, KENIC is stifling the Kenyan domain name industry, out of sheer stubbornness. From the stats on KENIC website, it seems KENIC adds an average of 600-700 domains per month, quite pathetic in a country with 10 million internet users.

    I think the argument “It’s not that simplistic” is used to shut off criticism and resist change and open Kenyan users to exploitation. Next time there’s an internet governance forum, Kenyans must loudly express their displeasure at this!!!

  19. I had always wished to have a .ke domain bt when i checked thir prices….,oops!!!!

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