If the average retail price for a .ie domain registration falls by 50pc over the coming 18 months, Eoin Costello’s web hosting firm Novara.ie estimates that a target of 100,000 .ie registrations can be achieved in that time frame.
Novara.ie is also one of Ireland’s largest domain registrars. Costello warned that the price paid for a .ie domain name registration is too high, varying according to providers from €60.31 (incl Vat) to €120.98. By contrast, he said, the registration of a .com domain name costs on average between €15 and €20 while the new .eu domain will cost €10.
Costello argued that while the Irish Domain Name Registry (IEDR) has steadily lowered its wholesale price over the past number of years, many registration providers – including internet service providers and hosting firms – have been slow to pass on the benefit of this reduction.
Costello commented: “Ireland’s future prosperity is in the high-end knowledge-based economy and ecommerce is central to that.
“Our country must maintain its position as a leading e-business centre in Europe. Accordingly we believe it is in the national interest that the average retail price for .ie domain registrations fall by 50pc over the coming 18 months and that a target of 100,000 .ie registrations be achieved over the coming 18 months. Our company will be working hard to help achieve these twin objectives.”
According to Costello the total number of .ie domains currently registered (50,315) compares poorly with the fact that there are 138,215 limited companies and 254,000 registered business names registered at the Irish Companies Registration Office.
This, he said, highlights the fact that a substantial number of Irish people use the cheaper .com domain extension for their businesses. In term of total domains registered in other country-specific extensions there are 44 million .com/.net domains, 4.3 million .co.uk domains and nine million .de (Germany) domains.
By way of example, Costello pointed to an initiative taken by the Spanish Government in recent years when it was concerned with the poor take-up of the .es domain as compared with other European domains and instituted major changes at the .es registry in late 2003.
The registry’s registration price of €110 (€127.60 incl tax) was cut to €27.59 (€32 incl tax). To ensure stability in the Spanish domain registration industry and to introduce volume efficiencies a formal system of registrar accreditation was also introduced. The strategy has been successful with a considerably increase in the number of .es registrations at the lower price levels.
The chief executive of the IEDR David Curtain countered Costello’s argument about .com domain registrations in comparison with .ie domain registrations. “According to the latest figures I have seen from May, at the time there were less than 46,000 .com registrations from Ireland compared with 48,000 .ie registrations. We’ve always been marginally ahead of them. IEDR registrations in 2005 are up 30pc over 2004,” he told siliconrepublic.com.
He continued: “The comparison between .ie and .com was made before. It is not a fair comparison. There are 40 million .com registrations out there and .ie represents only a fraction of that. It’s all about economy of scale.”
Curtain explained: “We are a managed registry rather than a free-for-all similar to .com. The .eu domain will also be a free for all like .com
“There are advantages to being a managed — there is confidence in the brand, there is the confidence of consumers to transact and pass on credit cards details online. There is a benefit to having .ie and knowing that somebody has carried out some level of checks on people who apply for domain. We have a basic level of checking to say you are who you say you are on a .ie domain.
“This is very important to SMEs that are in greater numbers setting up websites for the first time due to the arrival of broadband. I would argue that with a .ie domain there is a higher level of assurance for e-commerce transactions than with a.com domain.
“We will take the views of the local internet community into account, but right now there doesn’t appear to be a demand for the functions of the IEDR to be changed. However, if that’s what the industry wanted we would have to look into it,” Curtain concluded.
According to the IEDR’s last published financials last December, the audited accounts for 2004 show a profit of €880k, as compared with a profit of €481k in 2003 and a loss of €1.2m in 2002.
Growth of more than 32pc in new registrations of .ie domains was achieved in 2004, reflecting economic buoyancy and operational improvements. Operational costs were reduced by 13pc in 2004, following on the 50pc reduction in 2003.
Prices were reduced by 12.5pc from 1 January 2005, which taken together with the 10pc reduction from 1 January 2003, means that prices have come down by more than 20pc since 2002, the company claimed.
By John Kennedy